Metro Weekly

U.S. sanctions Chechen leader behind anti-gay purge

Ramzan Kadyrov has been barred from entering the United States and had assets in U.S. banks frozen under the Magnitsky Act

Ramzan Kadyrov – Photo: Government of the Russian Federation, via Wikimedia.

The U.S. Treasury Department has announced sanctions against Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic.

Kadyrov has been added to a list of suspected human rights abusers who have been barred from entering the United States and have had any assets held in U.S. banks frozen under the Magnitsky Act.

Kadyrov has been deemed responsible for a sustained anti-gay purge in which hundreds of LGBTQ individuals were arrested, detained, tortured, and even killed while in the custody of Chechen officials.

“We will continue to use the Magnitsky Act to aggressively target gross violators of human rights in Russia, including individuals responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other despicable acts,” John Smith, the director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

The Magnitsky Act is intended to sanction government officials who have participated in or condoned human rights abuses. It was originally passed in 2012 in response to the killing of a Russian tax accountant who was killed in prison for investigating fraud involving several government officials. Named to the list alongside Kadyrov were Ayub Kataev, Yulia Mayorova, Andrei Pavlov and Alexei Sheshenya. 

The Magnitsky Act has been a focus of the investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, with Russian officials having reportedly lobbied the Trump campaign to have the act overturned.

The addition of Kadyrov, a strong ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin due to his attempts to crack down on Islamic radicalization in the Muslim-majority Russian republic, to the list could result in a backlash against the United States by Russian officials.

GLAAD praised the addition of Kadyrov to the Magnitsky List, citing reports from former prisoners and human rights observers detailing some of the torture and killings that took place at the hands of or under the noses of Chechen government officials.

“Sanctioning those responsible for the horrendous anti-LGBTQ persecution in Chechnya, including Ramzan Kadyrov, is a step towards holding human rights abusers accountable for their atrocities and was a needed action to show that human rights must be prioritized above the personal politics of this administration,” Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Ellis noted that Chechnya is not the only place where officials have targeted LGBTQ people for discrimination or worse, with reports of LGBTQ abuse coming from countries like Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia.

“We cannot stop here as we face a growing epidemic of anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination around the world that must be swiftly and fully addressed,” Ellis concluded.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com