Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, today issued a statement condemning the persecution of gay men in the Russian republic of Chechnya, less than a week after GLAAD urged her to do so.
"We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association," Haley said in the statement, posted online by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. "If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored -- Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses.
"We are against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation. When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict.
"Tomorrow, the United States will lead a first-ever meeting on human rights in international conflicts in the UN Security Council to underscore our commitment to addressing human rights abuses wherever they threaten international peace and security."
At least 100 gay men, and possibly many more, have been arrested and detained over the past few months by law enforcement officials in Chechnya, a semiautonomous republic within Russia. Identified through social media accounts, cell phone messages, and blackmail, they have been held in what amount to concentration camps, where they have reportedly been subjected to daily beatings, electric shocks, and sexual assault. At least three have been killed, according to local media and human rights groups. Some have been released to the custody of their families, but usually outed in the process -- something that puts them in danger in the deeply homophobic region.
Chechen authorities have denied that gay men are under attack, and indeed, that there are even gay people in the republic. Russian officials have also denied the reports and said anyone with such claims should file a complaint with local authorities -- but those are the very people carrying out the antigay campaign.
The Human Rights Campaign called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to bring up the situation in Chechnya with Russian President Vladmir Putin when he visited Russia last week, but there has been no indication that he did so. The State Department issued a statement condemning the abuse, but Tillerson himself has not commented publicly on the matter, nor has Donald Trump.
OutRight Action International has started a petition to urge oil companies that do business in Russia to denounce the persecution as well. It specifically targets British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Tillerson's former employer, ExxonMobil. "If Russia will not listen to other governments or even the United Nations, it is time to see if we can get money to talk in a language that they will listen to," the petition reads in part. The group has also sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the matter.
Several other U.S. and international organizations, and current and former elected officials, including former Vice President Joe Biden, have likewise called for attention to the situation.
GLAAD today praised Haley for speaking out. "Ambassador Haley is taking the right step in speaking out against these blatant violations of human rights," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the organization, in a press release. "This is a powerful sign that the U.S. Mission to the United Nations will continue to prioritize LGBTQ acceptance and fight discrimination and human rights abuses around the world."