Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on Thursday once again urged President Trump to publicly condemn the crackdown against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.
Griffin in his letter to Trump notes Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, last April reported authorities in the semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus had arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation since the beginning of 2017.
“It has now been a year since the world has learned of the horrific state-sponsored attacks on men suspected of being gay or bisexual in the Russian republic of Chechnya,” wrote Griffin. “Yet over the last year, you (Trump) have remained unconscionably silent in the face of these atrocities, despite the fact that human rights organizations have repeatedly called on you to speak out, and other global leaders have condemned the atrocities.”
“Enough is enough,” he added. “It is time to break your silence and condemn these atrocities as crimes against humanity.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those who have condemned the crackdown.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in response to Novaya Gazeta’s initial reporting said the U.S. is “disturbed” by the crackdown. The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have both unanimously approved resolutions that condemn it.
The State Department told the Washington Blade last September that outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the crackdown in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The State Department has also urged the Russian government to conduct an investigation.
‘We want justice for the victims in Chechnya’
Russian President Vladimir Putin has downplayed or even dismissed reports on the crackdown. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally to the Kremlin, has described them as “nonsense” and claimed last summer during an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that “we don’t have any gays” in Chechnya.
The U.S. late last year sanctioned Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Ayub Kataev of the Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry under the 2012 Magnitsky Act that freezes the assets of Russian citizens who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. The Treasury Department in a press release that announced the sanctions noted Kataev “is reported to have been involved in abuses against gay men in Chechnya during the first half of 2017.”
Griffin’s letter coincides with the ongoing investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“While it is long past time for you to speak out, it is not too late,” said Griffin in his letter to Trump. “You must condemn these crimes against humanity and call on Russia to conduct an investigation and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
Svetlana Zakharova of the Russian LGBT Network, a Russian organization that has provided assistance to LGBT Chechens who have fled their homeland, in a Human Rights Campaign press release echoed Griffin
“We want justice for the victims in Chechnya, for their relatives and their loved ones,” said Zakharova. “The Russian authorities must fulfill their duties, and start a serious investigation of this crime against humanity.”