April 27, 2017 at 9:06 am PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S. Holocaust Museum ‘deeply concerned’ by gay Chechnya arrests

The city of Grozny in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Authorities have sent gay men in the semi-autonomous Russian republic to secret prisons that have been described as “concentration camps. (Photo by Alexxx1979; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Thursday said it is “deeply concerned” over the arrests of more than 100 gay men in Chechnya.

“The Holocaust teaches us what can happen when state-sponsored, group-targeted violence is allowed to go unchecked,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield in a statement. “The reports about the targeting of LGBT persons in Chechnya combined with statements from Chechen officials seemingly endorsing violence are cause for great concern. Both the Chechen and Russian governments need to investigate these allegations and ensure the safety of LGBT populations within the Russian Federation.”

Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper, earlier this month reported authorities in the semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucuses have arrested more than 100 gay men since February. It’s reporting also indicates they have been sent to secret prisons that have been described as “concentration camps.”

The museum’s press release notes the Nazis arrested an estimated 100,000 men between 1933-1945 for violating Germany’s anti-homosexuality law. It indicates up to 15,000 of them were sent to concentration camps.

“The Nazis persecuted homosexuals as part of their so-called moral crusade to racially and culturally purify Germany,” reads the press release. “Gay men were targeted for persecution because they were viewed to be carriers of a ‘contagion’ that weakened society and did not contribute to the growth of the ‘Aryan’ population.”

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin continue to deny reports that gay men have been arrested. A Novaya Gazeta reporter who broke the story has gone into hiding after receiving death threats.

U.S. signs global LGBT coalition Chechnya statement

The U.S. and 22 other countries that are members of the Equal Rights Coalition, which formed in 2016 at the end of a global LGBT and intersex rights conference in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, on Thursday in a statement urged Russian authorities “to conduct an independent and credible investigation into reports of arbitrary detention, torture and killing of gay men by” Chechen authorities.

“If these reports prove credible, we call on the Russian government to take steps to ensure the release of anyone wrongfully detained and hold accountable anyone found responsible,” reads the statement. “These steps are in-line with international human rights obligations and commitments made by the Russian government to respect the human rights of all individuals.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley earlier this month said the U.S. remains “disturbed” by the arrests. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department have also publicly condemned the arrests and urged Chechen and Russian authorities to investigate them.

President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who met with Putin in Moscow on April 12 — have yet to publicly comment.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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