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(CNN) —  

The United States and 15 other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) invoked a rarely used diplomatic maneuver to trigger an investigation into reported human rights abuses in Chechnya.

The Moscow Mechanism is used to establish short-term fact finding missions on human rights concerns. It is a serious step, and according to the OSCE, it has been invoked only seven other times since its establishment in 1991.

Chechnya has faced international outcry amidst reports of human rights abuses including torture, unlawful arrest and detentions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Many of these violations were reportedly carried out against gay men in the Russian republic.

In a statement to the Permanent Council invoking the mechanism, the 16 OSCE nations noted that their concerns “centered around allegations of impunity for reported human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya from January 2017 to the present, including, but not limited to, violations and abuses against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, independent media, civil society organizations, and others.”

“In addition to establishing the facts and reporting on them, we encourage the mission of experts to give advice to the Russian Federation, to the OSCE, and to the international community on possible solutions to the questions raised,” the OSCE statement said.

According to the US Mission to the OSCE, up to three human rights experts will comprise the fact-finding mission. They typically complete their report in two weeks and it is then discussed by the Permanent Council before being released to the public.

The US State Department on Thursday lent its support to the move.

“We and likeminded countries have demanded that Moscow hold accountable those responsible for such violations and abuses. Russia has failed to provide a substantive response to repeated expressions of international concern and calls for accountability. Therefore, with these actions at the OSCE, the administration will continue to work with our European partners to expose Russia’s human rights violations and abuses,” deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent US government commission that works to monitor the OSCE, hailed the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism.

“It is long past time for a credible, independent investigation into the allegations of human rights abuses in Chechnya. The OSCE can no longer ignore reports of forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and other gross violations of human rights, and should hold the perpetrators of such vicious crimes accountable. Impunity for such crimes creates an increasingly unsafe and unstable environment in an area already fraught with violence, terrorism, and fear,” Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker and Ranking Senate Commissioner Sen. Ben Cardin said in a statement.