Post submitted by Stephen Peters, former Senior National Press Secretary and Spokesperson
Today, HRC hailed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous vote advancing Senate Resolution (S. Res.) 211 — a bipartisan measure condemning the violence and persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. The resolution now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s unanimous condemnation of the ongoing violence and persecution against LGBTQ Chechens is crucially important,” said 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. 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.”
The bipartisan resolution, which was introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), is nearly identical to a resolution that passed the House of Representatives in June. Like the House version, S. Res. 211 “calls on Chechen officials to immediately cease the abduction, detention, and torture of individuals on the basis of their actual or suspected sexual orientation, and hold accountable all those involved in perpetrating such abuses.” It also calls on the U.S. government to “continue to condemn the violence and persecution in Chechnya,” something that President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have thus far failed to publicly do. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is the most senior administration official to have spoken out.
Since early this year, Chechen authorities have rounded up and detained more than 100 men in secret prisons, under suspicion that they are 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, something that at least one family seems to have acted on.
While the Trump-Pence administration has been largely silent on this issue, Congress has been unified across the aisle in condemning the atrocities. The Senate resolution that received committee approval today has more than 40 cosponsors, including 13 Republicans. Similarly, the House version (H. Res. 351) had 85 cosponsors, including 21 Republicans.
In presenting the resolution to the Committee, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the committee, said “The [Chechen] leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has overseen a campaign of violence and persecution against gay men. We condemn such acts and call upon the Russian Federation to protect the human rights of all citizens.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the committee said, “What is happening there, particularly with gay men, is absolutely outrageous and I appreciate the fact that we’re acting on that today.”
Sen. Markey added, “This resolution condemns Chechnyan officials’ torture, murder, and incitement of so-called honor killings of men who are or are suspected of being gay, calls for an end to the persecution, and calls on Russian authorities to investigate it, punish the perpetrators, and protect the human rights of all citizens. We have 45 senators -- cosponsors on both sides of the aisle...I introduced it with Senator Toomey to ensure that it would be bipartisan, and I think it’s an important statement for the Senate to make, that we stand united with Chechnya’s LGBTQ community, who are victims of this cruel and murderous treatment at the hands of the Chechnyan officials who govern under the authority of Russia and it is important for us to persistently speak against inhumane treatment of human beings, no matter where they are on the planet.”
To learn more about the atrocities occurring in Chechnya, visit www.hrc.org/chechnya