These countries signed a joint letter addressed to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council which explained their “deep concern about recent reports concerning the renewed persecution of LGBTQ persons in Chechnya.” The letter refers to the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, which declares human rights universal and calls on states to take action when they are violated.
“Today, we call on the Russian authorities to take urgent action in response to these renewed reports of violations of the human rights of LGBTQ persons in Chechnya,” says the letter. “All persons who remain in detention based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity must be released immediately. There must also be a swift, thorough, and impartial investigation into the alleged persecution, arrest, and torture of LGBTQ persons, and any deaths that have resulted. Those who have directed and carried out these acts must be held responsible.”
The Trump administration didn’t join these countries, which included Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, and Spain, in signing.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) condemned the U.S. for not signing the letter.
“The Trump-Pence administration has once again shamefully chosen to not speak out against the barbaric, anti-LGBTQ attacks occurring in Chechnya,” HRC Global Director Ty Cobb said in a press release. “It’s unconscionable that the United States is not joining with these more than 30 nations in publicly condemning these Chechen anti-LGBTQ crimes against humanity and calling for those responsible to be held accountable. The absolute failure of human rights leadership from this White House is staggering.”
However, an official from the State Department told the Washington Blade that the HRC’s characterization of their actions was “inaccurate” and that the U.S. “did not ‘refuse’ to sign this statement.”
Because the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, it “no longer participates in its sessions.”
“Under our withdrawal policy, the United States did not consider joining this or any other joint statement during the current session of the Council,” the official said.
An HRC staffer responded to the State Department’s comments.
“There were other nations not on the council who signed it,” the staffer said. “And it speaks volumes that they are saying the U.S. was not asked to sign it. It’s yet another sign that the U.S. has turned its back on human rights to such a degree that the global leaders like the U.K. don’t even ask the U.S. to join in on important efforts like this.”
Neither President Donald Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence has spoken publicly about Chechnya.