14:24 29 Mar 2024

Human rights activists report eight documented cases of Russian war crimes against LGBTQ+ in Kherson region


The Russian military detained, tortured, and subjected members of the LGBTQ+ community to sexual violence during the occupation of the right bank of the Kherson region, which returned to Ukraine's control in November 2022, according to a report by the PROJECTOR civil organization.

The NGO PROJECTOR, in collaboration with INSHA, a charitable organization providing legal and social aid to LGBT people and with the support of Outright International, initiated this investigation in March 2023, initially interviewing 107 LGBT people who were potential victims or witnesses of crimes committed by Russian troops, Rubryka reports.

"Among those 107 LGBTQ individuals initially interviewed, 51 individuals who both experienced and witnessed war crimes agreed to provide testimonies to lawyers and attorneys for documenting human rights violations that might amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, including gender persecution," the report said.

Interviews of 51 LGBTIQ people resulted in 18 written statements. The report describes eight cases selected from the survey statements as evidence of the crimes committed by the Russian military in the Kherson region from March 2022 to November 2022.

"Among the committed crimes described in the written statements, there were tortures, imprisonments, sexual violence, and severe deprivation of physical freedom, constituting violations of the basic norms of international law. The violations of the basic norms of international law include gender prosecution, inhumane acts that intentionally cause severe psychological harm, beatings, interference with privacy, robbery, and deliberate attacks on civilian targets," the project stressed.

Based on numerous testimonies from people who left the occupied territories at that time, the Russian military deliberately sought out people belonging to the LGBT community. For example, there are testimonies that Russian soldiers forced men to undress and checked their smartphones for applications for same-sex encounters.

A man named Oleksii was held captive by the Russians for 64 days. He was detained because of gay-themed photos found during a phone check at a checkpoint. Oleksii was beaten when he was brought to the van. When Oleksii was brought to the isolation cell, he was given a red dress and forced to wear it during interrogations.

Russian soldiers found an LGBT flag at the home of Diana. When they learned about her being lesbian, they hit her in the face with the butt of a rifle, put a bag over her head, and drove her in an unknown direction. Due to physical violence and threats, Diana allegedly agreed to provide information about her LGBT acquaintances. Another time, the woman witnessed the shooting of people held in the isolation cell: out of 15, only four survived.

According to human rights activists, victims of crimes did not turn to law enforcement due to distrust of the system. At the time of the start of the study, the Prosecutor General's Office did not have recorded war crimes against LGBT people from the occupied territories.

The testimonies of other individuals showed that Russians also raped gay men. One of the victims, whose case is known to human rights defenders, committed suicide.

"Their testimonies indicate that human rights violations against LGBTQ people occurred under Russian occupation, some of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. Following interviews with two persons, PROJECTOR's lawyers helped file criminal complaints with the Office of the Prosecutor of Ukraine, and in one case, the indictment was transferred to the national court," the report said.

Ukrainians who have suffered sexual violence from Russian occupiers are to receive immediate interim reparations — one-time financial assistance.

The amount of reparations is €3,000. The pilot phase of the project starts on April 15 and will run until the end of October this year.

Overall, 274 cases of "sexual violence" have been registered since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. However, there is still a low percentage of reports for assistance from victims of gender-based violence in Ukraine.

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