Earlier today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee debated and passed a bipartisan resolution, House Resolution 351, condemning the violence and persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya.
The resolution, which was introduced two days earlier by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and now has over fifty bipartisan cosponsors, “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.”
Since early this year, Chechen authorities have rounded up and detained over 100 men in secret prisons, under suspicion that they are gay or bisexual. British reports have suggested that Chechen officials have set a target to “eliminate” all LGBTQ people from Chechnya by the start of Ramadan, which begins at the end of May this year.
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 men have been killed, and possibly as many as 20. Chechen officials have also reportedly encouraged families to murder relatives they suspect might be gay, something that at least one family seems to have taken quite seriously.
In presenting the resolution to the committee, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) called for “a serious investigation and a stop to this medieval violence,” saying that the Russian government “cannot tolerate such intolerable brutality and also purport to be worthy of participating on the global stage.”
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), one of Ros-Lehtinen’s chief co-authors of the resolution, hoped that the language in the resolution would “send a strong message to Chechen officials” and that the atrocities “must be condemned by the international community.”
Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) offered an amendment to the resolution, which was accepted by the committee. Keating’s amendment calls on the U.S. government to identify those involved in the attacks and determine if they ought to be sanctioned under two U.S. sanction laws that are named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died under mysterious circumstances in 2009 while in detention in a Russian prison.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) also raised the idea of the committee holding a separate hearing devoted exclusively to the Chechen atrocities, and Chairman Royce agreed.
A number of other committee members from both sides of the aisle also condemned the atrocities, calling them “brutal,” “outrageous,” “shocking,” “inhumane,” “barbaric” and “unthinkable.”
The text of the resolution, which was passed by the committee in a unanimous voice vote, can be found here. HRC calls on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) to urgently schedule the resolution for a vote in the full House of Representatives.
HRC is continuing to take action to stop the atrocities and help the victims. Click here for HRC’s #EyesOnChechnya website, which contains background information and actions that individuals can take to help end the violence.