Live Chechnya Urgent Question House of Commons

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Live Chechnya Urgent Question

Live coverage of the urgent question in the House of Commons on the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, tabled by Labour MP Stephen Doughty.

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emptying the streets around churches and cathedrals of cars, and extra


police women put on duty to protect worshippers before services begin.


Order, urging questions to Stephen Dowty. Thank you. Will the Foreign


Secretary make a statement on the persecution of LB GT people


injection to. The arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of over


100 men in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation is of deep


concern to the UK. Credible reports suggesting that at least four people


have been killed and many have been tortured are particularly shocking.


Statements by the regional government in Chechnya, which


appeared to condone and incite violence against LGBT people, are


utterly despicable. We condemn any and all persecution and: They


authorities. My right honourable friend the Minister of the released


a statement in April outlining the government's concern of the report


and called upon the government to investigate and ensure perpetrators


of human rights abuses are brought to justice. Foreign Secretary has


also expressed his serious concerns also expressed his serious concerns


through social media. Officials from the British Embassy in Moscow


reiterated these concerns directly to the Russian government on the


13th of April, and we are working with international partners in


Russia as part of wider lobbying efforts. The EU made a statement on


the half of member states at the permanent Council of the OSCE on the


6th of April, and the UK permanent representative to the Council of


Europe delivered a statement on the UK in the committee of ministers on


the 19th of April. I praise the Minister for his sincerity on this


issue, I know he takes it clearly seriously. -- takes it seriously.


This campaign involves possibly several hundred men, and I want to


praise the journalists in Russia and the UK and elsewhere, who brought


this to public attention. We're talking about detention, beatings,


abuse, electric shock treatment is. They do not see this likely, but


some have described gay concentration camps, and we hear of


at least four killings. The LGBT community have spoken to me about


this. LGBT Labour spoke to the Prime Minister and this last week, sadly


not getting a reply. I know there have been representations from all


parties. President Putin already has a reputation of persecuting LGBT


communities, so is he taking a blind eye or is he complicit? The


Guardian's Shaun Walker expressed the horrors we are seeing, he


described it, attaching metal clamps and sending electric shocks through


his body. If he managed not to screen, others would join in beating


him with sticks or metal rods and demand to know names of other gay


men he knew in Chechnya. If we had any doubts about this brutal regime,


we need not. I do have to ask why it has taken so long for the Foreign


Secretary. Tweet is not enough to speak out about this, we have not


heard clear condemnation from the Prime Minister. Has the Prime


Minister or Foreign Secretary spoken directly to the Chechen governments,


have the called in the ambassador? Does he now regrets his cancelled


trip to Moscow, where he could have raised these atrocities in Chechnya


and Syria? Was the issue raised at the G7 discussion and could do Prime


-- the Minister explain what he's going to do on this issue? The


Foreign Secretary said it was outrageous, but the Foreign Office


has referred questions to the Home Office and as yet no clarity has


been given. Will be provide refuge from those fleeing this horrendous


persecution in Chechnya? May I say at the outset that I applaud the


honourable gentleman for raising this, and I hope it is a topic


around which this House can unite without any party politics because I


think a strong united voice in this country, which the honourable


gentleman is calling for, is the message we should be sending because


these reports are utterly barbaric. Indeed one of the most disgusting


things I have seen reported is a Chechen security source stating


these arrests are part of what he called a preventative clean-up. This


followed a request simply by an LGBT group to request licenses for gay


pride parades, and the group had not even applied for a permit in


Chechnya. Human rights groups report that these campaigns and killings


are orchestrated by the head of the Chechen Republic. He has carried out


other violent campaigns in the past, and this time he is directing his


efforts at the LGBT community. Sources have said he wants the


community eliminated by the start of Ramadan. Such comments and attitudes


and actions are absolutely beyond contemptible. Can I assure the


honourable gentleman under House but in the government, we fully condemn


this. We do use all engagement with Russia to make our voice clear. I


did so personally with the Minister of Russia when I met him a few weeks


ago, we spoke on general human rights matters, but also Chechnya,


and may I say that I hope this House would be fully united in giving the


strongest possible message to Russia and Chechnya in particular, that


this kind of activity is beyond contempt and not acceptable in the


world in which we live. Can I pay tribute to you in the support you


have given to the LGBT community send your occupied that chair, Mr


Speaker. It is right that it should be raised here because we have more


openly gay members of parliament here than anywhere else in the


world. When I was asked in 2010 why I came out, it was to partly send


the signal to other people who were troubled about their own sexuality,


to give them hope and confidence that if people like us can be open


about their own sexuality, hopefully they would also be able to take some


form of moral support that it may help them to do likewise. We have


made fundamental changes around the rest of the world when we have


looked at issues such as climate change. We have made massive


advances when we brought countries together on this issue. Can we not


do the same on LGBT issues, but we can have LGBT change throughout the


world? Can I ask of one area that might be worth a lot of attention is


the Commonwealth, where some countries part of our family of


nations have slid back as far as LGBT rights are concerned, could he


give some concentration on that and show that the British Government is


going to lead the way on LGBT change throughout the world? Indeed, and I


think one of the other strong messages as we approach a general


election, candidates in any party will be able to stand and be openly


gay without being in anyway ostracised by their own party or, we


hope, any part of the electorate. In itself, that sends a very strong


message to the world. I think it is a great tribute to this House and


our own democracy that over the last 15 years or so, we have seen all


parties have gay members on these green leather benches, and whatever


the outcome of the election, long may that continue. I also hope it


will be reflected in the Commonwealth in years to come, as my


honourable friend suggests, and we must campaign within Commonwealth


countries to make sure that they do not fail to reflect the standards


that we in the House reflect when it comes to the LGBT community. Can I


add my thanks to you for granting this question today. Also to my


honourable friend the Member for Cardiff South for bringing such an


important matter to the House today and speaking so eloquently. Can I


also thank him for his response and pay tribute to his long record for


standing up LGBT rights. A brave and much-needed pioneer in that regard.


I recall an article by Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail in 2002,


entitled, I am sorry, Mr Duncan, if you are gay and not a Tory. And


goodness that has been resigned to the dustbin. We must do something


about some parts of Europe. In recent days and weeks we have heard


reports from organisations and human rights documenting the most terrible


abuse, causing great distress. It is nothing short of officially


sanctioned... But the Russian government who beers responsibility


ultimately for its citizens seems to be looking the other way. As has


already been put before the House, there was a letter written a week


ago by LGBT labour to the Prime Minister, in which they asked


particularly that she make the Russian ambassador -- meet the


Russian ambassador with some questions, and urge them to be those


who have been detained and close down those camps. We're speaking


today with a strong unified voice. But it seems to me that whilst I


applaud the right honourable gentleman raising this matter, I do


as a result of the urgent question as a result of the urgent question


today, I hope we will get an undertaking from the government that


it will be raised at a much higher political level. It seems to me that


this matter is something the Prime Minister should take initiative of,


and called in the Russian ambassador undermanned some answers. May I


thank the right honourable lady for her town. I had indeed forgotten


about the Peter Hitchens article. I am not sure I want to be reminded of


it! But at least I can take pleasure in the fact that no I am but one of


many on the Tory benches. I hope this statement can be seen as


reflecting the Prime Minister and the entire government's condemnation


of this, but I do note what she says about her wish to see the issue


raised to a higher level of political comment. I have to say,


another one of the most contemptible elements of this issue is noting


that a representative for Chechnya's Council on civil society and human


rights, supposedly someone who is charged with the task of upholding


human rights said she would not accept an application for help from


a gay person because the persecution of gay people should not be


condemned to an Chechen society, even if a person was killed by their


own family. The LGBT community in Chechnya is not just at risk of


persecution by the Chechen authorities, but also falling victim


to so-called honour killings by their own family members. They are


not safe inside Chechnya, and as I said earlier, what is happening in


that republic is beyond contemptible.


Mr Speaker, can I agree entirely with the Minister in his


condemnation of this terrible, terrible occurrence, but building on


the remarks of my oral ball friend from Ribble Valley, is he aware that


the Council of Europe is in plenary session next week and although many


members such as myself, because of the general election being called


are unable to attend, some of our colleagues will be at the Council of


Europe and would he have a word with the ambassador to see whether this


matter could be raised, for example, in the free debate during the


plenary session next week? I think it is important that this matter is


raise continually in an international environment, to put


more pressure on Russia and the Chechen authorities. Mr Speaker, I


think the Council of Europe is a very important voice for the


expression of wider Continental opinion and I certainly will convert


a two hour ambassador at the wishes of my right honourable friend, which


I sense will be all also the wishes of the entire house. The scenes and


stories emanating from Chechnya are beyond comprehension and utterly


sickening and we share the sentiments that others have


expressed. And while we may still have many challenges on the LGBT


equality in the UK, we are fortunate in we have come a very long way and


then having that greater freedom, we absolutely must use our voices,


whether we are members of the LGBT community or not and we must say it


loudly and clearly we condemn this horrific brutality. For the Chechen


authorities to not only denied these attacks but also, incredulously,


claimed that no gay people exist within their province is at best


extraordinary and at worst deceitful. We call for those in the


region to be protected and the UK Government is, but can do more, to


project athletes protect LGBT people around the world. The SNP manifesto:


the Government to establish the position of a special envoy to


promote the rights of LGBT people around the world as an integral part


of UK policy. Will the Minister look into this and consider this for


their forthcoming manifesto? And can I appeal to the Minister and his


colleagues to act on the proposals we brought forward, put all the


pressure he can on Chechnya and Russia to stop these abhorrent


abuses and persecution of gay men and the wider LGBT divinity. We


cannot stand idly by and let this happen. Those facing abuse must know


that we care and we are standing up for them. Well, Mr Speaker, I am


proud to say are broadly agree with the honourable lady and all that she


wishes to see us do is enshrined across the board in our Government


policy, through gifted, through the Home Office, through our foreign


policy, and so it will remain, so in that sense, I think we should all be


envoys in what we do internationally and, indeed, Mr Speaker, FCO


officials in Russia meet regularly with LGBT activists and attend LGBT


events so that we can provide visible support. We have also


provided support to organisations such as Stonewall and helped to


facilitate sar Ian McKellan's visit to Russia last year, during which he


met LGBT activists in Moscow and St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg and I


think his powerful messages about UK values resonated at least with


Russia's next generation. Is there an element of reversion to type


here, in that it was always a feature of a totalitarian regime to


vilify minorities and as a matter of routine political management and,


equally, of the former Soviet Union, it was difficult to to identify any


person that posed a political threat to brand them as gay and detain them


in a mental institution? Well, Mr Speaker, I think Chechnya does


indeed seem to be the worst of the lot, so in that sense, as part of


Russia, I would urge President Putin to make his views clear in


condemning what is going on in Chechnya. This reminds us that we


are phenomenally lucky in this country, those of us who are gay,


because I remember meeting in Russia in 2009, a lesbian activist who was


83 years old and I asked how she got away with it and she said "I think


President Putin things women don't have sex at the age of 80." How


wrong can you be, she said. The serious point is we should be paying


tribute to those people standing up and risking their own lives and I am


glad that the Government is acting to try and do that, but isn't this


all part of a peace? President Putin appointed Khedira as president in


Chechnya, he has then got elected with 90% of the vote, that doesn't


seem at all bazaar, does it? But he and Putin have repeatedly abused


human rights, they have used violence to excess and have always


resorted to violence when there is another opportunity providing a


peaceful means, so how do we, and will the Government make sure, that


people who are engaged in this kind of activity and those involved in


the murder of British people working in Russia, will not be entering this


country? I think an 80-year-old activist gives all of us a bit of


hope in this world. Not long now, Alan! Having just turned 60,


although I know I don't look it, I heard from behind the... Oh, yes, I


did! Much more seriously, what the honourable gentleman says is


absolutely right, this is part of a wider picture across Russia


although, I again say, I think Chechnya does appear to be the worst


example and I think that within the constraints of being able to


influence what happens in any other country, we have to speak loudly,


speak collectively, be brave and courageous and at a diplomatic


level, within the country, we will do our utmost to put pressure on the


regime to understand that in the modern world, this kind of activity


is barbaric and is no longer part of the world in which any country


should be allowed to live. If memory serves, the Right Honourable's


gentleman's birthday was 20 days ago. Can I start by thanking the


Minister for the various matter forceful statement he has made


today. I have written to the Russian ambassador and would like to echo


the calls made by other members here today that the UK Government to call


in the Russian ambassador and ask him in particular what they are


going to do to protect the journalists involved in leaking this


story, because clearly they are now at risk as well as the LGBT


immunity? The final question I wanted to ask the Minister was


weather since the G-7, where unfortunately our Government failed


to secure sanctions against Syria and Russia, have any lessons been


learned about how to improve cooperation so that at an


international level, action will be taken against Chechnya? I think the


right honourable gentleman has perhaps deviated slightly from the


collective tone of the House this morning. As I think he will


appreciate, what happened out of the G-7 was in response to fast-moving


events following the gassing of people in Syria. As I said the


moment ago and I say it again, on the issue of gay rights in Chechnya


or indeed anywhere else across the world, we need to speak not only as


one voice in this House but by working together with other


countries and with NGOs to make sure that the world collectively hones in


on the likes of Chechnya and Russia more generally to make them clear


that they are out of step with the rest of the world and overtime will


lose all credibility and become increasingly derided and it is high


time they just grew up and understand what the modern world is


all about. Can I congratulate my constituency neighbour for exposing


the latest manifestation of the barbaric treatment that the people


of Chechnya have had for a decade and pay tribute to Lord Frank Judd,


who acted as the wrapper two over many years for the Council of Europe


and reported fearlessly on the terrible things that were happening


there. I think one would reflect on this now and we entirely support the


opposition that should be worldwide to this terrible activity, and this


is spreading. And one of the reasons for it is the pressure on countries


to improve the human rights is now less because they don't have the


incentive of joining together in the European Union, that demanded these


high standards, and we are sadly going back into barbaric treatments,


not just in Chechnya, but many other countries, including Turkey. I will


join the honourable gentleman in paying tribute to the noble Lord


Paul Judd for all of his efforts over the years but I say again, it


is for all of us to work effectively across parties, across countries,


parties and all organisations to make sure that simple rides the


people -- writes for people that should not be denied to them are


upheld across the world. Considering how this may be misrepresented


abroad, particularly in Russia, is it not important to emphasise that


this is first and foremost a matter of human rights and is certainly not


a matter confined only to those who happen to be gay. And is it not


interested, Mr Speaker, that this is being discussed 50 years since the


House of Commons changed the law on homosexuality and if there is a


debate in July, near the actual date when the legislation was passed, I


would hope to be here, certainly I will do my utmost to be here, to


explain why I was pleased to vote for the change in law. I think I'm


the only one out in the House who has remained. Like I say, the way he


is going, he will be here and another 50 years vote time. -- here


in another 50 years' time. But he makes a very valid point about the


importance of promulgating the truth. When we stand up and hear


absolute blatant propaganda, we should not shy away from robustly


cantering lies of that sort and, for instance, Kadyrov's spokesman has


called reports about persecution and murder absolute lies themselves and


indeed, he added, as we heard earlier, there are no gay men in


Chechnya and you cannot arrest or repressed people who just don't


exist. And even worse, he went on to say that if they did exist, their


own relatives would have sent them away from, I quote, "Where they


could never return". And it is the use of language like that that


appears to condone the outright murder of someone simply because of


their sexual orientation, it is utterly unacceptable and condemns


them in the eyes of the decent world. Thank you, Mr Speaker, I am


delighted to speak in this debate and I also thank the deputy Foreign


Minister for her statement. I have a concern, though, that not just as a


member of the LGBT community, but also the broader sense of the


social, economic and political impoverishment of what is Chechnya


and its profound impact on all Chechen society, because whether we


like it or not, Kadyrov has fundamental support, in some terms,


of his nation, and the Russian Federation, so how we undermine that


is also about investment and also about foreign aid in tackling human


rights across the world. So will be debited Minister say here on the


floor, fighting for LGBTI rides in places like Chechnya and others,


that his foreign budget will not change after the general election?


Well, I think we should all committed to fighting prejudice


wherever we find it and I hope that when we stand in the election on


June the 8th, that will be part of all of the views we hold as we


present ourselves to the electorate. But the honourable gentleman


actually raises a deeper point as well, which is that we need, as this


has, to understand foreign affairs, to take an interest and to debate


countries such as Chechnya so I hope that early in the next Parliament,


that opportunity will present itself so the arguments we are hearing


today can be made more loudly at a junior eight. This has rightly


speaks with one voice in condemnation of these have borrowed


hacks -- abhorrent acts in Cheshire. It is not the first on the Russian


Government has been found wanting when it comes to human acts and it


needs reminding of its obligations. What can we do to make sure other


countries are similarly robust in explaining that to the Russian


Government, not least because of how insecure those members of the LGBTI


committee in Chechnya We work through every organisation


and of course the United Nations more widely. , but because we do


speak frankly, we have had a rather scratchy relationships with the


Russians recently. But we will not shy away from raising these issues


frankly and forcefully, and I can assure the honourable gentleman that


we will maintain a policy of robust engagement with the Russians, and it


will include matters of this sort when we do so. All of Glasgow weeps


at this news, and when I return later this afternoon we will have a


vigil in George Square with politicians, or 30 people,


expressing their horror at what is happening. Can I disagree with some


colleagues. I do not see the need for it to be escalated to the


Foreign Secretary. I think the Minister is very capable, deeply


thoughtful, but I would like to echo the comments made by my honourable


friend from Livingston. Is it not time for us to join countries like


Canada and having an envoy on LGBT rights, who reports directly to the


Prime Minister, and I would also echo the point made by my honourable


friend from Clydebank, does this not show, and also in terms of what the


honourable gentleman said about the Commonwealth, it is not the time to


cut it back -- cut back the foreign aid. I thank him for his kind words.


And usually I have to say at this political burden period! I am


contemplating putting it in quotation marks at my election


address! I wouldn't do that! -- politically fervent period. Our


policy on this is not for me to say. My personal observation are some a


dedicated envoy is not as effective as having all ministers and members


of Parliament doing it. Butterfat is in his manifesto, we will let the


people decide. Deeply, -- briefly, can I congratulate him for raising


this important point and human rights. But could I suggest a word


of caution about any complacency on this? We have a united voice in this


House of Commons, but we're travelling on an official visit --


when I was travelling towards the east on an official visit, I was


troubled by the attitudes of people beer, and I was in Austria. We saw


some propaganda, and we should be on our guard whenever this kind of


human rights abuse viewers at -- rears its ugly head. I think we


should take that as serious words of wisdom from a serious member -- a


senior member of this House. We need to make sure there are no dial


YouTube views, and he is right to point out that Europe needs to be


united if we're going to make our voice clear and resonant across the


wider world. Having tabled an early day motion myself on this very


subject earlier in the week, I am grateful to the honourable member


for Cardiff South and Penarth for securing this question, and to you,


Mr Speaker, for permitting it. Can we have assurances that members of


the LGBT community will be granted asylum in the United Kingdom should


be looked for refuge on our shores? I have to tell the honourable lady


that that is by merrily Home Office matter, and a matter for asylum


legislation. In February the Foreign Secretary announced a ?700 million


empowerment fund to project soft power and human rights. How was this


fund being used to promote equal rights campaigners and support civil


society in Chechnya and elsewhere? Can I echo the points of my


honourable friend as he has not yet voiced his commitment to the target,


as this is precisely why the target is so important. He makes reference


to the empowerment fund, and I understand bids are currently in


play. With the election I would imagine that will be stalled


slightly, but I'm confident that there will be programmes designed


for the promotion of human rights in many of the countries of which the


empowerment fund is directing its efforts. I wish to pay tribute to


the amazing work of an organisation and Leeds who brought this to my


attention. These abuses are are chilling. Can I as the Minister what


discussions he has had with EU partners but also with the United


Nations to look at an initiative to clearly seek to stamp out this sort


of appalling persecution, wherever it may happen. These discussions


take place on a regular basis in all the forums we are represented, and


it is usually the UK in the lead in designing initiatives and


statements, which I think would echo the opinions he has just stated. The


appalling treatment LGBT people face in some countries abroad makes it


all the more important that officials here making decisions on


asylum cases get them 100% correct. Will he make representations that no


asylum case should never be refused solely on the basis that a person


can return home and hide their sexuality away? I will convey entire


exchange to the Home Secretary. Order. Does it relate


specifically... He's such a patient fellow, we can hear from him later.


There will be some anticipation in the House over what he's planning to


raise! Business question. Thank you. Could the Leader of the House give


us the forthcoming business for next week? The business for next week


will be as follows. Monday 24th of April, consideration of a business


of the House motion followed by all stages of the Northern Ireland


ministerial appointments and regional rates