Response to the Moscow Mechanism Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses in Chechnya

Response to the Moscow Mechanism Expert Report on Serious Human Rights Abuses in Chechnya

As delivered by Acting Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Macris
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
December 20, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States joins others in welcoming Professor Benedek to the Permanent Council. We commend you, Sir, for producing this compelling report, which concludes that serious human rights violations and abuses took place in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Chechnya. We thank you for providing actionable recommendations for ending these crimes and the impunity surrounding them.

The report’s findings make clear that we and other states were justified in invoking the Moscow Mechanism over reports of torture and extrajudicial killings in Chechnya of LGBTI persons and others, and subsequent reprisals against independent journalists and civil society activists who attempted to expose the truth.

Basic humanity demands and international law requires that Russian and Chechen authorities cease all human rights violations. We call on Russia to respect the dignity of all persons on their territory. No human being should be subject to torture or cruel and inhuman treatment. No government authority is above the law. Those who abuse their power will be held accountable. Yet, as the report observes, rather than live up to its international obligations and commitments and its own constitution, Russia “appears to support the perpetrators rather than the victims” and has failed to address the “grave situation” in Chechnya. We echo the report’s recommendations that Russia “express a commitment at the highest levels” to bring the perpetrators to justice.

We underscore the report’s many recommendations that provide a roadmap for the Kremlin to end impunity in Chechnya, and we urge Russia to muster the political will to do so. We support the recommendation that Russia establish “a special investigative committee comprised of experienced federal prosecutors and police investigators in order to undertake an effective, impartial, and transparent investigation” of violations and abuses against LGBTI persons, including the case of survivor Maksim Lapunov, as well as the 27 men reportedly executed without charges or trial by Chechen security forces. We also echo the Report’s recommendations that human rights defenders and the media be allowed to work “without harassment” in Chechnya, and that imprisoned human rights defender Oyub Titiyev be immediately released.

The United States takes this report very seriously. In previous rounds of sanctions under the Russia Magnitsky Act, the United States designated several individuals known to be involved in the violations documented in the report, including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov as well as other high-ranking Chechen officials. The Report is further evidence that our human rights concerns which led to those sanctions were valid. We urge all other states who are disturbed by the findings to join us in this effort, in accordance with their laws.

Mr. Chair, the grim facts presented in the report stand in chilling contrast to the Russian Federation’s months of dismissiveness here at the Permanent Council and in other international fora. The United States and other concerned countries will remain seized of the horrific human rights situation in Chechnya and continue to demand that Russia live up to its obligations to the law and to respect the human rights of everyone within its borders

Thank you, Mr. Chair.