Rex Tillerson – Photo: Office of the President of Russia, via Wikimedia.
A Russian LGBTQ advocacy group says that Chechnya has resumed its campaign against gay and bisexual men, including detaining them in secret prisons, torturing them, and encouraging their relatives to murder them.
According to BuzzFeed News, The Russia LGBT Network says it has gotten around 10 calls reporting new detentions of sexual minorities in the Muslim-majority republic since the end of the holy month of Ramadan on June 24.
In April, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that hundreds of men had been kidnapped, detained and tortured for information about fellow LGBTQ citizens.
The reports immediately sparked condemnation from the international community. After negative press surrounding the detentions, the anti-gay campaign was halted, though it was unclear whether that could be attributed to the international outcry.
In response to public criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to order an investigation into the reports of persecution.
However, a Russian government spokesman and Chechen leaders have denied that any such actions have taken place, with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov denying that gay men had ever existed in Chechnya.
Additionally, the Russia LGBT Network issued a statement last month accusing Russian officials of attempting to downplay the purge and hamper the investigation.
The news of new detentions comes jut as U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin on Friday at the G-20 international summit in Hamburg, Germany. LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, have called upon Trump to raise the issue with Putin and condemn the violent attacks against the region’s LGBTQ community.
A number of LGBTQ groups, including GLAAD, GLSEN, Advocates for Youth, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, have joined The Council for Global Equality in calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to speak out more forcefully against the reported purges.
The State Department previously issued a statement condemning the detentions and torture, but Tillerson has not personally spoken out.
Last month, before a congressional committee, Tillerson admitted he failed to raise the Chechnya situation in a face-to-face meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister.
“[W]e were truly taken aback in learning, through your budget testimony, that you have yet to raise with your Russian counterpart, or indeed at any senior leadership level, U.S. concern over the ongoing kidnappings, torture and murders of those suspected of being gay, lesbian or bisexual by Chechen officials,” the groups said in a letter sent to Tillerson.
“To be clear, we place this neglect of values and responsibility not solely at your doorstep, but also at that of President Trump. Neither you nor the President has voiced clear recognition of the importance of human rights as a matter of U.S. policy,” the letter continues. “Neither has spoken out against specific human rights infringements during your terms of office to date, and neither attached personal concern to, or otherwise endorsed, the conclusions of this year’s human rights reports….We believe this to be shortsighted and unwise, and out of keeping with America’s character and interests.
“We urge you to raise immediately, and with overdue stress, the need for Russia to investigate these atrocities, and that you explore all tools at your disposal to protect victims and curtail ongoing persecution that Chechen officials might continue to carry out against Russia’s LGBT citizenry.
“We urge, too, that you aggressively pursue refugee resettlement options for those who already have been victimized. Finally, we urge that you and the President demonstrate, in your statements and policies, that the values we express as a nation are core not only to our identity but to what we aspire to achieve in the world.”