Russia: Mayor Luzhkov Of Moscow Violates European Convention On Human Rights By Banning First Gay Pride Parade On May 27

Mayor called on to rescind ban that violates rights to freedom of expression and assembly guaranteed by international and European treaties and Russia’s own constitution.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) called on Mayor Luzhkov of Moscow to rescind his ban of Moscow’s first gay pride parade scheduled for May 27. In a letter sent to Mayor Luzhkov, IGLHRC declared that his ban is a clear violation of human rights obligations to which Russia has agreed to by international treaties and that it directly contravenes Russia’s own Constitution.

Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC, signed the letter urging Luzhkov to reverse his decision and stated: “We remind you that your active support for the pride parade in Moscow is a critical component of your obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all citizens in Russia, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens who make up your constituency.”

Mayor Luzhkov has been quoted as saying that he feels homosexuality is not natural and that he is banning the parade to prevent public disturbances. IGLHRC’s letter points out to Luzhkov that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that state authorities are obligated to enable peaceful demonstration and that his only responsibility is to protect the marchers and ensure that the march proceeds without incident.

IGLHRC's letter (full text below) also suggests that if the ban is not lifted, Russia’s reputation is at stake as a member of the Council of Europe and as host of the G8 summit meeting this summer. “Plans to violate the rights of Russian peoples to peacefully assemble for gay pride in Moscow serious undermines Russia’s integrity in performing upcoming stewardship duties and in being an internationally accountable host of the G8 Summit.”

The IGLHRC letter to Mayor Luzhkov was copied to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir V. Putin.

IGLHRC has been working closely with LGBT groups in Russia, as they prepare for Moscow’s first gay pride parade in the country’s history.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mayor Luzhkov
Ul. Novy Arbat 36
Moscow, Russia 121205
fax: + 7 495 290 8558/7441/8584

Dear Mayor Luzhkov,

I am writing to you on behalf of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to express our profound objection to your decision to ban the city of Moscow’s first gay pride parade scheduled for May 27, 2006. We urge you rescind this ban and remind you that your active support for the pride parade in Moscow is a critical component of your obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all citizens of Russia, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in your constituency.

You have been quoted as having said that you feel that homosexuality is not natural and that your ban is based on wanting to circumvent a public disturbance. However we would like to emphasize the conclusion of the European Court of Human Rights, that state authorities have an obligation to enable peaceful demonstrations and protect them. Demonstrations most often elicit some opposition; this is an intrinsic characteristic of protests. The only responsibility of the authorities under your jurisdiction is to protect the demonstrators and insure that the march proceeds without incident, not ban a demonstration that may elicit opposition.

The imposition of this ban is in clear violation of the human rights obligations to which the government of Russia has agreed, in particular, the rights to freedom of expression, to assembly and to freedom from discrimination, as guaranteed by international human rights standards and treaties ratified by Russia. The European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) drafted by the Council of Europe is one of those treaties which guarantees these rights and which Russia has signed onto. Just as the Human Rights Committee held in Toonen v. Australia, that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a violation of the ICCPR, the European Court of Human Rights has held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a violation of the ECHR. Not only is this ban a breach of both the ICCPR and the ECHR, it additionally directly contravenes the Russian constitution.

We would also like to point out that at stake is Russia’s reputation as a member of the Council of Europe and as a host of the G8 summit this summer. Starting in May 2006, Russia has been granted stewardship of the Council of Europe. Plans to violate the right of Russian peoples to peacefully assemble for gay pride in Moscow seriously undermine Russia’s integrity in performing upcoming stewardship duties and in being an internationally accountable host of the G8 summit.

Inherited Soviet era taboos and state reluctance to address the issues of the LGBT population have allowed for homophobia and hate crimes to continue being a part of the lives of homosexuals in Russia. Many representatives from different Russian LGBT organizations have reiterated the fact that the general population continues to be misinformed about homosexuality. It is also well reported that the LGBTI population continues to experience prejudice when accessing health care, applying for jobs and in receiving protection from the police from violent attacks by skinheads. All of this, coupled with recent government efforts to pass a bill that would once again criminalize homosexuality, points to a continued atmosphere of intolerance and discrimination; one which the government of Russia is obligated under international law to remedy. Banning gay pride runs absolutely counter to this obligation.

Around the world, throughout the months of May and June, parades and marches such as the one organized by LGBT organizations in Moscow, are taking place to call for an end to discrimination and to celebrate the rights of all citizens. Events like this one allow the world to see the openness of Russian society and the political will of local authorities towards the inclusion of LGBT citizens and the value/acceptance of diversity. Now in its 11th year as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia is obligated to abide by the standards prescribed by the Council and the ECHR. The equal treatment of all citizens and their right to political expression are at the heart of democracy. The upcoming pride parade in Moscow is a vital expression of these values.

We thus call on you to abandon the ban you have imposed and to take positive action to support gay pride in Moscow at the end of May.

Sincerely,

Paula Ettelbrick
Paula Ettelbrick
Executive Director

CC:
President of the Russian Federation: Vladimir V. Putin
The Kremlin
Staraya pl. 4
Moscow 103132
Russian Federation
email: president@kremlin.ru
president@gov.ru
fax: +7-095-2065173