The federal government has blocked a motion moved by the Greens in the Senate to condemn the persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.
Human rights groups claim at least 100 men in the Russian region of Chechnya are being detained because of their sexuality and violently tortured in secret prisons.
On Wednesday Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice (pictured, left) tabled a parliamentary motion about the persecution, calling on the government to “work with other nations on a UN resolution condemning the Chechen Government’s actions” and to be prepared to take gay and bisexual refugees from the region.
But the Government refused to allow a vote on the motion on the basis that it doesn’t vote on complex foreign policy matters and that it didn’t support the wording of the motion.
“In line with the government’s longstanding view, motions that cannot be debated or amended should not deal with complex foreign policy matters,” Liberal Senator James McGrath said.
He said the Australian government is “gravely concerned about the reports” of the persecution in the region, but added “the government sought to negotiate alternative wording with Senator Rice to formulate a multiparty motion on this issue.”
“An agreement could not be reached. As such, there are elements of this motion that we are unable to support,” he said.
Greens Senator Janet Rice said she was extremely disappointed with the government’s decision.
“I note that our Minister for Foreign Affairs has indeed raised this issue with the Russian government and I commend her for doing so, but a lot more action needs to be taken,” she said.
“Specifically, the actions that I outlined in my motion [including] working towards a UN resolution condemning the Chechnyan and Russian governments.”
Senator Rice said she believes the measures are reasonable and would likely be supported in the Senate.
“The Greens will be pursuing further action so that Australia does everything it can to apply pressure on Chechnya and Russia to end this appalling persecution,” she said.
— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) May 10, 2017
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome, who recently wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the subject, said it was particularly disappointing that Mr Turnbull “hasn’t said a word on this crisis.”
“The failure of the Government to allow this vote sends the message that it isn’t willing to do all it can to stop anti-LGBTI persecution,” he said.
“The Government’s excuse that it doesn’t vote on matters of foreign policy and it couldn’t agree on wording will be cold comfort to gay and bisexual men being rounded up and executed in Chechnya.
“Julie Bishop’s earlier statement was a good start but much more needs to be done including cooperation with like-minded countries at the UN to pass a resolution condemning Russia’s inaction and to launch an investigation into the extent of the persecution in Chechnya.”
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (pictured, right) has repeatedly denied the reports of violence, going as far as to claim there are no gay people in the region at all.
Read Senator Rice’s motion in full below:
I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move that the Senate –
1. Notes reports alleging that male citizens of the Republic of Chechnya assumed to be gay or bisexual are being rounded up, placed in ‘concentration camps’ and beaten and tortured on the basis of their actual or presumed sexuality.
2. Calls on the Government to:
a. Work with other nations on a UN resolution condemning the Chechen Government’s actions, and the Russian Government’s failure to stop them;
b. Publicly back the UN’s Free and Equal Campaign, a global public education campaign which raises awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination, and promotes greater respect for the rights of LGBTI people globally;
c. Be prepared to take gay and bisexual refugees from Chechnya;
d. Update Smart Traveller references to Chechnya and Russia;
e. Cut any trade and diplomatic links with Chechnya that Australia may have.