Angela Merkel – Photo: Mark Müller, via Wikimedia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to investigate reports that the Chechen government is persecuting and torturing gay men.
Merkel made the comments in a meeting with Putin while visiting Russia as part of a diplomatic mission, reports The Guardian. She told the press she had raised the issue of the ongoing anti-gay campaign, as well as concerns about other human rights abuses in Russia.
Merkel also stressed the importance of freedom of assembly, objecting to the arrests of demonstrators in St. Petersburg who protesting against the persecution of sexual minorities in Chechnya.
“It is important to have the right to demonstrate in a democracy, and the role of NGOs is very important,” Merkel said.
She also raised the importance of religious protections for minorities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses. Last month, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the religious organization from operating in the country, branding it an extremist group.
Merkel joins a growing list of world leaders who have called for further investigation into the situation in Chechnya. Last month, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that more than 100 men suspected of being gay or bisexual were arrested, detained, tortured, and interrogated in order to incriminate others. At least three were killed, one in a detention camp, and two others in “honor killings” by family members after being released from the camps.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has reportedly called for the LGBTQ community in the Russian republic to be “eliminated” by the beginning of Ramadan, which begins on May 26. The situation has drawn comparisons to the targeting of gay men during the Holocaust.
When confronted about the situation, both Chechen and Russian leaders have denied any reports of anti-gay persecution, with a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry saying simply that Russia is pursuing an investigation into the claims.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has condemned reports of the anti-gay purge, as has the U.S. State Department. But President Trump has not specifically acknowledged or denounced the situation, prompting LGBTQ allies to criticize him.
GLAAD has repeatedly called on Trump to weigh in on what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” in Chechnya. Its president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, took to Twitter to note: “Ambassador @nikkihaley and Chancellor Merkel spoke out but not @realDonaldTrump. Guess that answers the question: who runs the world?”