Investigation and Legislation

Capitol Hill ImageLike many, we were struck by the false alternative given in President Trump’s “State of the Union” address between legislation and investigation.  Surely the Congress has the constitutional responsibility to do both, and surely both are needed in our system of government.

But on human rights, we offer this spin:  Congress should investigate the Administration’s arm’s-length stance from our country’s traditional embrace of human rights and the rule of law as core elements of our foreign policy.  That investigation may inform the need for new human rights legislation to follow.

Last week, the Council wrote to the President with our concerns about Russia’s failure to investigate and hold accountable Chechen leaders responsible for the unlawful round-ups, detentions, and murders of LGBT Chechen citizens.  (Read our letter here.)  These reprehensible actions – occurring as they did barely a week after a report by a human rights expert, commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), into responsibility for this latest round of anti-LGBT repression – are hardly an accident.  Nor is Russia’s cold-shouldered response to this tragedy.

But we are concerned at how little the Administration appears to have done in response to this recurrent tragedy.  the brutality being carried out in Chechnya deserves more than a tepid, three-day-late statement by a Deputy Spokesperson at the State Department, distributed in writing in the Department’s briefing room.  It needs to be raised – with outrage, by the way – in bilateral dialogue between our senior-most leaders.  It deserves a concerted interagency response, one that evidences how a lack of accountability may imperil bilateral science, exchange, and business relations that Russia reputedly wants to preserve.  And it requires, too, a strong and clear public response by the President.

Congressional hearings, in both houses, should examine this matter.  They should examine, too, other questions that have been raised regarding our government’s attachment to human rights.  What are we doing in response to the gruesome murder in Turkey of a U.S.-based journalist – a crime that our country’s own intelligence community lays at the door of Saudi Arabia?  Why has the President embraced so many dictators – Putin, el-Sisi, Erdogan, Duterte – who are violating human rights in their own countries, with impunity?  What practical impact do our annual human rights reports have on U.S. bilateral policies and programs?  And which of these tools and programs can be put in play to encourage reform?

Americans are taught in school the value of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Political leaders – including in the White House – regularly affirm these values.  We have every right to know why this Administration has done so little in that vein.

So let’s have that investigation.  Let’s have hearings in each house of Congress, and invite the White House to offer its best evidence that human rights remain at the core of our foreign policy.  We’re not seeing it.  It’s time to ask why.

Wall Debate Holds U.S. Strategic Interests Hostage

Rarely does the Council wade into matters beyond its immediate concern for the human rights of LGBTI people around the world.  But we cannot be silent when President Trump’s fixation on a wall of questionable value is having such pernicious impacts – on government employees and their families, to be sure, but also on the performance of critical government roles and functions, including with respect to advocating for and protecting the human rights of people around the world.

Others have spoken of vital domestic government functions for the American people that have suffered during this shutdown, and indeed of the long-term economic and security impacts to our country that mount up every day.  We will not repeat those concerns, which we share.

But the State Department’s ability to stand against human rights injustices, and to promote the kind of fair and open societies that are critical to the success of American policies abroad, also are casualties of this shutdown.  So is USAID’s ability to implement sound and inclusive development policies.  So, too, are international programs of the Departments of Justice, and of Health and Human Services, and of Commerce, all vital to the mission of this Council and to the values of our country.  And surely any appeal to common sense would also reveal that these programs are equally vital to our country’s long-term effort to redress the political, social and economic instability that is driving the migration crisis in Central America today.

The President prides himself as an artful dealer.  But this shutdown – with his ham-fisted insistence on forcing a policy change that fails to enjoy either public or political support – shows him to be a clumsy blackmailer, and a blunt-edge abuser of constitutional powers.  He has given the world a compelling and troublesome image of American self-absorption.  And his statements and actions only underscore the absence of American leadership in world affairs, including with regard to the protection of human rights, at the core of American values.

We are open to a reasoned conversation about whether a wall has any place in meeting American security.  But we are unwilling to see America, and broader American values and strategic interests, held hostage.  We call on those on Capitol Hill who are enabling the President’s shutdown to end their support and put American leadership back to work.

December 2018 Newsletter

** The Council for Global Equality respectfully offers this edition of “Global Equality Today” – a periodic newsletter to inform Hill staff of priority policy issues impacting LGBTI people abroad.

December 2018

Happy Human Rights Week (read the Presidential Proclamation of Human Rights Week here). December 10 marked the 70-year anniversary of U.S. leadership in drafting and championing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Secretary Pompeo released a statement recognizing that: “The Declaration’s fundamental principles remain as relevant today as they were seventy years ago.”  Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi marked the anniversary with a statement reminding us that: “As Americans we have a duty to maintain our critical leadership in the defense of human rights both at home and around the world.”  The Council is proud to recognize Human Rights Week by supporting Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and other leading members of both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House LGBT Equality Caucus in their introduction of the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act (H.R. 7291).

CONGRESSIONAL ACTION

 

 House Introduces GLOBE Act to Advance LGBTI Equality Abroad

In recognition of Human Rights Week in the United States, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) joined foreign affairs and LGBT equality leaders in Congress to introduce the Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act (H.R. 7291).  The Council is working with Sen. Markey and other Senate human rights champions to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.  This comprehensive “vision bill” provides a broad roadmap for U.S. leadership to advance the human rights of LGBTI and other vulnerable minority communities around the world.  Upon introduction, Rep. Titus noted: “The GLOBE Act builds on the accomplishments of the Obama Administration and the work of various members, groups, and coalitions to establish a broad set of directives to reinstate our leadership in advancing equality.”  Read the Congressional press release here.  And read the Council’s endorsement and a blog explaining the bill’s impact here.  Please contact the office of Rep. Titus to co-sponsor.

LGBTI Funding Hangs in Balance in Ongoing Budget Negotiations

The Senate Appropriations Committee allocated global LGBTI funding in its report accompanying the 2019 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Bill (S.3108).  The Council calls on members of the House and Senate to include that language in the omnibus appropriation bill that is being negotiated.  The funding includes $3.5 million for LGBTI issues within USAID and $250,000 for the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons.  (Although Secretary Pompeo pledged to re-fill that position during his April 2018 confirmation hearing, he has yet to do so as of this writing, eight months later.)  The report also directs the State Department to allocate additional resources to the Global Equality Fund and to continue reporting on LGBTI issues in its annual Human Rights Reports.

Congress Denounces Treatment of Vulnerable LGBTI Refugees in the “Caravan” at the Southern Border

On social media, Members of Congress have recognized the life-threatening circumstances of LGBTI refugees seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border, including the LGBT Equality Caucus, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and  Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY).  Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM) also sent a letter demanding answers after the tragic death in U.S. immigration detention of Roxana Hernandez, a transgender asylum seeker.

Senate Confirms Former Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons as Ambassador to Nepal

In September, the Senate confirmed Randy Berry, formerly Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Nepal.  Ambassador Berry, a career Foreign Service officer, was an effective Special Envoy and a strong civil society partner.  The Council welcomes his confirmation to a country that has become a regional leader on LGBTI issues.

Retiring Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen Challenges Her Colleagues on LGBTI Rights

In a powerful speech describing her support for LGBTI equality in the U.S. Congress, retiring Congresswoman and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) concluded with a final plea to her House colleagues: “I ask us all to commit, beginning today, to working across the aisle with a view to becoming more consistent, more fair, more respectful, and more principled on this issue. We as a country need to take action to set the right example.”

EXECUTIVE BRANCH ACTION

 

President to Nominate Heather Nauert to Be UN Ambassador

The President announced that he will nominate Heather Nauert, Acting State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and State Department Spokesperson, to be our next UN Ambassador.  The Council has not taken a position on the nomination but notes that, at the Residence of the Chilean Ambassador earlier this year, Nauert spoke forcefully in support of global LGBTI rights in her role as Acting Under Secretary, noting that: “protecting and promoting human rights abroad is a core element of our foreign policy. Societies are more secure when they respect individual human rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law.”

U.S. Joins 16 OSCE Countries to Launch an Investigation into LGBTI Atrocities in Chechnya

The U.S. joined 16 like-minded member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to launch an official investigation into LGBTI atrocities and other human rights abuses in Chechnya.  This OSCE investigative mechanism has rarely been invoked and the action speaks both to the egregious nature of the abuses and the intransigence of Russian officials in responding to the allegations.  The investigator’s report will be presented to the OSCE Permanent Council before the end of year.  In a statement explaining the investigation, the governments noted that “[t]hose concerns centered around allegations of impunity for reported human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya from January 2017 to the present, including, but not limited to, violations and abuses against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, independent media, civil society organizations, and others.”

State Department Supports Equal Rights Coalition at Vancouver Conference

The United States has been a leading proponent of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), a new intergovernmental coalition of 40 governments and leading civil society organizations that work together to protect the human rights of LGBTI people around the world.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan sent video remarks to open a major ERC conference in Vancouver, pledging that “the United States will remain a steadfast partner” of the ERC in “addressing the threats and unique human rights challenges of LGBTI persons.”  The U.S. government was represented in Vancouver by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby and by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Moossy, reflecting the dual internal/external focus of the ERC.  At its best, the ERC is an institution that coordinates external diplomacy while simultaneously promoting internal best practices across member countries.  The Council also welcomes the upcoming rotation of leadership of the ERC from Canada and Chile to Argentina and the United Kingdom in June 2019.  Read more about the ERC on our blog here.

GLOBAL LGBTI DEVELOPMENTS

 

In recent good news…

The Supreme Court of India issued a unanimous decision decriminalizing same-sex relationships across the country. The landmark case will buttress similar legal challenges to colonial-era sodomy laws in other former British colonies, including pending cases in Botswana, Jamaica and Kenya.  Read our blog here, as well as the Equal Rights Coalition of 40 governments’ statement here.

— In the South American country of Guyana, the LGBT community secured a victory in the Caribbean Court of Justice, striking down the country’s anti-cross dressing law, which advocates claim will help decrease violence toward trans and gender non-conforming people in Guyana, and also potentially pave the way for decriminalization.

— The Chilean legislature passed a groundbreaking legal gender recognition law, which allows transgender individuals ages 14 and older to self-determine their legal gender in all official documents without a judicial determination or medical interventions. President Pinera signed the law into effect, despite right-wing opposition and following the remarkable public acknowledgement of trans lives as a result of the activism of the trans actress in the Oscar-winning Chilean film A Fantastic Woman.  Similarly in Uruguay, a broad transgender rights law was passed that provides legal recognition and also requires that the state pay for all gender-confirming surgeries and provide job training programs for the community.

— In Romania, the LGBT community succeeded in defeating a referendum that sought to enshrine heterosexual marriage and heterosexual concepts of family in the constitution. Opponents led a successful boycott campaign that tapped into broader anti-corruption sentiments and negativity toward the leader of the country’s ruling party. Proponents of the referendum failed to muster the necessary participation threshold of 30% of the electorate during the 2-day referendum.  LGBT Advocates are now engaging with the ruling party and other parties to demand that they honor their pledge to pass a civil union law in the coming year.

In bad news…

In Taiwan, U.S.-funded right wing groups put several anti-LGBT referenda on the ballot, in an effort to thwart government efforts to provide equal marriage benefits to LGBT people. Unfortunately, they succeeded in passing a number of ballot measures that would create separate and unequal relationships, and also potentially eliminate comprehensive sexuality education in the schools. It is unclear how the legislature will respond, since Taiwan’s Constitutional Court has mandated equal marriage by May 2019.

— Another crackdown against the LGBT community in Tanzania occurred after a regional commissioner in Dar-es-Salaam announced that he was creating a task force to hunt down LGBT people. In reaction to the witch-hunt, numerous governments, including the United States, and entities such as the World Bank, responded with both public and private diplomacy, which resulted in the country’s president distancing himself from Commissioner Makonda’s comments. This was considered a diplomatic success, although dangers for the LGBT community in Tanzania persist.

Watch this space…

— In February, the Kenyan Constitutional Court will rule on that country’s colonial-era sodomy law.

— In Thailand, the current government has pledged to create a civil marriage mechanism for same-sex couples in the coming months.

 

CIVIL SOCIETY LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

 

We urge your ongoing support for these bills in the U.S. Congress – and urge their reintroduction in the next Congress – to promote U.S. leadership on human rights:

GLOBE Act (H.R. 7291)

— Global Respect Act (S.1172, HR.2491)

— Dream Act (S.1615, HR. 3440)

— Global HER Act (S.210, HR.671)

— Trans Service Act (S.1820, HR. 4041)

— LOVE Act (S.1420)

 

Congress Introduces GLOBE Act

Capitol Hill Image#GLOBEAct December 13, 2018 — Today’s introduction of the “Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Act” by House Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) represents a high-water mark in Congress’s awareness of, and commitment to, advancing and protecting LGBTI human rights.  Read the press release here.

Titus’ bill sets a high bar for what U.S. leadership can and should do to advance LGBTI human rights and to include those populations within our country’s strategic development goals.  This is more than appropriate, given the strong role the U.S. traditionally has played in advancing human rights, a role that includes advocacy for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 70th anniversary of which was celebrated earlier this week.

That leadership has been sorely absent in recent years.  President Trump’s embrace of dictators, from Russian President Putin to Egyptian President Sisi, is far removed from traditional U.S. efforts to support resilient and fair democratic development as a long-term strategic priority.  His treatment of immigrant and refugee communities, and his shoulder-to-shoulder stance beside those responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, have shocked the world.  And his development and gender policies have short-changed the needs of marginalized communities around the world.

The new bill would correct this imbalance with regard to one of those communities, that of LGBTI people – documented in many State Department country human rights reports as among society’s most disadvantaged populations.  It would strengthen our country’s attention to bias-motivated violence directed against LGBTI populations; encourage sanctions against those deemed responsible for human rights abuse; support decriminalization for LGBTI communities; and codify assistance tools and health program availability for those communities.  Importantly, it also would simplify and speed the accommodation of LGBTI refugees; encourage leadership on LGBTI equality issues in multilateral organizations; and better support the families of U.S. LGBTI diplomatic, consular and technical staff in their assignments to advance American interests abroad.

In all of these respects, the GLOBE Act offers a full-throated embrace of democratic and human rights values.  The Council for Global Equality is proud to be among the many endorsers of this legislation.  We urge its speedy re-introduction and passage in the next Congress.

Read the full text and an outline of the bill. 

Freedom of Religion – A Matter of Effective Balancing

U.S. Department of StateThis October, the State Department is scheduled to convene a three-day public-private partnership workshop, part of the new “Boldline Religious Freedom” initiative, aimed at protecting the rights of religious minorities.  In principle, promoting religious freedom is a laudable endeavor – but given the unparalleled level of resources and energies this Administration is devoting to this as a stand-alone pursuit, we have a couple of red flags to raise.

To be clear, neither the Council nor any of its member organizations holds animus against the protection and promotion of religious freedom.  Several of our member organizations themselves are faith-based in character, and organizationally we have applauded mention in the Department’s own annual human rights reports when the rights of LGBT individuals and communities to practice their religious faith have been violated.

But balance is important to effective diplomacy – and the question of balance is the first red flag to raise.  The only ministerial hosted to date by this Administration was devoted to religious freedom.  At its closure, Secretary Pompeo announced a follow-on series of regional events around the world aimed at advancing religious freedom.  The Department has created a religious freedom-dedicated International Visitor Leadership Program, and an International Religious Freedom Fund to put resources to the task.  The Department’s Assistant Secretary-designate for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor carries a singular focus on religious liberty.  Ambassador Brownback, the State Department’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, has carried a higher profile and more interventionist approach than his predecessors.  And Pompeo will host a second ministerial on religious freedom in 2019.

So, is the Department of State becoming a department of religious affairs?  We’ve yet to see a parallel focus by the Secretary on any other issue important to U.S. national interests – not Middle East peace, nor Syria’s burgeoning refugee crisis, nor promoting secure and stable governments, or encouraging democratic institutions and regional stability.  We’ve seen no embrace of human rights, and no strategy to counter Russia’s threat to American leadership and values – no focus on encouraging economic reforms that can both allow other countries to feed their people AND create conditions in which America’s trade and investment interests can thrive.

And we’ve seen no awareness by Secretary Pompeo that all of these issues are interconnected.  Pulling one thread to its end can only tighten the rest – and pursuing one stand-alone goal may well be counter-productive to wider success.

That leads to our second red flag.  Simply put, we worry that the Administration’s very understanding of religious freedom may be warped at its core, embracing the notion that religious faith can be used to sidestep a government’s compliance with core responsibilities of ensuring equal protection, justice and rights for all citizens.

Our concern, of course, is based on this Administration’s unprecedented championing of religious exception policies at home – policies that have infringed on fairness toward LGBT citizens, among others.  The baggage in this regard carried by Ambassador Brownback is clear; so is that of Vice President Pence.  And the influence of religious Christian conservatives with them is clear as well.

The damage that can be done by headline promotion of religious freedom policies in foreign countries that are struggling with their own understanding and practice of democracy is potentially immense.  That potential should be of concern to all Americans – particularly given the Administration’s conscious effort to strip away the democratic guard rails intended to protect equality in our own country.

We’d like to see the Secretary – or perhaps his nominee for Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights – explain publicly how the Department’s unprecedented championing of religious freedom fits into a broader policy framework in which these broader democratic rights and freedoms are understood and advanced.  And we’d like to see more attention to that broader framework.

The Equal Rights Coalition Gains Momentum on the Global Stage

Created two years ago at an international conference in Uruguay, the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) is a new intergovernmental coalition of 40 governments and leading civil society and multilateral organizations that work together to protect the human rights of LGBTI people around the world.  (See the list of governments and civil society members here.)  The Canadian and Chilean governments, as the current co-chairs, hosted the second global conference of the ERC in Vancouver, Canada this August.

The United States has been a leading proponent of the ERC, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan sent video remarks, pledging “the United States will remain a steadfast partner” of the ERC in “addressing the threats and unique human rights challenges of LGBTI persons.”  The U.S. government was represented in Vancouver both by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby and by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Moossy, reflecting the dual internal/external focus of the ERC.  At its best, the ERC is an institution that coordinates external diplomacy while simultaneously promoting internal best practices across member countries.

The theme of the Vancouver conference was “Leaving No One Behind,” and the final communiqué broke important ground, primarily by reaffirming that “LGBTI persons continue to face human rights abuses and violations . . . [that] include discrimination, violence and arbitrary arrests, on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.”  The 40 governments together pledged “to encourage innovative and effective policy and assistance approaches tailored to the needs and experiences of diverse communities and to work closely with civil society organizations and all relevant stakeholders in our efforts.”  As a founding civil society member of the ERC, the Council for Global Equality will hold the governments – and most especially the U.S. government – to this pledge.

As they left Vancouver, the forty governments made ten concrete commitments in a final communiqué.  Those commitments must be monitored closely in advance of the next ERC global conference two years hence.  And while all ten of the commitments are important, at least three of them deserve heightened scrutiny because they break new ground and demand significant new domestic funding and new policy reforms over the coming two years.  Notably, the governments pledged publicly that:

  • “We commit to advancing the work of the ERC by further strengthening its collaboration with its key partners, including civil society, international organisations, multilateral agencies, academia, the private sector and all others working to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTI persons.” To honor this commitment, the ERC member governments must commit adequate annual funding to support a civil society secretariat and sufficient travel funds to ensure robust and geographically diverse participation by civil society in the work of the ERC.  This is the minimum funding requirement needed to honor the ERC’s Founding Principles.
  • “We commit to increasing the overall quantity and quality of assistance dedicated to protecting and promoting the human rights and inclusive development needs of LGBTI individuals, communities and organizations.” The Global Philanthropy Project tracks this funding, and we should all watch the data closely, but the governments also must commit publicly to disclose and disaggregate funding data across communities and sectors – albeit with appropriate safeguards for individuals and recipients operating in hostile legal environments around the world.
  • “We commit to working together to advocate appropriate protections for intersex persons and encourage states to implement policies and procedures, as appropriate, to ensure that medical practices are consistent with international human rights obligations.” As civil society, we believe that Malta alone, of all forty member governments, has adopted even the most basic legal standards to protect the human rights of intersex citizens.  Every government has significant progress to make to protect intersex individuals, including by prohibiting medically unnecessary normalizing surgeries and other treatments on infants and others who are unable to consent to those interventions.

Deputy Secretary Sullivan noted that “in just two years, our Equal Rights Coalition has made significant strides. The Coalition has been on the leading edge of the international community’s response to human rights violations and abuses such as those committed in Chechnya and elsewhere around the world.” For this to remain true, member governments must honor their commitments.  This is perhaps most important with respect to the domestic commitments of member governments.  Progress realized against these commitments at home will provide even more credibility – and an important measure of humility – when advocating for human rights on the global stage.

U.S. Joins 14 Countries in Calling for a Response to LGBTI Atrocities in Chechnya

At a large human rights meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the United States and 14 other governments are trying to hold Russia accountable for atrocities committed against its LGBT citizens in Chechnya.  U.S. Ambassador Michael Kozak explained to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that: “The United States joined 14 other participating States in invoking the OSCE’s Vienna Mechanism, requiring Russia to provide a serious response to reports of appalling abuses by Chechen authorities against persons for their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, and members of independent media and civil society organizations.

Ambassador Kozak is referring to a decision to invoke a rarely-used human rights mechanism that was triggered two weeks ago by 15 OSCE governments (Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States).  The “Vienna Mechanism,” as it’s known at the OSCE, now requires the Russian government to respond within ten days to a specific set of questions on human rights abuses in Chechnya, including, most pointedly, this key question: “How have Russian federal authorities investigated allegations of violations and abuses reportedly committed against actual or perceived LGBTI persons, and how have they arrived at the conclusion (as repeated by Russian authorities) that no such violations or abuses have occurred and that no LGBTI persons exist in Chechnya?

The ten-day deadline just passed without a response from Russia.  The next step in this diplomatic dance is to invoke the OSCE’s “Moscow Mechanism.”  The Moscow Mechanism moves beyond a cordial request for information and empowers independent fact-finding experts to prepare an official report on the atrocities and human rights obligations in Chechnya.  LGBTI and allied human rights advocates are at the Warsaw meeting this week to call on governments to take that next step to invoke the Moscow Mechanism – and to do so sooner rather than later.

The OSCE has its origins in a 1975 agreement that facilitated security negotiations between East and West during the Cold War.  At the end of the Cold War, it was reinvented as an institution that promotes security, democracy and human rights across 57 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, with special attention to the promotion of human rights and democracy in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

More recently, the member governments of the OSCE agreed to address hate crimes as a priority human rights and security challenge across the region, pledging to support effective training, education, legislation, prosecution and data collection to respond to bias-motivated crimes directed at minority communities.  To date, the OSCE’s engagement has focused on responses to hate crimes targeting religious and ethnic minorities, including strong responses to anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims and Roma in Europe.

Increasingly, however, the OSCE also has been addressing hate crimes targeting LGBTI citizens.  This is an important development that is moving forward despite the objections of Russia and the Vatican and other OSCE states that cling to anti-LGBTI laws and policies.  By invoking the Moscow Mechanism in this particular case in Chechnya, the OSCE would for the first time empower independent experts to establish, conclusively, whether Russia has violated its human rights commitments as a result of its failure to protect its own LGBTI citizens from torture, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial execution.  Sadly, the world already knows the answer to that question.  But it is important to establish the facts through an official record that could provide the basis for additional actions at the OSCE, the United Nations and in OSCE member countries.  It is also crucial that the OSCE not turn a blind eye to the violence because of the sexual orientation of the victims.

This is primarily and most importantly an effort to respond to impunity for LGBTI hate violence in Russia.  But it also sets an important precedent within the OSCE, as 15 of the organization’s leading members – and leading funders – have taken collective action against LGBTI violence.  Civil society must build on this momentum to insist that the OSCE strengthen its capacity to respond to LGBTI hate crimes in the same way across all OSCE countries.


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