50 Members of Congress sign letter condemning anti-gay purge in Chechnya
50 members of the United States Congress have signed a letter calling for an investigation into a homophobic purge in Chechnya.
Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta broke the news earlier this month that more than 100 gay men have been detained in Chechnya “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation”.
The disturbing reports, since corroborated by human rights groups, also alleged that the men are being held in secret concentration camp-style prisons where they face torture and abuse.
Chechnya is part of Russia but has substantial autonomy.
In response to the crisis, 50 Members of Congress this week signed a letter urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to speak out publicly against these reports and to pressure the Russian government to investigate and stop the violence and arrests.
Secretary Tillerson is currently on a trip to Russia. As he travelled to the Kremlin without a press pool, it is unclear whether he raised the issue.
“The situation in Chechnya is horrific,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David N. Cicilline (RI-01). “Chechen authorities are acting in clear violation of international law. Secretary Tillerson needs to clearly condemn these actions during his visit to Moscow. These abuses cannot be tolerated.”
“These reports coming out of Chechnya regarding the targeted arrests and murders of gay men are appalling,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47).
“The most fundamental internationally-accepted human rights are the right to life, liberty, and security of person. I stand with the LGBT community in the Chechen Republic, and I call on Secretary Tillerson to denounce these atrocities and I call on the Russian and Chechen authorities to immediately halt these arrests and prosecute those who have tortured and murdered innocent people”.
The ‘bi-partisan’ letter was signed by 47 Democrats. The only Republicans to sign were Carlos Curbelo, Charles Dent and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Elsewhere today a number of the UN’s most senior experts on human rights called for action against the purge.
“We urge the authorities to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual in the Chechen Republic who are living in a climate of fear fuelled by homophobic speeches by local authorities,” the experts stated.
“It is crucial that reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture, beatings and killings of men perceived to be gay or bisexual are investigated thoroughly,” they added.
“These are acts of persecution and violence on an unprecedented scale in the region, and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights law,” the experts said.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has also condemned the purge.
Mr Johnson tweeted: “Outrageous Chechnya govt supports rather than stops ill-treatment of #LGBT people. Completely agree w/ [junior Foreign Office minister] Joyce Anelay”.
In a previous statement to PinkNews, Baroness Anelay called on Russia to investigate the mass detention of gay men in Chechnya and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Baroness Anelay 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 fulfil its obligations to this end, and to uphold the rule of law.”
Mr Johnson’s comments come after Liberal Democrat leader questioned his continued silence on the issue.
Commenting on reports that Chechnya has opened concentration camps for gay men, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “These reports from Chechnya are truly horrifying, and represent an extreme manifestation of increasing homophobic brutality and intolerance in Putin’s Russia.
“The UK government must strongly condemn this disgusting violence, and use every possibly opportunity to raise this with the Russian government, as well as in the UN and other international bodies.
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“The UK must work with those who share our values to stop the mindless targeting of the LGBT community, which is still prevalent in too many countries across the world.
“Only through defending universal human rights will we ever hope to achieve a world in which every person can live, work and flourish without discrimination.
“It is disappointing that Boris Johnson has failed to stand up for these people by not visiting Russia after Trump told him to stay at home.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hastily cancelled a planned visit to Russia this month so that Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could make a trip.
Mr Tillerson travelled to the Kremlin without a press pool, and it is unclear whether he raised the issue.