The Australian Government has said following Australian allies’ lead in holding two men responsible for Chechnya’s “gay purge” could take several months.
Over several years, the Russian republic has conducted the so-called “gay purge”, abducting, torturing, and even killing queer people in the region.
Last month, the Victorian Pride Lobby launched a Change.org petition calling for the federal government to act.
The petition calls for Australia to follow the US and European Union and blacklist two of the leaders of the crackdown, Ayub Kataev and Abuzayed Vismuradov. More than 1,800 people have so far signed the Pride Lobby’s petition.
At a recent Senate Estimates hearing, Greens Senator Janet Rice questioned officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on such sanctions.
An official told the hearing amending Australia’s autonomous sanctions regime could take “up to around six months to create a new set of regulations” depending on circumstances.
Australia currently has a sanctions regime against Russia. However it relates to Russia’s actions in Ukraine only, not Chechnya, the DFAT official told the March 25 hearing.
In response, Victorian Pride Lobby co-convenor Nevena Spirovska said such a delay “isn’t good enough”.
“Every single queer person deserves to feel safe from persecution and violence,” Spirovska said.
“But in many places that sadly isn’t the case. In Chechnya, LGBTQ+ people are living in daily fear of being targeted for who they are or who they love.
“It’s high time we do something about it.
“The Lobby created this petition [to] urge the Australian Government to take action and send a clear message to Chechnya that these human rights abuses won’t be tolerated.
“It seems like the government has dropped this in the ‘too hard’ basket by saying it would take months to sanction those responsible.
“This isn’t good enough. We need LGBTQ+ people around Australia to make their voices heard and let the government know that we want to see them act as soon as possible.”
Queer Chechens under threat of brutal violence
A landmark 2020 HBO documentary by David France showed brave activists’ work in helping targeted LGBTQ Chechens to safety.
Also earlier this year, activists warned two gay Chechen men were in grave danger.
Russian police had arrested the men and later returned them to Chechnya after they fled to escape torture.
Despite several survivors speaking out, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has denied the violence. He has even claimed no LGBTQ+ people live in Chechnya.
“You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist,” he said.
US and European Union hold Chechen men responsible for anti-gay violence
The Victorian Pride Lobby wants the Morrison government to sanction two men, Ayub Kataev and Abuzayed Vismuradov. The US and European Union agree the two men are both responsible.
Ayub Kataev heads Chechnya’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. In 2017, the United States imposed sanctions on Kataev for his role in the abuses against LGBTQ+ Chechens.
In 2019, the United States also imposed sanctions on Abuzayed Vismuradov. He is commander of the Terek Special Rapid Responses Team, the unit responsible for the persecution.
He headed the group that illegally detained and tortured individuals for their actual or perceived sexual orientation, the US said.
In March, the European Union also blacklisted both men by imposing sanctions against them.
The EU declared the men responsible for the “torture and repressions” of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, those presumed to belong to LGBTI groups.”
Kataev oversaw “the activities of local state security and police agencies” directed against LGBTI Chechens, the EU said. The EU said Kataev committed “serious human rights violations”.
“In particular, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions and extrajudicial or arbitrary executions and killings.”
The EU also accused Vismuradov of the same human rights violations as Kataev.
Vismuradov also “personally supervised and took part in torturing detainees,” the EU said.
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