I expect the Trump administration will tout this as part of its “great record” on LGBTQ issues, but in the end, I’m not sure it actually DOES anything of consequence.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that Ramzan Kadyrov, president of the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, has been banned from entering the U.S. under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020.
Section 7031(c) “requires the Secretary of State to bar from U.S. entry” foreign officials about whom the Secretary has credible information indicating that they have been involved, directly or indirectly, in “gross violation of human rights.”
You’ll note the statute says “requires” so let’s not give Pompeo too much credit here.
Today’s announcement also affects Kadyrov’s immediate family members. That said, it’s not clear Kadyrov or his family had any plans to visit the U.S. any time soon.
Plus, Section 7031(c) will expire on September 30, 2020, unless Congress extends it by a continuing resolution or restated in a new law.
A statement issued by the State Department says this action is being taken “due to Kadyrov’s involvement in gross violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic.”
The Department says it has received extensive credible information that Kadyrov is responsible for numerous human rights violations including torture and extrajudicial killings.
In 2018, the United States joined fifteen other nations in creating a fact-finding mission into “horrific reports of abuses against LGBTI persons” and others who were targeted by Kadyrov. The subsequent report found that “harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions” had taken place.
The State Department says it is now concerned Kadyrov may be “using the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic to inflict further human rights abuses on the people of the Chechen Republic.”
Kadyrov, who was appointed president of Chechnya in 2007 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly denied not only the allegations of torture and murder but that gay people even exist in his country.
Human rights activists have been sounding the alarm for years that Kadyrov had launched a series of state-sponsored anti-gay purges across the highly conservative, traditional Muslim country.
In May 2017, the Human Rights Watch shared one detainee’s description of the horrific treatment he’d been subjected to in an unofficial prison: “They electrocuted us, beat us with pipes, kicked us, and punched us, they made other inmates beat us, they called us names, spat in our faces.”
The U.S. announced sanctions against Kadyrov in December 2017, including visa bans and asset freezes, under the 2012 Magnitsky Act.
The BBC reported at the time that Kadyrov responded by “mocking the US move in an Instagram post in which he said ‘a sleepless night is waiting for me.'”
He added he was “proud” to be “out of favor with the special services of the USA.”
The new film Welcome to Chechnya, which debuted on HBO June 30, documents the horrific persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya.