Post submitted by Stephen Peters, former Senior National Press Secretary and Spokesperson
Today, HRC released a letter from HRC President Chad Griffin to Donald Trump calling on him to end his deafening silence on the ongoing anti-LGBTQ crimes against humanity in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Griffin's letter comes as HRC is also urging its members and supporters to contact the White House and demand Trump condemn the atrocities as “crimes against humanity.”
“Over the past year, this White House has remained unconscionably silent as men suspected of being gay or bisexual have been rounded up, tortured, imprisoned, and even killed in the Russian republic of Chechnya,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Enough is enough. Donald Trump must end his shameful silence and unequivocally condemn these horrific atrocities for what they are — crimes against humanity.”
"We want justice for the victims in Chechnya, for their relatives and their loved ones. The Russian authorities must fulfill their duties, and start a serious investigation of this crime against humanity," said Svetlana Zakharova, Communication Manager and Board Member of the Russian LGBT Network. "The Russian authorities have not done anything to stop the atrocities or to punish those who are responsible. We still don’t know exactly how many people suffered during this state-sponsored campaign aimed to 'purify Chechen blood.' The Russian LGBT Network has evacuated over 100 people from Chechnya, and it is not over."
The letter from Griffin to Trump can be found here.
On April 1, 2017, Novaya Gazeta, a Russian independent media outlet, first broke the news that Chechen authorities rounded up and detained in secret prisons more than 100 men who were suspected of being gay or bisexual. Chechen leaders have denied these accusations, going so far as to deny the very existence of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Nonetheless, there have been numerous verified reports of torture and at least three and possibly as many as 20 men have been killed. Chechen officials have also reportedly encouraged families to murder relatives they suspect might be gay or bisexual, something that at least one family seems to have acted on. While the initial detentions and attacks targeted suspected gay and bisexual men, the campaign has also brought about a surge in lesbian women sharing stories about humiliation, abuse, and threats they have faced from male relatives or from others. Transgender Chechens have also fled violence.
Over the past year, President Trump and this White House have refused to publicly condemn the attacks. In September, a Washington Post article quoted a State Department spokesperson who said “the United States will ‘continue to raise our concerns about this situation with Russian authorities’ and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had written a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about it.” That letter was never released publicly nor was it accompanied by any public statement on Chechnya. In October 2017, HRC filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of State for all records regarding that letter. While the White House has remained silent, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have passed resolutions condemning the atrocities.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines “crimes against humanity” as certain acts committed as part of “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.” HRC and the Russian LGBT Network believe that the human rights abuses that have taken place in Chechnya over the last year are exactly that. They have been both systemic and widespread. It is also clear that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has explicitly condoned these attacks as part of his efforts to “purify Chechen blood.”