WASHINGTON – A Republican and Democratic senator have called for broader sanctions on Chechen officials accused of carrying out a second wave of LGBT “purges,” though experts say the White House is unlikely to support such an effort.
After the first round of the so-called purges in 2017, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the head of the Chechen state, Ramzan Kadyrov and requested refugee status for the LGBT population fleeing the region. In response to the new wave of anti-gay detentions, he urged the White House to take more drastic action.
“We should vigorously sanction any Chechen official implicated in ordering or carrying out these gross abuses of human rights,” Cardin said. “I urge the administration to use these tools to hold these perpetrators accountable, and implore our European colleagues to do the same, so that the impact of our collective responses has a greater reach.”
An energy, economics and security program analyst at the Center for New American Security, Samuel Dorshimer, said it’s unlikely that any such sanctions will pass through Congress, and even if they do, President Donald Trump is unlikely to sign them.
“Given the president’s unwillingness to support tougher measures on Russia in general… I think it’s unlikely the president would support such a move,”Dorshimer said. “He’s also generally not been willing to stick up for human rights.”
Regardless, Democrats and some GOP lawmakers who have voted to impose sanctions in the past, such as Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., are prepared to move ahead with sanctions legislation.
“Persecuting people due to their sexuality is abhorrent and I am open to further actions that would punish Chechen officials for human rights violations,” Toomey said.
Last year, Toomey and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led a bipartisan resolution condemning Chechen officials’ “honor killings” of men who are suspected of being homosexual. The Toomey-Markey Resolution was co-sponsored by 46 members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, and passed unanimously through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
According to a December report published from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, a security-focused intergovernmental organization, the first round of purges began in late 2017.
A week after the OSCE report was released, a Chechen-based activist network called RUSA LGBT reported a second wave of anti-gay “purging.”
RUSA LGBT suspected that LGBT individuals in Chechnya have been identified, detained and tortured during both waves in 2017 and 2018. Since the second wave began in December, 40 people have been detained and two reported dead.
The European Court of Human Rights in 2017 ruled in favor of three LGBT activists who claimed that Russia’s anti-gay laws abused their rights to assembly and expression. Despite the ruling, Russian President Vladimir Putin took little action to investigate the accusations, according to Tanya Lokshina, the associate director of Europe & Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
“Even though about 100 individuals were targeted in the first purge in 2017, there was no investigation whatsoever,” said Lokshina. “The climate of non-accountability made it possible for another round anti-gay purges.”
Lokshina said that an international outcry in response to the first round of purges was strong enough to momentarily halt the Chechen anti-gay “purge.” This time, she fears that the “Kremlin will not do anything to reign in the rule of law under Kadyrov.”