WASHINGTON– Today, on International Human Rights Day, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is targeting perpetrators of serious human rights abuse across several countries in the Western Hemisphere, Middle East, and Eurasia. Today’s actions are taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption. OFAC is also concurrently designating one Yemeni individual pursuant to E.O. 13611, “Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen.”
“As we recognize International Human Rights Day, the United States stands with innocent civilians around the globe who have been victims of violence and oppression,” said Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich. “The United States also welcomes the growing ability of our partners to join us in targeting human rights abuses. Over the last few months, the United Kingdom and the European Union have each adopted new sanctions authorities, creating a powerful, global framework for targeting human rights abuses.”
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SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE IN RUSSIA.
Ramzan Kadyrov (Kadyrov), the Head of the Chechen Republic, is being designated today pursuant to the Global Magnitsky E.O. for being a foreign person who is a leader of an organization, the Kadyrovtsy, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuses. Kadyrov and the forces he commands, commonly known as the Kadyrovtsy, are implicated in the murder of Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and other serious violations of human rights. On December 20, 2017, OFAC designated Kadyrov pursuant to the Russia Magnitsky Act for being responsible for extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by officials of the Government of the Russian Federation, or to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms, such as the freedoms of religion, expression, association, and assembly, and the rights to a fair trial and democratic elections, in the Russian Federation.
Following Kadyrov’s previous designation, the Kadyrovtsy, under the guidance of Kadyrov, continued these egregious activities, to include kidnapping, torturing, and killing members of the LGBTI population in the Chechen Republic. The Kadyrovtsy are accused of illegal abductions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and other abuses, including the detention of journalists and activists.
In addition to Kadyrov, OFAC is designating the following six companies registered in Russia that continue to provide Kadyrov pride and significant profit:
Absolute Championship Akhmat for being owned or controlled by Kadyrov.
Akhmat MMA for being owned or controlled by Kadyrov.
FC Akhmat Grozny for being owned or controlled by Kadyrov.
Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation for being owned or controlled by Kadyrov.
Megastroyinvest, OOO for being owned or controlled by the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation.
Chechen Mineral Waters Ltd. for being owned or controlled by the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation.
OFAC is also designating five individuals who are prominent members in Kadyrov’s network:
Vakhit Usmayev, the Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya, has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Kadyrov.
Timur Dugazaev, a representative of Kadyrov in Europe, has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Kadyrov.
Ziyad Sabsabi, a representative of Kadyrov, has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Kadyrov.
Daniil Vasilievich Martynov, a personal security advisor for Kadyrov, has acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Kadyrov.
Satish Seemar, a horse trainer for Kadyrov, has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial material, or technological support for, or goods and services to or in support of, Kadyrov.
As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the persons above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.
Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the President signed E.O. 13818 on December 20, 2017, in which the President found that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity that it threatens the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.
The Russian Foreign Ministry sent notes of protest to representatives of the US, British and Canadian embassies over the LGBT flags that appeared on the buildings of diplomatic missions in Moscow at the end of June. This was announced by State Duma deputy Vasily Piskarev, who heads the Duma commission to investigate alleged foreign interference in the affairs of the Russian Federation.
In the appeals of the Russian Foreign Ministry to the embassies, it is said that the actions of the diplomats “violated the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the national legislation of the Russian Federation,” Piskarev said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has not yet commented on Piskarev’s words. Earlier, after the appearance of the LGBT flag on the building of the US Embassy in Moscow, the Foreign Ministry left a comment on the Facebook of the American diplomatic mission with the song El Bimbo from the Police Academy, which sounded when the heroes of the film were in the Blue Oyster gay bar.
The report analyzes unjustified detentions and arrests in Russia, imprisonment for political reasons, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the apparent interference of authorities in private life.
Executions, abductions and torture.
Significant problems include “extrajudicial executions, including by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and intersex people in Chechnya by local authorities”, kidnapping, torture, difficult and life-threatening conditions in prisons.
In December 2018 – January 2019, the authorities of the Chechen Republic resumed a campaign of violence against persons belonging to the LGBT community. Chechen authorities illegally detained and tortured at least 40 people, two of whom died in custody.
By the end of 2019, the Russian authorities did not investigate reports of extrajudicial executions and mass torture in Chechnya, continuing to deny since 2017 that there are members of the LGBT community in Chechnya.
On May 24, Maxim Lapunov, who survived the 2017 “gay purge”, publicly offered to cooperate with the investigating authorities, but later filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights because the federal authorities did not want to investigate his case properly.
Meanwhile, Chechen police continued a campaign of illegal detention and torture of gays and bisexuals. The total number of victims during the year reached 50 people.
In May, Human Rights Watch published a report based on an interview with four men who were detained between December 2018 and February 2019 in the Grozny police department building, where law enforcement officers kicked them, beat them with sticks and trumpets, and refused them in food and water and tortured three out of four with electric shock. One was reportedly raped with a stick. Four men described how they were being detained with many others who had been subjected to the same treatment because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. As of April 1, more than 150 LGBT people left Chechnya, and most of them left Russia.
According to the UN working group on forced abductions, in Russia in total 849 outstanding cases of disappearances were recorded.
During 2019, authorities constantly referred to a law (passed in 2013) prohibiting the “propaganda” of “non-traditional sexual relations” by minors to discriminate and prosecute LGBT activists and their supporters.
On October 28, the Moscow branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened an administrative case on suspicion of “promoting non-traditional sexual relations with minors” against producers and participants in a YouTube video in which children interviewed gay Maxim Pankratov about life.
The video did not contain a discussion of sex, but included questions about Pankratov’s sexual orientation, how he would like other people to relate to him, and his vision of life in the future. On November 2, the Investigative Committee of the Moscow Region launched a criminal investigation against producers and participants of a video on suspicion of “sexual abuse of a minor” under the age of 14 years, which is punishable by imprisonment of 12 to 20 years.
According to press reports, the parents of the children in the video were under pressure from the authorities. Forcing them to testify against the video producers, they were visited by child protection services with threats of deprivation of parental rights. Pankratov reported receiving threats of physical violence from unknown persons after the opening of the criminal case. As of December, Pankratov was hiding in an unknown place in Russia, while the video producer, the popular online person Victoria Peach, left Russia.
Freedom of assembly.
Authorities continued to strip LGBT people and their supporters of their rights to freedom of assembly.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling that LGBT citizens are allowed to participate in public activities, a law prohibiting “propaganda of homosexuality” among minors was used to interrupt public demonstrations of LGBT activists.
In November 2018, the ECHR ruled that a refusal to grant permission to hold public meetings could not be justified by reasons of public security and constituted a violation of the right to freedom of expression.
However, on August 3, police and the “National Guard” of St. Petersburg violently dispersed approximately 50 solo picketers who advocated for the rights of the LGBT community after the city authorities rejected their request for a “pride parade”. Law enforcement authorities detained 12 people, three of whom were hospitalized due to injuries resulting from police brutality.
Moscow authorities refused to agree on an LGBT pride for the 14th consecutive year, despite a 2010 ECHR ruling that the denial violated the right to freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination.
Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
The law criminalizes the spread of “propaganda” of “non-traditional sexual relations” and effectively limits the right to freedom of expression and assembly for citizens who are willing to publicly advocate that homosexuality is the norm.
The government considers “propaganda” materials that “directly or indirectly approve of people who are engaged in non-traditional sexual relations.”
However, the law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in housing, work or access to public services such as health care.
Officials attacked, harassed, and threatened LGBT activists. For example, on June 17, an activist from Novocherkassk reported that an employee of the Center for Combating Extremism (CPE) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs had searched and harassed him, and then launched an attack on June 14. Doctors have diagnosed a closed head injury and concussion. When the activist wanted to file a report with the police, the officers laughed and joked about his situation.
Open gays became objects of social violence in Russia, and the police often did not respond adequately to such incidents.
In July, police refused to resume a criminal case on the beating of a Volgograd teenager Vlad Pogorelov in 2017, as they did not consider “hatred and enmity” as the motives of the attackers. Instead, the court fined each of the rapists 5,000 rubles ($ 78). In June 2018, Pogorelov filed a complaint with the local prosecutor’s office about the police decision to terminate the criminal investigation into the 2017 attack.
The victim, who was then 17 years old, came to the meeting with persons posing as gays on a dating site. He was beaten and robbed. The police opened a criminal case on the fact of the attack, but closed it within a month, citing the “low significance” of the crime and informing Pogorelov that the police were not ready to defend LGBT people.
The incident clearly showed the authorities’ reluctance to conduct adequate investigations or to consider homophobia as a motive for attacks on members of the LGBT community.
Authorities did not respond when there were real threats of violence against LGBT people.
Thus, the authorities failed to investigate the appearance in spring 2018 of the Pila website, which called for violence against specific LGBT people and human rights defenders.
Although the site was blocked several times by Roskomnadzor, it periodically appeared under a new domain name. After the July 23 killing of LGBT activist Elena Grigoryeva, whose name was on the Saws list, the site was again blocked. Despite the fact that on August 1, the police arrested a suspect who admitted to the murder, the authorities did not indicate the motive for the attack, and human rights activists believe that the investigation did not try to connect the murder of Elena Grigorieva with LGBT activism.
On August 4, the Ministry of Internal Affairs informed the people who filed a complaint about the Pila website that, since it was blocked and inaccessible, they could not examine its contents. On August 14, the FSB reported that they had investigated the site, but found no evidence of a crime.
104 cases of physical violence against LGBT people were recorded, including 11 murders in 2016-2017.
The report notes that homophobes are luring gay people into fake meetings to beat, humiliate, and rob. At the same time, the police claimed that they did not find any evidence of the crime or refused to consider the attacks on LGBT people as hate crimes, which prevented the investigation and holding the perpetrators accountable.
During the investigation (in such cases), members of the LGBT community risk being exposed by the police to their families and colleagues as homosexuals. LGBT people often refused to report violence because of fears that the police would abuse them, publicize their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Police conducted physical examinations of transgender or intersex people.
On May 1, in Makhachkala, Dagestan, police arrested intersex Olga Moskvitina during a protest rally. Finding in the passport that she was framed by a man, the police forced the detainee to undress to the waist so that the police could examine her, and was interrogated on the subject of genitals. During these procedures, she was threatened by police officers. On May 1, personal information was published on social networks along with threats that, according to Moskvitina, were coming from the local police. On May 5, plainclothes officers forced the owner to evict her apartment.
The Association of Russian-speaking intersex people reported that medical professionals often forced intersex Russians (or their parents if they were minors) to carry out the so-called “normalization” operation without providing accurate information about the procedure or what intersexuality is.
Prohibition of openness.
The law prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientations” restricted the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for LGBT people and their supporters. Significant social stigmatization was associated with official propaganda of intolerance and homophobia.
High levels of discrimination in employment remain. Most LGBT people hid their sexual orientation and gender identity for fear of losing their job or place of residence, as well as for the risk of violence.
LGBT students reported discrimination in schools and universities.
Roman Krasnov, Vice-Rector of the Ural State University of Economics in Yekaterinburg, admitted that the institution controlled students’ social media accounts to make sure that they demonstrate the necessary “moral appearance” that is incompatible with LGBT people. A student who wished to remain anonymous in September told the media that Krasnov had threatened him with expulsion after he noticed LGBT symbols in his account.
Practitioners reportedly continued to refuse services for LGBT people due to intolerance and prejudice. When revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBT people often faced negative reactions and the assumption that they were mentally ill.
In 2019, a homophobic campaign continued in state-controlled media in which officials, journalists, and other media people called LGBT people “perverts,” “sodomites,” “abnormal” and linked homosexuality to pedophilia.
Censorship was also widespread. On January 21, the Yaroslavl branch of Ekho Moskvy radio station canceled a planned interview with LGBT activists after receiving threats, including from local officials.
Discrimination against transgender people.
Transgender people had difficulty updating names in government documents to reflect gender identity, because the government did not establish standard procedures for this, and many civil registry offices refused.
If the documents did not reflect gender identity, people faced harassment by law enforcement officials and discrimination in access to healthcare, education, housing, transportation and employment.
There have been reports of discrimination in parental rights. The law does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children together, only as individuals.
LGBT parents often feared that the ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation” among minors would be used to end custody of children. So, Andrei Vaganov and Evgeny Erofeev were forced to flee the country in August after the Investigative Committee announced that it had opened a criminal investigation into negligence against officials who had adopted two boys.
Although the couple married in Denmark in 2016, only Vaganov had legal relations with children in Russia. A statement on the Investigative Committee’s website accused the men of “promoting unconventional relationships, giving children a misconception about family values and harming their health and their moral and spiritual development.”
The police found out that the children lived with two fathers after the doctor who treated one of the children reported this to the “authorities”. The couple said that they had no choice but to leave the country because of the likelihood that their children would be removed from the family.
HIV / AIDS and social stigma.
People with HIV / AIDS have experienced significant legal discrimination, growing informal stigma barriers and violation of employment rights. They continued to face problems in adopting children.
According to NGO workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) sometimes did not seek antiretroviral treatment for fear of stigmatization of HIV carriers, and sex workers were afraid to appear in the official database due to threats from law enforcement agencies.
Economic migrants also hid their HIV status and avoided treatment due to fear of deportation. By law, foreign citizens infected with HIV can be deported from Russia. The law, however, prohibits the deportation of HIV-infected foreigners who have Russian citizenship, a child or parents in Russia.
Prisoners with HIV / AIDS were regularly abused and denied medical care and had fewer opportunities to see their families.
Children with HIV have experienced discrimination in education.
For example, on April 10, a woman in the village of Iskitim in the Novosibirsk Region reported that local authorities refused to take her adopted six-year-old son to school because the child was HIV-positive. The local clinic staff violated the confidentiality rules between the doctor and the patient and warned other villagers about the diagnosis of the child. The family received threats demanding to leave the village. On April 18, the local Investigative Committee launched an investigation into the violation of the privacy of the child.
Until June 2018, when the Constitutional Court declared this practice unconstitutional, HIV-infected parents were forbidden to adopt children. On May 3, President Putin signed into law allowing people with HIV to adopt children already living in families.
This law was preceded by several lawsuits, one of which was filed by an HIV-infected woman in Balashikha. Since she could not have children, her sister decided to bear the child from her husband through artificial insemination. The woman planned to adopt this child, but her HIV-positive status did not allow her to do so. She filed a lawsuit and won the case, after which she was allowed to adopt.
The Ministry of Justice continued to call HIV-related non-governmental organizations “foreign agents,” reducing the number of organizations that can serve the community.
Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been a problem, especially in the public sector and in education.
Employers fired LGBT people for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or social activism in support of LGBT rights. Primary and secondary school teachers were often subjected to such pressure due to the law on “propaganda of gay sexual orientation” aimed at minors.
On April 9, a St. Petersburg court ruled that the printing house had illegally fired Anna Grigoryeva, a transgender woman who had worked there for many years as a man. This was the first time that a court has ruled in favor of a person fired due to transgender issues.
People with HIV / AIDS were prohibited from working in certain areas of medical research and medicine. For example, the Ministry of Transport forbade HIV-infected employees to work as air traffic controllers until the Supreme Court lifted the ban on September 10.
Attack on Free Media.
Last year, journalists continued to be arrested, imprisoned, physically abused, harassed and intimidated in connection with their professional activities.
(We already wrote about the “case” of the LGBT activist, blogger Yulia Tsvetkova and the threats against her).
In March 2018, Agora published a report on politically motivated searches, which analyzed the searches in the homes of 600 political activists that the special services carried out over the previous three years.
Authorities often used searches to intimidate and threaten political activists. In 98 cases, the police used the threat of violence, actual violence and the display of firearms during searches; in 47 cases, authorities searched the premises of relatives and friends of activists; and in 70 cases they broke doors or entered a house through a window.
Problems were noted in the Russian judicial system, where judges remain under the influence of the executive branch and the security forces, especially in cases with high-profile political cases. At the same time, the results of court proceedings seem predetermined, and the number of acquittals remains low. In 2018, the defendants were acquitted only in 0.43% of cases.
Source: Newsru.com, US Department of State website.
In New York, they are preparing to host the WorldPride anniversary parade. On June 28, 1969, the police raided the Manhattan gay club “Stonewall”: this event marked the beginning of a major struggle of sex minorities for their rights. How common homophobic attitudes among Americans are now and how the lives of homosexuals have changed over the past decades, correspondent RTVI Harry Knjagnitsky.
Anton and Arsen Low met and married in New York. There is no need to hide from anyone, be silent, hide and conceal your feelings.
Arsen Lowe: “When I lived in Russia, I worked there, there was a feeling of inner homophobia, there were inner fears”.
They traveled almost all of America, and it was not that in all American states they managed without slanting glances in their direction, but did not reach obvious reproaches or threats.
Anton Low: “Maybe there were places in which I could not feel so comfortable, but there was no homophobia or anything else.”
Nowadays, in front of the gay community in America, the green street is formally open. Although why green? It is traditionally painted in all colors of the rainbow: choose yourself any way. But even 50 years ago, in all US states, with the exception of Illinois, homosexuality was a criminal offense.
If you’re lucky, they will be sent to a hospital: gays in America in the 60s were officially considered mentally ill, says Alexei Gorshkov to tourists. The human rights activist conducts free tours of Greenwich Village. Today this area is called Hipster, and in the late 60s it was called “the cloaca inhabited by sodomites.”
Alexey Gorshkov, a human rights activist: “In the 60s, the authorities of the State of New York banned the sale of alcohol to gays because they violate public morality.”
The police monitored morality: they organized raids in bars where homosexuals gathered. With the current gay clubs such places had nothing to do. These were semi-underground institutions, they were kept by the mafia, which was bought off from the police by bribes. The most famous bar was considered “Stonevoll-Inn.”
On the night of June 28, 1969, a seemingly ordinary raid with shouts on duty was staged here: “No one should move! Police! All to the wall! What rags are you wearing? ” But then people tired of bullying burst.
Some say that the first to the police threw either a coin, or a bottle, or a transsexual stone, Sylvia Riviera. Others claim it was Marsha Johnson.
Alexey Gorshkov, human rights activist: “The police, only 10 people, simply did not know what to do. People united. It was not the rebellion of one person, it was a massive outburst of rage. People rose up against police brutality. The policemen barricaded themselves in the club because the crowd had driven them inside. People started turning over police cars. ”
So in America, the gay revolution began. Cohesive LGBT organizations began to appear. In 1973, homosexuality was excluded from the list of mental illnesses. Really gay in the United States took in the 90s. In 2015, same-sex marriages were legalized throughout the country, and in 2019 the police finally apologized for Stonewall.
James O’Neill, New York City Police Commissioner: “I know for sure: what happened did not happen. New York Police took the wrong steps, rash. Acts and laws were discriminatory and cruel. And for that, I apologize. ”
Now the police are here, as in the guard of honor. Inside, in memory of the hot summer of 1969, photographs are exhibited, and Greenwich Village is buried in a rainbow. She’s on flags, banners, clothes.
In 2011, when New York became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriages, Patrick was attacked in Queens. At Greenwich Village, everyone knows him.
Patrick: “That guy sneaked behind me and started beating me. What happened next, I do not really remember. When I woke up in the hospital, my skull was broken and my nose was broken, my legs were broken. I feel better now. ”
Mihkel Dikus, too, almost killed a few years ago. He says that a stranger sat down at the bar with him, started a heart-to-heart conversation, drank, and went to Mihkel’s house.
Mihkel Dikus: “He began to choke me. I could not move, began to choke and lose consciousness. I thought it was the end. But then he let me go and demanded money. ”
The euphoria of being alive quickly changed to post-traumatic syndrome. Mihkel thought that the attacker was tracking him down; for six years he went to a psychotherapist. Now helps other victims of attacks.
Mihkel Dikus: “Those who feel like a victim fall victim again if they do not receive the help they need. And some of them are beginning to look for a victim in order to recoup someone, to cause harm. So this circle closes. I tore it for myself. ”
Mihkel believes that it is necessary to talk about this, and not to make magnificent gay parades, which, with all the external effect, have become completely empty meaningfully. The “Stonewall” began as a rebellion, as another bright episode of the struggle for human rights in America. And today this is just a reason to arrange a carnival. This is sure Anthony Dolsey.
Anthony Dolsey : “Everything began to look like solid commerce. Politicians and celebrities come to us to shine in front of television cameras. But when real help is needed, they do nothing. As soon as the parade ends, they disappear.And we need them every day. We need them to talk about gay violence. This violence needs to stop. ”
But people who come to Pride parades think differently. For the LGBT community, these processions are a real triumph of freedom and a demonstration of simple truth: every tenth person on earth is born gay. Yesterday, most of them were hiding. These feathers, makeup and smiles were very difficult for everyone.
For a break in the consciousness and perception of the world, the most important thing, according to psychologists, is to see thousands, hundreds of thousands of people like you who have ceased to be afraid. However, it is also true that the parades pass, but the rejection in one degree or another remains.
Columbia University professor Paul Martin is sure: the problem is that society simply does not have time to digest the changes. From a prison term for homosexuality to legal same-sex marriage, it took only half a century.
Paul Martin, a professor at Columbia University: “One of the global shifts in public consciousness has happened. And gradually the idea of adopting children by gay couples got involved here. Once it was terrifying, but now it has become a routine. Not in every state, but at the national level it happened. ”
Happened, but not all. In the US, there is still no federal law on the inadmissibility of discrimination of LGBT people. In this too different country, where some idolize the Constitution, and others the Bible, approaching any of the poles, liberal or conservative, provokes a response. In the worst manifestations – violence, in the best – accurate political correct ignoring.
Elena : “The main thing is that this does not concern children, that’s all. Just if they do something there, let them do it in their gated community. If my son says that he is like this, I will never stop loving him. But with all of this, I would like it not to concern children a little now. ”
Arsen Low’s parents for seven years could not accept the idea that he was gay. But in the end he was accepted as he is. Anton did not begin to devote all his loved ones to his personal life.
Anton Lowe: “My grandmother is a religious Muslim. They have a lot of problems with that. ”
And here they have no problems, consider Arsen with Anton. New York is probably one of the most friendly cities in the world in relation to gays. Absolutely safe? Hardly. Ask Patrick, who spent three months in a coma and did not learn to walk in the eight years since the beating.
Patrick: “He said that when he gets out of prison, he will kill me.”
Patrick says he is not afraid. A sign is attached to his walker: “My spirit is wounded, but not broken.”
The date April 3rd has held a unique place in our history over the years. Theologians and astronomers will tell you that Christ was crucified on that date. On April 3rd Harry Truman signed the Marshall Plan, arguably the greatest postwar intervention in the history of man. The first portable cellphone call was made on April 3rd. Marlon Brando was born on that day.
But this April 3rd will hold its own place in history. On this particular April 3rd the nation of Brunei will begin stoning and whipping to death any of its citizens that are proved to be gay. Let that sink in. In the onslaught of news where we see the world backsliding into authoritarianism this stands alone.
Brunei isn’t a significant country. Its population is less than 500,000 people, pretty small in relation to most of its neighbors, The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia. But Brunei has oil. This year it was ranked as the 5th richest nation by Forbes. Good for them. Of course they haven’t had an election since 1962 and have adopted the most extreme version of Sharia law so, not so good for them. At the head of it all is the Sultan of Brunei who is one of the richest men in the world. The Big Kahuna. He owns the Brunei Investment Agency and they in turn own some pretty spectacular hotels.
A couple of years ago two of those hotels in Los Angeles, The Bel-Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel were boycotted by many of us for Brunei’s treatment of the gay community. It was effective to a point. We cancelled a big fundraiser for the Motion Picture Retirement Home that we’d hosted at the Beverly Hills Hotel for years. Lots of individuals and companies did the same. But like all good intentions when the white heat of outrage moves on to the hundred other reasons to be outraged, the focus dies down and slowly these hotels get back to the business of business. And the Brunei Investment Agency counts on that. They own nine of the most exclusive hotels in the world. Full disclosure: I’ve stayed at many of them, a couple of them recently, because I hadn’t done my homework and didn’t know who owned them.
They’re nice hotels. The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery. Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws. But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.
Below I’ve listed the nine hotels. It’s up to each of us what we want to do.
The Dorchester, London 45 Park Lane, London Coworth Park, UK The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles Le Meurice, Paris Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris Hotel Eden, Rome Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan