“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice,” wrote the great French political philosopher Montesquieu. There is no better way to describe the repressive regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, the authoritarian leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic.
For this reason, the United States has imposed new visa restrictions on Kadyrov and his family, for gross violations of the human rights of the people of Chechnya. The consequence is that Kadyrov, his wife, and two adult daughters are now barred from entering the United States.
In his designation announcement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. has “extensive credible information that Kadyrov is responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings.” These include credible reports of the mass detention and torture of LGBTI persons.
In 2018, an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe investigation into Chechen human rights abuses revealed that “harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial executions” had taken place in a “climate of impunity.”
Critics of Kadyrov have paid a high price over the years for reporting on abuses in Chechnya. In 2017, several Chechens with ties to Kadyrov’s security services were found guilty of killing Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. In 2009 Natalya Estemirova, who worked for the human rights group Memorial, was abducted from her home in Chechnya and murdered. In recent years, numerous critics of Kadyrov living in exile in Europe have also been killed.
More recently, Mr. Kadyrov, like many other authoritarian leaders, is using the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic to inflict further abuses on the Chechen people. Indeed, according to press reports, Kadyrov has threatened journalists who have reported on his government’s efforts to scare people away from getting tested for COVID-19, calling those reporters “enemies of the state.”
These additional measures by the U.S. government send a message to Mr. Kadyrov that his gross violations of human rights have consequences for him and his family. The United States will use all means at its disposal to promote accountability for all those who engage in such abhorrent behavior.
The United States calls on the Russian government to end impunity for human rights violations in Chechnya and ensure that everyone in Russia, including in Chechnya, is able to exercise their fundamental freedoms without fear of retribution.