On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted unanimously to approve a bipartisan resolution condemning the violence and persecution directed at LGBTQ people in the Russian republic of Chechnya. The resolution now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The resolution, which has more than 40 cosponsors, including 13 Republicans, was introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), is nearly identical to a similar resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in June. It calls on Chechen authorities to immediately stop the abductions, illegal detention, and torture of men and women suspected of being LGBTQ, and to hold those responsible for such actions accountable.
The resolution also calls on the U.S. government to “continue to condemn the violence and persecution in Chechnya.” Thus far, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is the most senior administration official to speak out publicly. The State Department issued a statement condemning the violence, but Secretary Rex Tillerson has not yet spoken out personally, nor has President Trump.
“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous condemnation of the ongoing violence and persecution against LGBTQ Chechens is crucially important,” Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. “President Trump’s severe lack of leadership on this life-and-death situation in Russia is deeply disturbing, and it’s far past time he speaks out.
“Given the violence and arrests LGBTQ people are facing in places like Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Tanzania, and Egypt, the U.S. must not back away from leading on LGBTQ human rights,” Cobb added. “We urge the full Senate to quickly pass this important resolution and send a strong message to this administration, the victims, and those responsible for these atrocities.”
Since earlier this year, Chechen authorities have been rounding up men suspected of being gay or bisexual and detaining them in secret prisons. There were at least three separate waves of mass arrests, the first occurring from December 2016 to February 2017, with the second occurring from March to May, and the third wave, which has been ongoing since June.
In April, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on the mass arrests and torture that former inmates allege was carried out in the secret prisons. Both Chechen and Russian officials continue to deny that any such persecution has been occurring, pointing to a lack of complaints filed with government officials.
The Russian LGBT Network, which has been helping LGBTQ Chechens flee the region, released a report in August detailing how Chechen authorities place pressure on LGBTQ individuals’ families to met out justice through “honor killings,” much in the same way that they encourage the families of drug addicts, those affiliated with radical Islam, or other “undesirables” thought to pose a threat to the stability of Chechen society.