Rights groups have called out Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin for their inaction over Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ purge, with a giant projected message in Finland.
The scrolling message was projected by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) onto the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Sunday evening, ahead of the Trump-Putin summit. The historic meeting will held in the palace on Monday.
The text demanded that Trump and Putin immediately end the ongoing anti-LGBTQ crimes against humanity occurring in the Russian republic of Chechnya. The message read:
Trump and Putin: Stop the Crimes Against Humanity in Chechnya Investigate LGBTQ Persecution in Chechnya Bring the Perpetrators to Justice The Whole World is Watching Silence is Deadly #EyesOnChechnya
The HRC said that Trump and his administration have refused to publicly condemn the systematic torture, abuse and murder of LGBTQ people occurring in Chechnya while Putin has failed to act to stop it.
Earlier on Sunday, HRC Global Director Ty Cobb spoke at a rally in Helsinki to crowds gathered “in protest of the Trump-Pence and Putin regimes’ dangerous attacks” on LGBTQ people.
“Trump has unconscionably turned a blind eye to some of the worst anti-LGBTQ atrocities in a generation, including monstrous attacks on gay and bisexual men in Chechnya,” said Cobb. “HRC is here in Helsinki to demand Donald Trump end his deafening silence, publicly condemn these Chechen crimes against humanity, and call on Putin to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The message was backed by Igor Kochetkov, chair of the Russian LGBT Network. “International attention is essential to putting pressure on Russian authorities to take action,” said Kochetkov. “Russian authorities’ deny even the mere existence of LGBT people in Chechnya, but with continued international pressure, we aim to stop the persecution, torture and killing of LGBT people in Chechnya, and ensure that those responsible for these crimes against humanity are brought to justice.”
According to reports first published in April 2017, Chechen police rounded up to 100 people believed to be LGBTQ and held them in “secret prisons”. It’s alleged that they were detained and tortured, with between three and 20 individuals killed. Chechnya is a semi-antonymous Russian republic, and is part of the Russian Federation.
Viima Lampinen, chairperson of Seta, Finland’s national organisation for LGBTI rights, commented: “LGBT Chechens are being deprived of their voice, their freedom and even their lives by state-sanctioned oppression and violence. Those of us who have a voice, particularly national governments that claim to support and defend human rights, have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
President Putin promised an investigation into the crackdown in Chechnya but the authorities later claimed their investigation had been hampered by the fact that no victims had come forward. In September 2017, one victim, Maxim Lapunov, filed an official complaint, but Russian investigators have still not launched a criminal investigation into his persecution and abuse.