WASHINGTON, DC Today, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) hailed the U.S. Senate's passage of a resolution condemning the violence and persecution against LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Last night, the Senate adopted the resolution by voice vote. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a nearly identical bipartisan resolution in June. To date, neither President Trump nor U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have publicly condemned the atrocities.
"With unanimous passage of this resolution, the U.S. Senate just sent a powerful message. Despite the deafening silence from the White House, the people of the United States strongly condemn these anti-LGBTQ attacks in Chechnya," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global. "Members of both parties in both chambers have now condemned the anti-LGBTQ Chechen violence and persecution, and it's far past time that President Trump and Secretary Tillerson also publicly do so. Given the growing violence and arrests of LGBTQ people around the world, the United States must not back away from leading on LGBTQ human rights."
The bipartisan Senate Resolution ( S. Res. ) 211, which was introduced by Senators Pat Toomey ( R-PA ) and Ed Markey ( D-MA ), is nearly identical to the U.S. House of Representatives resolution unanimously passed 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 Tillerson have failed to do publicly. Only a small number of Trump Administration officials have publicly spoken out, such as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
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 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.
President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have thus far failed 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. Earlier this month, HRC filed a Freedom of Information Act ( FOIA ) request with the U.S. Department of State for all records regarding that letter.