The State Department on Thursday said it is “deeply disturbed” by reports that indicate at least two people have been killed and upwards of 40 others have been detained in the latest anti-LGBTI crackdown in Chechnya.
“We are deeply disturbed by credible reports out of Chechnya about renewed attacks against individuals perceived to be members of the LGBTI community,” said Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino in a statement.
The Russian LGBT Network on Monday said a “new wave of illegal detentions in Chechnya based on the alleged sexual orientation of victims, both men and women” began last month with the detention of an administrator of a social networking group. Igor Kochetkov, a prominent Russian LGBTI activist, has suggested more people may have been taken into custody.
“Civil society groups report that at least 40 individuals have been illegally detained since December, including two who reportedly died in custody after being tortured,” noted Palladino in his statement. “We call on Russia to live up to its international obligations and commitments and its own constitution, and launch an immediate investigation into these human rights abuses.”
Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus.
Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, in 2017 reported Chechen authorities had arrested more than 100 men because of their sexual orientation. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a Vienna-based group of which the U.S. is a member, released a report last month that documents extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses against LGBTI people in Chechnya.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — and the Kremlin have either denied the reports or downplayed them. President Trump — who is under increased scrutiny over his alleged involvement in the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election — has not publicly commented on the crackdown.
“Nearly two years after reports first surfaced of anti-LGBTQ violence and killings in Chechnya, we are once again hearing disturbing accounts of state-sanctioned detentions and abuse,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a statement he released earlier this week. “We have repeatedly called on the Trump-Pence White House to speak out and help bring an end to this persecution, but instead the White House has largely ignored the actions of the Russian-backed regime in Chechnya. Human rights violators in Chechnya must be held accountable and be brought to justice. Lives are hanging in the balance.”