Britain’s deputy Foreign Secretary has condemned the abuse of gay men in Chechnya in an urgent question to parliament.
Sir Alan Duncan, the gay deputy to Boris Johnson, labelled the reported abuses as “utterly barbaric” and “despicable” in a strongly worded statement to the House of Commons.
Mr Duncan revealed that he spoke directly to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Titov, this month, to challenge them on human rights abuses against LGBT people.
British Embassy representatives have now spoken directly to the Russian government to raise the issue also.
The comments came after Stephen Doughty, the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, was granted an urgent question to ask the government what action it is taking on the issue.
Mr Duncan told the Commons: “The arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of over 100 men in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation is of the utmost concern to the UK.”
He added: “Statements by the regional government in Chechnya that appear to condone and incite violence against LGBT people are utterly despicable.
“We condemn any and all persecution and call on the authorities to promptly investigate and ensure that the perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice.
“This would be in accordance with international human rights commitments adopted by the Russian government to respect the human rights of all individuals.”
Challenging the government, Mr Doughty said: “Why has it taken so long for the Foreign Secretary – a Tweet simply isn’t enough – to speak out on this issue?
“We haven’t had clear condemnation from the Prime Minister.”
The MP also noted that it had been PinkNews’ most signed petition of all time.
Conservative minister Mr Duncan responded, saying: “I hope this House will be fully united in giving the strongest message to Russia and to Chechnya – in particular, that this kind of behaviour is beyond contempt and not acceptable in the world in which we live.”
The Foreign Office has continued to decline to comment on whether the UK will provide refuge to victims fleeing Chechnya’s abuse, referring the issue to the Home Office.
Watch the exchange in full below:
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, and is predominantly Muslim, unlike Russia.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson previously attacked the “outrageous” homophobic purge in Chechnya in a Tweet.
Mr Johnson posted: “Outrageous Chechnya govt supports rather than stops ill-treatment of #LGBT people. Completely agree w/ [junior Foreign Office minister] Joyce Anelay”.
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.
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“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.
“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.”
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.”