Trump’s Secretary of State admits he didn’t bother to raise Chechnya’s homophobic purge with Russia
Donald Trump’s Secretary of State has admitted he didn’t bother to bring up the persecution of gay men in Chechnya during meetings with Russian officials.
Human rights groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm about the rumoured crackdown on the gay community in Chechnya, an autonomous region of Russia.
The disturbing reports alleged that the men are being held in secret concentration camp-style prisons where they face torture and abuse.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a wealthy former oil exec appointed to the job by Donald Trump, this week admitted that he completely failed to raise the issue despite repeated meetings with Russian officials.
Democrat David Cicilline, who has led on the issue in Congress, challenged Secretary Tillerson during a hearing.
He asked: “Did you discuss the issue with these atrocities when you met with the Russian foreign minister, or any other government officials at any other time?
Secretary Tillerson responded: “Those are on our pending list. We did not make our way through all of the issues in the meetings we’ve had.”
Asked if President Trump had raised the issue with President Putin, Secretary Tillerson responded: “I am unaware of whether he has or not.
Challenged on whether he would specifically condemn the homophobic purge, Secretary Tillerson said: “That is our position globally. Last time I checked Russia’s part of the globe.”
The continued silence of the US government on the issue has been met with anger from LGBT activists.
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It is particularly galling a few days after Secretary Tillerson released a Pride Month statement claiming that human rights would “continue to drive US diplomacy”.
In his statement, the official had claimed: “We recognize that LGBTI persons continue to face the threat of violence and discrimination. Violence and discrimination targeting any vulnerable group undermines our collective security as well as American values.”
Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy said: “People have been tortured and killed in Chechnya, yet Secretary Tillerson admitted today he hasn’t raised concern about the atrocities against gay and bisexual men with his Russian counterparts — not even once.
“When directly asked during the hearing to clearly condemn the attacks, Sec. Tillerson declined to do so. And he had no idea if the President has raised the issue.
“The Trump/Pence administration’s lack of leadership on this issue and human rights around the globe is beyond disturbing. The time for action is now.”