Footage inside the Chechnya concentration camp where gay men say they were imprisoned, starved and tortured has been revealed.
Argun prison, an abandoned military camp in Chechnya, was the base of widespread reported attacks on gay men in the autonomous Russian region.
Regional authorities gave Vice News permission to film inside to demonstrate their innocence following scrutiny from the rest of the world following the reports.
The video featured interviews with one of the alleged victims, who directly confirmed he recognized the prison building as the place he was tortured in.
Ayub Kataev, head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Argun and warden of the prison, is also interviewed.
‘The interview with Kataev clearly shows the extent of homophobia in Chechnya’
Notably, Kataev repeatedly dismissed questions regarding his involvement in the torture of gay men.
‘Imagine if there are gays… would we, the Chechens, communicate with them at all? My officers would not even want to touch such people – if they exist – let alone beating or torturing them,’ he claimed.
Human Rights Watch have confirmed the site is one of the facilities at the center of their investigations where much of the abuse is reported to have taken place.
Kheda Saratova, Chechnya’s Human Rights Commissioner and government advisor, dismissed the global news reports that torture has taken place in the republic. He says those making the accusations are ‘determined to keep Chechnya burning.’
While able to operate freely, the journalists were closely monitored throughout with officials constantly communicating their whereabouts during the course of the shoot.
Responding to the footage, Amnesty International’s Russia researcher Heather McGill said: ‘The interview with Ayub Kataev clearly shows the extent of homophobia in Chechnya. He echoes the denials we’ve also heard from all levels of the Chechen authorities – that there are supposedly no gay people in Chechnya,’
‘Sadly, neither the use of torture or secret detention centres are new in Chechnya. It’s imperative that those at risk in Chechnya are able to access effective asylum procedures in other countries. So far only a handful of countries have offered asylum to gay men fleeing human rights violations in Chechnya.’
Watch the video here: