Washington, D.C. – Chechnya’s dictator, Ramzan Kadyrov, is waging a brutal campaign against gay men and those perceived to be gay that includes abduction, detention, and torture.  That is why today the House of Representatives passed H. Res. 351, a resolution condemning the violence and persecution in Chechnya.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“The ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, presides over a dictatorship of medieval brutality.  Those who challenge or simply displease him often disappear, or are murdered outright.

His latest campaign of persecution is aimed at gay men and women, and those perceived to be gay, who have been abducted, tortured, and even killed, with many others forced to flee.  When the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported these atrocities, his spokesmen dismissed the accusations, saying that such people ‘don’t exist in the republic’ – and then threatened the journalists that brought the story to light.

Caught unaware by the unexpected publicity, Chechen authorities have choked off independent sources of information.  We do not know the exact status of this campaign or its many victims, but there is no doubt that the situation there for sexual minorities in general has long been, and remains, oppressive.

Disturbing reports indicate that Kadyrov has now turned his focus from abducting and torturing gay men and women to pressuring their families to murder them through so-called ‘honor killings.’  This is despicable.

Vladimir Putin deserves blame.  Chechnya is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation, of which he is the president.  As such, he has a sworn responsibility to ensure that the Russian constitution is fully implemented, which at least on paper professes to guarantee basic rights for all citizens.  Russia is also a signatory to many international agreements that formally commit it to protecting a broad array of human rights.

Yet the Russian government’s response has been largely dismissive, if not two-faced.  Kremlin spokesmen have called the reports ‘phantom complaints,’ yet also recommended that victims report grievances to the Chechen authorities accused of carrying out the attacks.  And of course, there has been no criticism of Kadyrov in the Russian state-controlled media – barely even a mention of the issue.

That is why this resolution is of such importance.   By shining a light on these crimes, in this dark corner, we seek to give hope to those who otherwise may have none at all.  And we say unequivocally – to Kadyrov and to Putin – that these atrocities are in plain view, and that their cowardly and evasive responses are not fooling anyone.

I want to thank Chairman Emeritus Ros-Lehtinen and Ranking Member Engel for their leadership on this resolution.”