Foreign Minister Julie Bishop raises concern over gay arrests in Chechnya

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has raised concern over the report that 100 men in The Chechen Republic have been detained because of their sexuality.

Reports were first published in Russian media at the beginning of the month. The initial reports suggest that more than 100 men have been rounded up and held at several detention centres in The Chechen Republic. It has been alleged that at least three man have been murdered, while others have been tortured.

The Chenchen Republic in Russia’s south is an autonomous region with it’s own government but it a part of Russia.

The Foreign Minister broke her silence on the issue telling Fairfax Media that the reports were of concern to the government.

“The Australian government is concerned at reports of mass arrests of individuals in the Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation,” she said.

The Minister said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had sought assurances from Moscow that no Australians were involved.

“We have raised our concerns directly with the Russian government. We are seeking advice from the Russian government on whether any Australians are involved so that we can offer appropriate consular assistance.” Bishop said.

Tim Wilson, Liberal member and former Human Rights Commissioner, has called for a stronger condemnation of the action.

“The reports of homosexual men being targeted, detained and tortured in Chechnya are deeply, deeply disturbing,” Wilson told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We should resolutely condemn any action taken against people simply because of their sexual orientation.”

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and his colleague Baroness Anelay, delivered a strong condemnation.

Johnson took to Twitter to describing the situation in The Chechen Republic as “outrageous”. Johnson said the Chechen government should be stopping the ill treatment of LGBTI people, not supporting it.

Baroness Anelay, one of Britian’s Ministers of State representing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, released a longer statement condemning the arrests.

“The detention and ill-treatment of over 100 gay men in Chechnya is extremely concerning. Reports have also suggested that at least three of these men have been killed.

“The statement by the regional Government, implying that such treatment towards LGBT people is acceptable, is particularly abhorrent.

“We condemn any and all persecution, and call on the authorities to promptly investigate and ensure that perpetrators of human rights abuses are brought to justice.” Baroness Anelay said.

Baroness Anelay said the human rights of LGBT people in Russia had been deteriorating for some time.

“The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we continue to voice our serious concern with Russian authorities at all levels.

“Russia’s international human rights obligations require them to protect citizens who may be at risk of persecution. We expect the Russian government to fulfill its obligations to this end, and to uphold the rule of law.”

In the USA 50 members of Congress have signed a letter urging Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to raise the issue with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Tillerson visited Russia this week and met with President Putin, but it is unknown if the issue was raised at the meeting. Relations between the two countries are strained with accusations of Russia interfering in the US election and opposing views on the conflict in Syria.

Amnesty International is one of the many human rights groups drawing attention to the situation in Chechnya.

The organisation’s Western Australian LGBTQI Group convener Hannah Wahlsten has said that she is appalled by the devastating reports, and is called on the Australian Government to take a lead internationally for LGBTQI rights and condemn acts of persecution and abuse when they occur.

“It is so heartbreaking that such horrific atrocities, and such bigotry is still a reality. As fellow human beings we must stand together and give aid however we can.” Wahlsten said.

Amnesty International launched a petition calling on the Russian government to investigate the claims of abuse.

The Head of the Chechen Republic has denied the arrests have occurred, and his spokesperson told the media that there simply were no gay people in Chechnya.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson released a statement describing the initial news reports as “absolute lies and disinformation.”

“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” the spokesman, Alvi Karimov, said.

“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

OIP Staff




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