Human Rights First praised the swift, bipartisan passage of Senate Resolution 211 in October, a condemnation of the detention, torture, and murders of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. The resolution, led by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), passed last night in a voice vote with strong bipartisan support. The resolution had a total of 46 cosponsors, including members from both sides of the aisle.
“By passing this resolution the Senate is showing that Congress is leading the charge on human rights issues,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “Last night’s vote is a message to Russian leadership that America remains on guard against those that would persecute vulnerable communities. We hope this will drive further engagement by the State Department and White House.”
Earlier in the month the resolution passed through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a unanimous vote. In June, an identical resolution passed the House of Representatives following unanimous support in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Human Rights First notes that these resolutions have had an unprecedented level of bipartisan support compared to previous resolutions that addressed anti-LGBT violence.
In March, independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on the mass detention of over one hundred men “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” During the crackdown at least three men have been killed. Journalists reporting on the situation have been threatened by Chechen government officials. In addition to the deaths, survivors reported beatings and torture, as well as being forced to disclose the names of other gay men in the region. As the crisis continues, LGBT organizations on the ground are evacuating victims from the country. The response from Chechen and Russian leadership has ranged from the denial of the existence of gay people to conducting of an “investigation” which determined no such abuses had occurred.
The resolution calls on Chechen officials to cease abduction and torture of individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, and to hold accountable those involved in perpetuating the abuses. It further calls on Russian officials to protect the human rights of all of its citizens, including those the LGBT community in Chechnya, to condemn the brutality, and to push for independent investigations that can bring perpetrators to justice.
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