Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Decision to Grant Asylum to LGBTI Russian Chechens in Canada

October 13, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the decision of the State of Canada to grant asylum to thirty-one gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons from Chechnya, Russia since June 2017.  The IACHR urges States of the region to take concrete steps to address the situation of LGBTI people that suffer persecution, and to adopt measures that will guarantee their protection.

According to publicly available information, about seventy LGBTI people have fled Chechnya, Russia, because of the persecution of LGBTI persons. Of those people, thirty one have received refugee status in Canada and more are expected to enter the country.

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, since March of this year there has been abductions of men perceived to be gay or bisexual carried out by local militia and local security forces and followed by acts of arbitrary detention, violence, torture, and other ill-treatment in Chechnya. The OACNUDH has also received reports of killings based on the perceived sexual orientation, including some that have allegedly been carried out by family members as so called “honor killings”.

UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; UN Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment; and UN  Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression have condemned the statements given by Chechen officials suggesting that gay people should be persecuted and killed, and expressed that those comments constituted incitement to hatred and violence.

In its report on Violence against LGBTI Persons, the IACHR highlighted as an advance in LGBTI rights that Canada granted refugee status to persons facing persecution due to sexual orientation and gender identity. Moreover, the Commission also hails the decision of Canada to release a new Guideline on Proceedings Involving Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression on May 2017 promoting the understanding of asylum cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“In many parts of the world, including in countries in the Americas, LGBTI persons experience serious human rights abuses and other forms of persecution due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In the context of migration, in the last decade the persecution of people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity has led to an increasing number of asylum applications submitted by LGBTI persons,” said Commissioner Francisco José Eguiguren Praeli, Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons.

On this point, Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, added, “This measure is a good practice and a great example for the region, not only because Canada is granting protection to persecuted LGBTI Chechen men and women, but because most of them are being brought to Canada as part of an under-the-radar collaboration between human rights groups and the federal government. In doing so, they are traveling through regular and safe channels for migration, without taking dangerous routes to get to Canada and reducing their situation of vulnerability”.

The IACHR welcomes this Canadian initiative and calls on all States throughout the Americas to provide safe, orderly and regular channels for people to migrate, and to promote regularization of migration for those who have been forced to recur to irregular migration channels. To do that, States can employ measures such as humanitarian admission programs, family reunification visas, student scholarships, guest worker programs, private sponsorships, and refugee resettlement initiatives.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 158/17