The United States Congress passed a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday condemning anti-gay persecution and violence in Chechnya.
House resolution 351 was introduced on May 23 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who has an out transgender son and is a frequent advocate for LGBT rights. Ros-Lehtinen is also a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus.
The resolution calls on the Russian Federation to investigate and halt the reported state violence against gay men in Chechnya and asks the United States government to “demand the release of individuals wrongly detained.”
After the resolution passed, Ros-Lehtinen had strong words for the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We will continue to stand united with the LGBT community and shine a bright light on these atrocities, which are encouraged by the evil Putin regime in Russia, in order to help ensure that those who are responsible for these crimes are held to account for their despicable actions,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
Men who escaped the reported anti-gay persecution campaign in Chechnya fled to Russia, telling reporters and human rights organizations the harrowing details of the abuses they’d faced at the hands of what they believed were police and the military.
“They dragged me out of the car, started to beat me, humiliate me,” said a Chechen man named Ilya in an interview with French news agency Agence-France Presse (AFP). “They were saying that I was a faggot, a gay person and that such people shouldn’t exist in Chechnya.
“It is now up to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and our United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley to follow through on the consensus of the House,” LGBT Equality Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Alan Lowenthal said, “and bring as much domestic and international political pressure as possible on the Russian government to rein in these deplorable human rights violations.”
H. RES. 351
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 23, 2017
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen (for herself, Mr. Engel, Mr. Issa, Mr. Cicilline, Mr. Royce of California, Mr. Lowenthal, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Ms. Norton, Ms. Sinema, Mr. Takano, Mr. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Ms. Titus, Mr. Gallego, Mr. Dent, Ms. Brownley of California, Ms. Speier, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. MacArthur, Mr. LoBiondo, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Cook, Mr. Connolly, Mr. Sires, Ms. Frankel of Florida, Ms. Tenney, Mr. Pocan, Ms. Hanabusa, Mr. Donovan, Mr. Espaillat, Mr. Coffman, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Mr. Deutch, and Mr. Schneider) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Condemning the violence and persecution in Chechnya.
Whereas, on April 1, 2017, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that authorities in Chechnya, a republic of the Russian Federation, had abducted, detained, and tortured over 100 men due to their actual or suspected sexual orientation;
Whereas multiple independent and first-hand accounts have subsequently corroborated the Novaya Gazeta report, and describe a campaign of persecution by Chechen officials against men due to their actual or suspected sexual orientation;
Whereas, as a result of this persecution, at least three deaths have been reported and many individuals have been forced to flee Chechnya;
Whereas Chechen officials have denied the existence of such persecution, including through a statement by the spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov that
You cannot arrest or repress people who don’t exist in the republic.;
Whereas the same spokesman for Ramzan Kadyrov has also stated that
If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return, and credible reports indicate that Chechen authorities have encouraged families to carry out so-called
honor killings of relatives due to their actual or suspected sexual orientation;
Whereas Chechnya is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation and subject to its laws, and Ramzan Kadyrov was installed as the leader of Chechnya by Russian President Vladimir Putin;
Whereas Chechen authorities have a long history of violating the fundamental human rights of their citizens, including through extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, and torture of government critics;
Whereas Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed reports of persecution in Chechnya and termed them
Whereas Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova, has also claimed that such reports should not be believed because formal complaints have not been registered with the appropriate authorities;
Whereas the Russian Federation is a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and thus has agreed to guarantee the fundamental human rights of all of its citizens;
Whereas, on April 7, 2017, the United States Department of State issued a statement saying
We categorically condemn the persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation and urging the Government of the Russian Federation to take steps to ensure the release of all those wrongfully detained in Chechnya, and to conduct a credible investigation of the reports; and
Whereas, on April 17, 2017, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued a statement saying
Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses. We are against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation. When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict.: Now, therefore, be it
That the House of Representatives—