Appearing before the House Foreign
Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
testified that he had yet to raise the issue of attacks on gay men in
Chechnya with the Russians.
In April, Novaya Gaceta reported
that authorities in Chechnya have rounded up dozens of suspected gay
men and killed three. It has since reported that the men are being
held at six secret prisons without due process and that the campaign
has resulted in the deaths of 26 men since the start of the year.
Out Congressman David Cicilline, a
Democrat from Rhode Island, pressed Tillerson on the issue.
“Did you discuss the issue with these
atrocities when you met with the Russian foreign minister, or any
other government officials at any other time?” Cicilline asked.
“Those are on our pending list,”
Tillerson answered. “We did not make our way through all of the
issues in the meetings we've had.”
When asked whether President Donald
Trump had raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin,
Tillerson said that he was “unaware of whether he has or not.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, criticized Tillerson on his
handling of the issue.
“People have been tortured and killed
in Chechnya, yet Secretary Tillerson admitted today he hasn’t
raised concern about the atrocities against gay and bisexual men with
his Russian counterparts – not even once,” said HRC Government
Affairs Director David Stacy. “When directly asked during the
hearing to clearly condemn the attacks, Sec. Tillerson declined to do
so. And he had no idea if the President has raised the issue. The
Trump/Pence administration’s lack of leadership on this issue and
human rights around the globe is beyond disturbing. The time for
action is now.”
Chechnya is a Muslim-majority republic
of Russia that attempted to gain its independence from Moscow in the