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HRC Files Freedom of Information Act Request Regarding Anti-Gay Violence in Chechnya

Thursday Oct 19, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson  (Source:AP Photo )

On Wednesday, the Human Rights Campaign announced that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department for records regarding a letter reportedly sent by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressing the violence against LGBTQ people in the Republic of Chechnya.

The move by HRC comes after months of inaction from the Trump Administration on the reported violence in Chechnya that has included the rounding up and secret incarceration of gay men, as well as the verified reports of torture and murder of men suspected of being gay or bisexual.

"The very fact that we are required to compel the State Department to release this letter speaks volumes about the Trump-Pence administration's lack of leadership on this life-or-death situation in Chechnya," said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. "It took months for Secretary Tillerson to write a letter on the atrocities in Chechnya, and we still don't know if he addressed human rights issues forcefully or not because he won't allow anyone to see the letter. It's far past time that President Trump and Secretary Tillerson publicly condemn the ongoing attacks against the LGBTQ community in Chechnya. Given the growing violence and arrests of LGBTQ people around the world, the United States must not back away from leading on LGBTQ human rights."

In July HRC requested that President Trump address the situation in Chechnya when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany.

"It is imperative that you forcefully raise this issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin ...," wrote HRC President Chad Griffin in July. "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."

"We yet again renew the urgent call for you and Secretary Tillerson to forcefully condemn the atrocities in Chechnya," Griffin continued. "While Ambassador Haley and the State Department have issued statements, and the House of Representatives has unanimously condemned the atrocities, it is deeply disappointing and troubling that there has not yet been any statement from the White House."

HRC notes that while the Trump-Pence administration has been largely silent on this issue, Congress has been unified across the aisle in condemning the atrocities. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously advanced a bipartisan resolution condemning the violence and persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. The bipartisan resolution is nearly identical to a resolution that passed the House of Representatives in June, and "calls on Chechen officials to immediately cease the abduction, detention, and torture of individuals on the basis of their actual or suspected sexual orientation, and hold accountable all those involved in perpetrating such abuses."

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