Seven Months Later, The Senate Finally Condemns Anti-Gay Purge In Chechnya

The bipartisan measure comes four months after a House resolution condemning attacks on gay men in the region.

Reports of gay men being arrested, detained and tortured in Chechnya first began surfacing in early April. Now, some seven months later, the Senate has passed a bipartisan resolution condemning anti-LGBT persecution in the former Soviet republic.

Introduced by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and and Ed Markey (D-MA), Senate Resolution 211 follows a bipartisan measure passed in the House back in June.

“The Senate condemns the violence and persecution in Chechnya 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,” the resolution states.

The statement further calls on the U.S. government to “continue to condemn the violence and persecution in Chechnya, demand the release of individuals wrongfully detained, and identify those individuals whose involvement in this violence qualifies for the imposition of sanctions.”

It also urged Russia to investigate allegations of human rights violations in its former satellite.

Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov has long denied any anti-gay witch hunt—or even the existence of homosexuals in the country: “This is nonsense,” he said in a July episode of HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada… Take them far from us so we don’t have them at home. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

In October, Maxim Lapunov came forward as the first victim to publicly come forward about their ordeal: He recounted being arrested, locked in a blood-soaked cellar, and beaten repeatedly after being named by other victims. “The only charge they made was that I was gay,” Lapunov told reporters. “I could hardly walk. I was sure they were going to kill me. I was preparing for that.”

It’s believed at least 100 men have been detained, with at least three dying as a result of torture.

While international leaders decried the pogrom months ago, HRC’s Ty Cobb still called the Senate resolution “a powerful message,” especially since Donald Trump hasn’t addressed the crisis publicly.

“Members of both parties in both chambers have now condemned the anti-LGBTQ Chechen violence and persecution, and it’s far past time that President Trump and Secretary Tillerson also publicly do so,” said Cobb. “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.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.