The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution that condemns the anti-LGBT crackdown in Chechnya.
U.S. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced the resolution in June. The U.S. House of Representatives in the same month approved an identical resolution that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced.
Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucuses.
Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in April reported Chechen authorities have arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation — or perceived sexual orientation — since the beginning of the year.
Novaya Gazeta reported at least three of these men died after their arrest, while others have been beaten and tortured and sent to secret prisons. Additional reports indicate Chechen authorities have also begun to target women who they suspect are lesbians.
The Kremlin has claimed it has launched an investigation into the allegations, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to downplay or even dismiss these reports. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close Putin ally, in July described the allegations as “nonsense” and claimed during an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” that “we don’t have any gays” in his republic.
The State Department told the Washington Blade last month that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed concern about the ongoing crackdown.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley in April said the U.S. is “disturbed” by the situation in Chechnya. President Trump has yet to publicly condemn the crackdown.
“This resolution is an important step forward and once again shows that Congress is leading the charge on some of the most pressing human rights issues,” said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First. “We hope that the full Senate backs the resolution, and that the actions by Congress will spur further engagement by the State Department and White House.”