Russia: European Court Rules Gay Pride Ban Unlawful

In a stinging ruling issued against Russia, the European Court of Human Rights rebuked the Moscow authorities for repeatedly denying activists the right to hold gay pride marches, Human Rights Watch said today. The court, ruling on October 21, 2010, said the ban violated the right to freedom of assembly. It also ruled that the Moscow authorities had unlawfully discriminated against activist Nikolay Aleksandrovich Alekseyev and the organizers of gay pride events on the basis of sexual orientation, and had denied them a remedy having violated their rights.

“The European court saw Moscow’s decision to ban gay pride events as homophobia dressed up in dubious claims about public order,” said Boris Dittrich, acting director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender program at Human Rights Watch. “The court has told the Russian authorities they can no longer ban peaceful gatherings based on the participants’ sexual orientation. So now it’s time for the Moscow authorities to allow gay pride marches – and to protect participants from violence.”

In firmly rejecting the Russian government’s argument that there was no general consensus on issues relating to the treatment of sexual minorities, the court reiterated that there is “no ambiguity” about “the right of individuals to openly identify themselves as gay, lesbian or any other sexual minority, and to promote their rights and freedoms, in particular by exercising their freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Alexeyev, a Russian LGBT activist, had requested permission, as required by law, from the-then Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov to hold a peaceful demonstration to draw attention to discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia, to promote respect for human rights and freedoms, and to call for tolerance on the part of the Russian authorities and the public at large towards gays and lesbians. He requested permission to demonstrate three years in a row, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Each time the Moscow authorities denied permission on the grounds of public order, prevention of riots, protection of health and morals, and rights and freedoms of others. 

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