The Russian republic of Chechnya has been accused of pursuing a policy of “genocide” against gay people in a complaint filed by three French LGBT groups at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A lawyer for the groups has accused Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov of orchestrating a state-sponsored campaign of persecution against gay men, following numerous witness account of torture, abuse and honour killings in the region, Le Monde reports.

Etienne Deshoulières, representing LGBT rights groups Stop Homophobia, Mousse and Idaho France Committee, said that Kadyrov was the “co-ordinator” of the “genocide”, and  “the organiser of torture camps with a desire to exterminate homosexuals.”

Reports of persecution against gay men first emerged at the beginning of April, with a spokesperson for Kadyrov denying the allegations, insisting that gay people did “not exist” in the republic.

Following an international outcry Russian President Vladimir Putin back an inquiry into the reported crackdown earlier this month, but the French gay groups have dismissed the internal investigation, citing homophobic comments made in the past by the Kremlin’s Human Rights Delegate, Tatiana Moskalkova, who is in charge of leading it.

Location of Chechnya withing Russia.

Alexandre Marcel, the chairman of Idaho France committee, said taking the case to the ICC was “the only way to pursue” justice for gay men in Chechnya.

Located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the ICC is an international tribunal with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

It is only able to exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer investigations to the Court.

If the ICC is to act on the complaint, it will have to do so quickly: Russia is set to withdraw from its jurisdiction in November this year.

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