Dozens of gay men detained in a crackdown on homosexuality in Chechnya have been imprisoned and tortured in illegal detention facilities, human right groups believe.
"Credible reports" have emerged of number of individuals, including those suspected of being homosexuals, are being detained unofficially in a former military base on the outskirts of Argun, some 19 kilometers outside of the capital Grozny, Human Rights Watch told the Telegraph.
The facility has also been used to hold suspected drug dealers and followers of Salafi Islam, the ultra conservative branch of Islam, who are often accused of involvement in terrorism.
The details emerged after Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, published reports suggesting that the Chechen government ordered a 'prophylactic sweep' of suspected gay men men which "went as far as real murders".
The Chechen government has denied the reports.
However, a series of reports seen by NGOs and independent Russian media outlets suggest a systematic campaign of intimidation, including arrests, beatings, electrocutions as well as physical humiliation.
One former inmate of the Argun facility who spoke anonymously to the Russian LGBT Network said that he'd witnessed the mass torture of suspected homosexuals in commandant's office.
Another said that he was beaten and asked to name and provide the details of other suspected homosexuals.
Authorities in the Chechen Republic, which has been led by Ramzan Kadyrov for more than a decade, have regularly been accused of using torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial executions to deal with suspected security threats or regime critics.
Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director and a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in Moscow, told The Daily Telegraph that: "We have received credible reports of the facility in Argun being used as a detention center for the security forces not only for LGBT people but also other individuals arbitrarily detained by the Chechen Security Forces".
When originally confronted with the allegations. Alvi Karimov, the spokesman for the Chechen leader, told Interfax that: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic.
If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
Baroness Anelay, the UK's Minister of State for the Commonwealth and UN said: "The detention and ill-treatment of over 100 gay men in Chechnya is extremely concerning.
"Reports have also suggested that at least three of these men have been killed. The statement by the regional Government, implying that such treatment towards LGBT people is acceptable, is particularly abhorrent. We condemn any and all persecution, and call on the authorities to promptly investigate and ensure that perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice."
"The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we continue to voice our serious concern with Russian authorities at all levels. Russia’s international human rights obligations require them to protect citizens who may be at risk of persecution. We expect the Russian government to fulfill its obligations to this end, and to uphold the rule of law."