Joe Biden condemns gay Chechnya arrests

By : MICHAEL K. LAVERS of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday condemned the arrests of gay men in Chechnya.

“I am disgusted and appalled by reports from both the Russian media and non-governmental organizations that authorities in the Russian republic of Chechnya have rounded up, tortured and even murdered individuals who are believed to be gay,” said Biden in a statement he posted to the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement’s Facebook page. “When faced with such crimes of hate and inhumanity, it is the responsibility of every person of conscience to speak out — to oppose this campaign of violence before it continues further.”

“Every man or woman on this earth is entitled to be treated with dignity — to live without fear and to love freely,” he added. “Unfortunately, the human rights abuses perpetrated by Chechen authorities and the culture of impunity that surrounds them means that these hate crimes are unlikely to ever be properly investigated or that the perpetrators will see justice. But that does not mean that we should fail to defend basic human rights, fundamental freedoms and universal values.”

Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, has reported authorities in Chechnya, which is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the Caucasus that is predominantly Muslim, have arrested more than 100 men in “connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.”

Novaya Gazeta said authorities beat and tortured the men with electric shocks. The newspaper also reported at least three of the men who Chechen authorities arrested later died.

Novaya Gazeta earlier this week reported gay men have been sent to secret prisons that have been described as “concentration camps.” The Russian LGBT Network confirmed these reports to the Washington Blade.

Chechnya officials target newspaper that broke story

The State Department last week said in a statement that it is “increasingly concerned about the situation” in Chechnya, but it has not publicly commented on the secret prisons.

Vitit Muntarbhorn and other U.N. human rights experts on Thursday urged Chechen authorities to release the gay men who remain in custody. They also called upon the Russian government “to take urgent measures to protect the life, liberty and security of gay and bisexual people in Chechnya and to investigate, prosecute and punish acts of violence motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.”

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Randy Boissonnault, who advises Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on LGBT and intersex issues, are among the world leaders who have also condemned Chechen authorities. President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Kremlin officials in Moscow on Wednesday — and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley have not publicly commented on the gay men’s arrests.

“I hope that the current administration lives up to the promises it has made to advance human rights for everyone by raising this issue directly with Russia’s leaders,” said Biden in his statement. “The United States must lead the way to demand an end to these egregious violations of human rights.”

A spokesperson for the Russian government said the arrests are “a question of law enforcement agencies.” A spokesperson for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, told a Russian government news agency earlier this month it is “impossible to prosecute those who are not in the republic.”

“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,” said Kadyrov’s spokesperson.

Kadyrov is a close Putin ally.

Novaya Gazeta on Thursday said in a statement that one of Kadyrov’s advisers described its reporters as “enemies of our faith and our homeland” in a speech he delivered at the main mosque in the Chechen capital of Grozny on April 3.

The statement said 15,000 people attended what it described as an “emergency meeting” at the mosque.

Novaya Gazeta noted Chechen media broadcast Kadyrov’s adviser’s remarks and other speeches. The statement also points out the meeting ended with the approval of a resolution that it says will incite violence against its reporters and editors.

“The resolution encourages religious fanatics to violence against journalists,” said Novaya Gazeta.

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