(WB) The U.S. on Wednesday imposed sanctions against two Chechen officials under a 2012 human rights law.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and Ayub Kataev of the Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry are among the five Russian citizens who have been added to the list of those sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets of Russians who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after authorities arrested him after he investigated a $230 million tax fraud scheme.

Authorities in Chechnya — a semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus — have arrested more than 100 men because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation since the beginning of the year. The ongoing crackdown, which has reportedly spread to include lesbian and transgender Chechens, has sparked outrage around the world.

Related: Senate Unanimously Approves Chechnya Resolution

Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has described the reports as “nonsense” and denied there are gay men in Chechnya. A press release the Treasury Department released on Wednesday says Kataev “is reported to have been involved in abuses against gay men in Chechnya during the first half of 2017.”

Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First welcomed the decision to sanction Kadyrov and Kataev.

“Sanctioning Kadyrov and Kataev for human rights violations, including the extrajudicial imprisonment, torture, and murder of gay Chechens, is a critical step in providing accountability and justice for the LGBT victims of the Chechen authorities,” said Gaylord in a press release. “Kadyrov and Kataev are directly responsible for a wave of detention, torture and terror throughout Chechnya with LGBT people being only the most recent target. We welcome this step taken by the U.S. government, which sends a message to human rights violators around the world the United States remains committed to protecting the human rights of LGBT people worldwide and abuses will not be met with impunity.”

Related: 22 Gay Men Rescued from Chechnya by Canada's Rainbow Railroad

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in a statement described Kadyrov and Kataev as “thugs” who are “responsible for abducting, detaining, torturing and even killing members of the Chechen LGBT community, amongst their many other violations of human rights.”

The U.S. House of Representatives in June unanimously approved Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution that condemned the anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya. The U.S. Senate in October unanimously approved an identical resolution that U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced.

“When the House passed my resolution in June calling attention to these crimes against LGBT individuals, we sent a clear message condemning this violence and urged the administration to identify the perpetrators and impose the sanctions announced today,” said Ros-Lehtinen.


— Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.