HRC to Trump: Ask Putin about Chechnya anti-gay abuses

By : Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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Ahead of a scheduled bilateral meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the largest LGBT group in the United States is calling on Trump to “forcefully raise” reports of anti-gay human rights abuses in Chechnya.

In a letter dated July 5, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said bringing up the issue of anti-gay violence in Chechnya with Putin is “imperative” in the aftermath of reports that more than 100 men perceived as gay or bisexual have been detained and tortured.

“I urge you to stand with the victims by calling on President Putin to take immediate action to bring the violence to an end and the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes to justice,” Griffin wrote.

On Tuesday, the White House confirmed Trump would have a “normal bilateral meeting” with Putin on Friday instead of a more informal pull-aside during a gathering of international leaders at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

A number of international issues could be on the table for discussion, such as reports North Korea successfully tested for the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile and Russia’s threat after the U.S. downing of a Syrian warplane to shoot down aircraft flown by the United States in the area.

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said during a briefing with reporters last week the Trump-Putin meeting in Hamburg would be unstructured.

“There’s no specific agenda,” McMaster said. “It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about.”

Trump is facing calls to address anti-gay abuses in Chechnya shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed portions of his travel ban to go into effect. As a result, refugees worldwide and individuals from six Muslim majority nations cannot enter the United States without a “bona fide” reason.

In his letter, Griffin writes LGBT people facing persecution in Chechnya must have access to safety either through “humanitarian parole,” the U.S. refugee system or other countries that can process them more quickly.

“The U.S. must not step back from its essential role as a human rights leader and as a champion of the world’s most vulnerable,” Griffin wrote. “Failure to speak out against these atrocities signals to dictators and human rights violators that the U.S. will turn a blind eye to their crimes. We can, and must, serve as a beacon of hope.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has spoken out against the atrocities, but President Trump has said nothing. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have each spoken out against the violence.

Trump had an opportunity to bring up Chechnya anti-gay abuses during an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but the White House told the Washington Blade the issue “did not come up.”

The Washington Blade has placed a request with the White House seeking comment on the letter.

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