Archive for the 'Russia' Category

The Missing Human Rights Dialogue Between Trump and Putin

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

Under fire for his relationship with Vladimir Putin, President Trump nonetheless will meet with the Russian despot on July 16 in Helsinki, and he has said that it is likely to be the “easiest” part of a trip that already has included a contentious NATO meeting and a stop in London.  To date President Trump has paid little attention to human rights and democratic values in his foreign policy pronouncements, or in his embrace of authoritarian leaders from Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to President Duterte.  Americans nonetheless are right to expect that President Trump show leadership by reestablishing attention to human rights to its traditional and right place as a central concern in our bilateral relationship with Russia when he sits down with Putin.

We’ll leave to others the flurry of questions about Russia’s interference in U.S. elections (past and future), the impact of that interference on Trump’s 2016 presidential win, and geopolitical questions raised by its engagement in Syria and elsewhere.  All, of course, have a critical place in this dialogue.

Rather, our immediate concern is that, since becoming President, Trump has turned his back on insisting that Moscow respect its citizens’ human rights – and on making clear that failure to do so will negatively impact our bilateral relations.  That post-war insistence is part of America’s true greatness.  It also reflects a real-world awareness that longer-term U.S. interests are most secure when partner countries respect democratic practice, the rule of law, and vibrant civil societies.

Today’s Russia has hit bottom in each of the above areas.  As documented in the State Department’s most recent human rights report, freedoms of media, expression, assembly, association, and privacy are under sharp attack in Russia.  Judicial independence does not exist, while extrajudicial violence and killings, including against LGBT citizens, does.  And so-called “foreign agent” laws have imposed sharp limits on the operation of legitimate civil society organizations.

Russia’s highly centralized government structure makes clear one thing:  Russian President Putin has the power to make needed changes to this troubling situation.

We’re eager to see whether Trump addresses these issues, in public and in private – eager, too, for him to hold Putin accountable for reversing the tragedies impacting Chechnya’s LGBT population.  Last year, the world was appropriately shocked when Chechen authorities detained and tortured scores of gay and bisexual men – or those suspected of being gay.  Some were murdered; more than 100 others were forced to leave their homes, seeking protection abroad.  The official homophobic purge continues to encourage families to “take care of” their LGBT family members, particularly impacting lesbians and bisexual women as well as gay and bisexual men. Russian authorities have done nothing to reverse this troubled situation, nor have they taken steps to assure justice for those impacted so gravely.

In all of this, the Administration has shown only passing concern over Russia’s failings.  To be sure, UN Ambassador Haley and then-Secretary of State Tillerson issued perfunctory statements of concern, and Tillerson reportedly sent a follow-up letter to his Russian counterpart, after having neglected to raise the matter in face-to-face meetings.  (We’ve not obtained a copy of the letter, nor have we been told whether Lavrov bothered to respond.)  In December the White House did impose Magnitsky Act visa and asset sanctions on two Chechen officials deemed responsible for Chechen’s actions, actions that we applauded at the time.  However, even these welcome actions fail to make clear that Moscow – not Grozny – ultimately is responsible for righting the situation.

Bipartisan Congressional resolutions (see the Senate Resolution here, and the House Resolution here) and several Congressional letters have insisted that the Trump Administration show greater resolve in pressing this issue. The most recent of these – earlier this spring, on the one-year anniversary that these atrocities began (see the Senate letter here, and the House letter here) – make clear that any genuine improvement in bilateral relations requires that Putin and Trump deal directly with Chechnya’s tragedy.

We recognize that the human rights issues noted above are but part of a broad pattern of slippage in Russia’s adherence to democratic and international norms.  We appeal to the Administration to acknowledge those facts, and we call for the Trump-Putin meeting to address them squarely and fully, hopefully with better results than seen thus far.

Ros-Lehtinen, Engel, Issa, Cicilline, Royce, and Smith Introduce Bipartisan Resolution on Violence in Chechnya

United States CongressMay 23, 2017

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement after introducing bipartisan resolution, H. Res. 351, condemning the violence and persecution in Chechnya. Joining Ros-Lehtinen in introducing this resolution were U.S. Reps. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Royce (R-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Click to read the full resolution

Statement by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: “For over a month, hundreds of gay or perceived to be gay Chechens have been arrested, many have been tortured, and some even killed. This bipartisan resolution sends a clear message to Chechnya and Russia authorities and any oppressor that the U.S. will not stand idly while these human rights atrocities are being committed. The U.S. government needs to continue to speak up to help those who are being indiscriminately targeted, and we must pressure Russia to uphold its international commitment to prevent any further abuses from happening while perpetrators are brought to justice.”   

Statement by Rep. Engel: “We’ve heard chilling reports of authorities in Chechnya detaining, torturing, and even killing men from the LGBT community over the last several weeks. We are witnessing the unfolding of a horrific tragedy and it’s long past time that the Kremlin start protecting its own citizens—all of them—regardless of sexual orientation. That’s why I introduced this bipartisan resolution with my colleagues—to send a clear signal that Republicans and Democrats alike call on President Putin to respect and promote the dignity of all persons and provide safe haven for all those fleeing such horrific persecution.”

Video: Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the GLIFAA Pride Event

If you cannot see the video please follow this link

On June 19, Secretary of State, John Kerry addressed the audience at the LGBT+ Pride in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) LGBT pride celebration.

For a written transcript click here

Council for Global Equality Co-Sponsoring Two Films at the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival

San Francisco International LGBT Film FestivalThe Council for Global Equality is proud to be a Frameline Community Sponsor for the 38th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival  taking place in San Francisco from June 19 through June 29. We are co-sponsoring two films, along with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), both with a Russia focus, Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda and Pussy vs. Putin. Follow the links for each film to learn more, get show times, and buy tickets.

Following the film screening of Campaign of Hate (June 22), Julie Dorf, Senior Advisor at the Council, will be participate in a panel discussion with the film’s co-director Michael Lucas.

Both films are a great primer into the complex world of human rights in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. We hope to see you there! If you aren’t in San Francisco please share with people you know who are.

 

 

Spread of Russian-Style Anti-Propaganda Laws

Repost from Human Rights First
Countries-enacting-anti-LGBT-laws-3-12-2014-01

We saw what Putin can do to LGBT Russians while the international media was camped in Sochi covering the XXII Winter Olympiad. What kind of crackdown might happen when it’s all over?

Additionally, as the world watches what will transpire domestically, the international LGBT community waits to see if Russia’s brand of discriminatory legislation will take root elsewhere. The flagship piece of that legislation, the federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” may soon be Russia’s number one export. Since the propaganda law went into effect, in June, 2013, legislators from Eastern Europe to Central Asia have begun to emulate the Russian Duma by introducing nearly identical versions of the law in their legislative bodies.

Continue reading and find a link to the fact sheet here

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From St Patrick’s Day to the “Anti-Gay” Laws: The Common Theme of the Invisibilization of Homosexuality

Guest Blogger:  Fabrice Houdart, President World Bank GLOBE

As St Patrick’s Day parade organizers in Boston and New York were arguing today that the parade “isn’t a sexually oriented parade” to justify banning LGBT people from marching with signs indicating their identity, I was reminded of conversations on the “anti-gay” laws in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.

The reasons why LGBT Americans are so eager to be visible in this parade is the same that drove homophobic parliamentarians to push “anti-gay” laws: visibility is key to greater acceptance of homosexuality. Tolerance of homosexuality is not only correlated with high visibility of LGBT people in the media and their communities, it is its single most important predictor even more than economic development. This transformative effect is what St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and Ugandan, Russian and Nigerian lawmakers want to avoid by locking the closet doors.

The historical tragedy and blessing for gay people is that they can avoid discrimination and violence provided they do not reveal their sexual orientation. But in exchange they must relinquish hope of progress and greater equality for their community. This was never an option for most other marginalized communities: such as racial minorities, people living with disabilities or women.

However, for LGBT people to be out in the workplace, in the medias or in community parades can have a transformative effect. The “contact theory” is now accepted as the main explanation from the sudden change of attitude towards homosexuality in the United States. As Herek and Glunt famously expressed in 1993 “heterosexual men and women who report knowing someone who is gay express generally more positive attitudes toward lesbians and gay men then do heterosexuals who lack contact experiences”.

In France or Spain, a mostly hidden gay population, particularly in very conservative workplace environments, has been a key impediment to greater acceptance. As a result France, which was well positioned culturally to be inclusive, remains today the least tolerant country in Western Europe towards homosexuals, with 28.8 per cent of the population responding that they would not want a homosexual neighbor in the World Values Survey (WVS) On the other hand, Nepal (which was not part of the WVS) where sexual minorities are increasingly visible is apparently showing clear signs of greater acceptance of homosexuals.

One of the most surprising aspects of our conversation on the “anti-gay” laws has been the perception by many that the impact of these laws is blown out of proportion and instrumentalized by western LGBT groups to their benefit. They point to the fact that there have been few reports of arrests, imprisonment and lynching. Similarly, they remind us that people who experience same-sex sexual attraction in these countries reject themselves the idea that such feelings make them “gay”.  A prominent African decision-maker – who has been silent publicly on the “anti-gay” laws passed in her own country – even called in a private conversation for patience with Africa reminding her interlocutor that it took centuries for western countries to experience this rapid rise in acceptance of homosexuality.

These arguments ignore the fact that “anti-gay” laws will actually prevent this cultural evolutionary process to even start. Ever. But beyond that, it is important to remember that this greater invisibilization is a step towards deshumanization, reinforcing the message that gays are outsiders. By deshumanizing LGBT people, politicians legitimize the violence, bullying and discrimination that many LGBT people experience everyday paving the way for a  possible more radical and systematic persecution.

I have no doubt that LGBT Americans will succeed in ensuring that the St Patrick’s Day parade becomes inclusive: it is too late in the United States to send back the LGBT community to the closet. Hopefully, the Russian community is too at the tipping point and they will find the courage and resources to overcome legal challenges. For Ugandan and Nigerian sexual minorities, the impact of the laws is tragic, reinforcing the existing widespread homophobia and annihilating hope for change.

Statement by President Barack Obama on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2014

As a country and a people, the United States has consistently stood for the protection of fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.  We believe that people everywhere should be treated equally, with dignity and respect, and that they should have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, no matter who they are or whom they love.

That is why I am so deeply disappointed that Uganda will shortly enact legislation that would criminalize homosexuality.  The Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, once law, will be more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda.  It will be a step backward for all Ugandans and reflect poorly on Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people.  It also will mark a serious setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice and equal rights.

As we have conveyed to President Museveni, enacting this legislation will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda.  At a time when, tragically, we are seeing an increase in reports of violence and harassment targeting members of the LGBT community from Russia to Nigeria, I salute all those in Uganda and around the world who remain committed to respecting the human rights and fundamental human dignity of all persons.


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