Thursday evening, Norway and fifteen other OSCE states invoked the Moscow Mechanism towards Russia. The mechanism allows participating states to nominate an independent expert group that investigates and reports on human rights violations in another participating state.
– This is a victory for all of us who have asked for impartial investigation of these violations, but first and formost is it an important reccognition of the testemonies of the survivors, says Mina Skouen, Senior Adviser in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
– Important for the victims
The statement from OSCE in particular points to well documented allegations of torture and murder on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans persons (LGBT), that was revealed through a series of articles in the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in April 2017. Extrajudicial killings of civilians and persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists is also an important point of the initiative.
– This is of great importance for the victims of this brutal campaign. Even if this mechanism is not a judicial process that leads to prosecution of the perpetrators; findings by an impartial investigation can strenghten the case for those who want to take legal action, says Skouen.
One of the survivors that has attempted to do so, and who has told the world about his experiences inside Chechnyas secret prisons, is Maksim Lapunov.
«They severly beat my legs and arms. When I was leaving Chechnya, I could barely crawl», Maksim told in a press conference last year. Maksim has attempted to bring his case to the investigative authorities of Russia, but the case has not been adequately processed. «Noone knows whose son or daughter will be taken next», he warned back then.
The Russian LGBT Network is one of the organizations that have been supporting victims and survivors from the LGBT community in Chechnya. Igor Kochetkov, representing the LGBT Network says in a statement today that even though Russia traditionally does not respond positively to such processes, they are necessary. «At times, it seems that these officials are not going to investigative anything or prosecute anyone. But does it mean that the victims of these crimes do not deserve support, protection, and justice? Does it mean that the world should not learn about the truth?» , he says.
It is not over yet
– We still get reports about new violations, and we are glad that Norway is one of the countries invoking the Moscow Mechanism to ask for an impartial investigation, says Skouen.
– There is no doubt that this can complicate the relationship to a powerful neighbor, but in this case Norway has chosen to show that the OSCE human rights committments cannot be sidelined by the participating states without consequences. This is the right decision, and an important one, she continues.
During this year’s hearing on the UN Universal Periodic Review, Russia was asked what has been done to investigate alleged human rights violations against LGBTI persons in Chechnya. The Russian Justice Minister, Anton Konovalov, stated that the federal government’s preliminary investigation “showed that there were not any such incidents. There weren’t even representatives of LGBTI in Chechnya. We weren’t able to find anyone.”
This is a victory for all of us who have asked for impartial investigation of these violations, but first and formost is it an important reccognition of the testemonies of the survivors
Mina Skouen, Senior Adviser in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Norway was also part of the initiative to invoke the Vienna Mechanism 30 August this year, which gave Russia ten days to provide information on which steps had been undertaken to investigate the above-mentioned allegations. It is insufficient response by Russia that has led to the more comprehensive Moscow Mechanism being invoked now.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has been part of the international movement that has brought people into safety, collected information about violations and advocated for prosecution of the perpetrators. We consider invoking the Moscow Mechanism to be an important step to challenge the current and long lasting impunity for these crimes. To challenge impunity is an important aspect of hindering new crimes from being committed in the future.