Washington, D.C. Human Rights First today expressed alarm over reports that Chechen authorities have acted outside the law to arrest, abuse, and kill gay men in the country, and called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to publicly condemn the acts. Tillerson is scheduled to visit Russia in the coming weeks.
"What is happening to gay men in Chechnya is a horrific violation of human rights and the rule of law," said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord. "The United States can not stand idly by while innocent people are being rounded up, detained, and murdered by authorities. Secretary Tillerson should immediately and forcefully speak out against these abuses, and demand the release of all gay Chechens who remain unlawfully detained."
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. Local authorities have issued statements that either dispute these allegations or, worse, suggest that these killings and other human rights abuses are justified. Additionally, reports indicate that the Kremlin has suggested these appalling events do not warrant investigation. Russian organizations that focus on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) people are providing emergency assistance to members of the LGBT community who are seeking to flee the region.
"What is happening now is threatening the security of Russia, and should be of concern not only to the Russian government, but other governments all over the world as well. Human rights are the basis for the state, and the security of all citizens contributes to the security of the state," said Mikhail Tumasov of Russian LGBT Network. "Foreign governments should express their concern and demand that Russian authorities bring those responsible to justice."
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.
For more information or to speak with Gaylord contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-845-5269 .