May 25, 2017 at 2:11 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
House committee unanimously approves Chechnya resolution

Chechnya, gay news, Washington Blade

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 25, 2017, unanimously approved a resolution that condemns the arrests of gay men in Chechnya. (Photo by Alexxx1979; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday approved a resolution that condemns the crackdown against gay Chechens.

The resolution — which has 52 co-sponsors — passed in a unanimous voice vote.

U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ed Royce (R-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced it. Ros-Lehtinen in a statement said she is “pleased that the Foreign Affairs Committee has once again stood up to defend the freedom and human rights of those living under the shadow of oppression and tyranny in a broad bipartisan manner.”

“By passing my resolution, we send a unified message that this body will continue to raise the alarm about Chechnya and Russia’s declining human rights record, and that this unwarranted persecution of gay or perceived to be gay individuals must end now,” added the Florida Republican.

Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucuses.

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, last month reported Chechen authorities have arrested more than 100 gay men since February. 

Novaya Gazeta has said at least three of the men died after their arrest, while others have been beaten and tortured. Reports also indicate Chechen authorities have sent them to secret prisons that have been described as “concentration camps.” 

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin have sought to downplay or even dismiss the reports that gay men have been arrested. Novaya Gazeta earlier this week reported the Russian government has launched an investigation into the allegations.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Monday in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described reports the U.S. has discouraged Russian LGBT rights advocates from helping men who have fled Chechnya apply for visas as “greatly disturbing.” Griffin also wrote it is “imperative that the U.S. immediately take every possible step to help the victims find their way safely — and to clearly communicate that the U.S. is pursuing every option, so that the victims do not lose hope.”

“This resolution sends a strong message of condemnation to those in Chechnya who are committing these horrific human rights abuses as well as to the Russian government that is standing by while this tragedy unfolds,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First in a statement after the Chechyna resolution passed. “This is a key moment for American leadership to reaffirm its commitment to an end to human rights abuses based on sexual orientation, wherever they might occur.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among those who have publicly condemned the arrests in Chechnya.

The State Department last month urged the Russian government to investigate them. President Trump and Tillerson have not publicly commented on the arrests or the secret prisons in which the gay men have reportedly been held.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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