Senators Unite To Call For Action On Gay Persecution In Chechnya


Senate Chechnya Motion Dean Smith Penny Wong

Federal senators have joined forces to support a motion calling for stronger international action against the persecution of LGBTI people in the Russian republic of Chechnya.

The motion, put forward by Liberal Senator Dean Smith and Labor Senator Penny Wong on Thursday, welcomed the Australian Government’s repeated expressions of concern to the Kremlin about the situation in Chechnya, in which gay men are reportedly being detained and violently tortured because of their homosexuality.

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It also backed the UN’s Free and Equal campaign, urged the Australian Government to update its travel advice for Russia and called for more international action on the persecution.

It follows a similar motion put forward by Greens Senator Janet Rice last month.

Just.equal spokesperson and veteran LGBTI rights campaigner Rodney Croome thanked all three Senators for the motion and the Senate for supporting it.

“Just.equal has been calling for stronger action by the Australian Government since news reports began emerging of the anti-LGBTI persecution in Chechnya,” he said.

“We are excited the Senate has joined our call but more needs to be done, including a declaration by the Australian Government that it will accept LGBTI refugees from Chechnya similar to a recent declaration by the German government.”

“We would also like to see the Prime Minister make a public statement condemning the actions of the Chechen authorities and calling on the Russian Government to step in and stop the persecution.”

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote to just.equal responding to the group’s concerns, saying Australia “has made direct representations to the Russian Government” on the issue and would monitor their response.

“As a member of the Equal Rights Coalition, we have also called upon Russian authorities to conduct an independent and credible investigation of recent allegations as a matter of priority,” the spokesperson wrote.

Mr Croome urged supporters of equal rights for LGBTI people to sign a petition by group All Out calling on Malcolm Turnbull to make a public statement and follow countries like France, Germany and Lithuania in accepting LGBTI refugees from Chechnya.

Read the full Senate motion below:

Senator Smith, also on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wong), pursuant to notice of motion not objected to as a formal motion, moved general business notice of motion no. 347—That the Senate—

(a) notes the concern expressed by the Australian Government at reports of mass arrests and torture of individuals in the Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation;

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(b) welcomes that these concerns have been raised by the Australian Government on six separate occasions directly with the Russian Government;

(c) calls on the Government to:

(i) work with other nations to highlight the deplorable treatment of LGBTI persons in Chechnya through the United Nations (UN) and other international human rights forums,
(ii) 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, and
(iii) raise awareness of Smart Traveller advice on Chechnya and the Russian Federation in light of these reports; and

(d) notes that Australia has joined with Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America and Uruguay in endorsing the Equal Rights Coalition Statement of 26 April 2017 which states:

The undersigned Equal Rights Coalition members urgently call on Russian federal authorities to conduct an independent and credible investigation into reports of arbitrary detention, torture and killing of gay men by security services and other government authorities in the Republic of Chechnya. If these reports prove credible, we call on the Russian government to take steps to ensure the release of anyone wrongfully detained and hold accountable anyone found responsible. These steps are in-line with international human rights obligations and commitments made by the Russian government to respect the human rights of all individuals.