State Department Calls for Independent Investigation into LGBT Murders in Chechnya
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today welcomed comments from State Department officials calling on the Russian government to independently investigate the recent murders and mass arrests of gay men in Chechnya, and calls on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to urge Russia to hold the perpetrators of the assault on the Chechen lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community accountable during his upcoming with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on April 12. The State Department spokesman made the comment in response to a Washington Blade request.
“This is an important first step” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “But the situation on the ground is so horrific that Secretary Tillerson must make this a central part of his agenda when he meets with Minister Lavrov. A failure to do so will provide cover for these abuses to continue.”
This past weekend Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that more than one hundred gay men have been detained by Chechen authorities over the past week “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” At least three of these men have been murdered, with rumors indicating that the number could be higher. Local authorities have issued statements that either dispute these allegations or, worse, suggest that these killings and other human rights abuses are justified.
Russian organizations that focus on the human rights of LGBT people are providing emergency assistance to members of the community who are seeking to flee the region.
LGBT Russians face discrimination and violence, compounded by a 2013 federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” that violates the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This so-called “propaganda law” has become a chief Russian export, as legislators from Eastern Europe to Central Asia have emulated the Russian Duma by introducing nearly identical versions of the law in their legislative bodies.
“When gay men are treated like criminals, when they are rounded up, detained, and murdered by the very officials sworn to protect them, it is a direct assault on the human rights of all. Secretary Tillerson must loudly and publicly call on Russia to take action,” added Gaylord.