Comment: Moscow Pride organisers appeal to Council of Europe

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The organisers of Moscow Pride have written to the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe – the event has been banned every year since 2005.

Dear Mr. Hammarberg,

Since May 2006 Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov banned 162 public events organized by the local LGBT community. Not a single event was authorized and protected. Bashing of gay activists at first and second Moscow Pride were widely broadcasted.

Russian Federation, as a member-state of the Council of Europe ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which articles 11 and 14 declare the right to freedom of assembly without discrimination on any grounds.

Russian courts held all the bans were lawful and rejected not only article 11 and 14 but also the precedents set by the European Court of Human Rights.

On 8 December a group of activists applied to hold a picketing in support of youth subcultures, inlcuding LGBT people, and Moscow Pride in Liski, a city located 650 km south of Moscow. Shortly after the City Administration received their application, two organizers were arrested and detained for 3 hours by the local police. The third organizer was called to the Administration with his parents. In his cabinet, the Mayor dictated him under threats of being sacked from the school the text of a letter he had to write. In his letter he had to withdraw from the organization of the picketing and further explain that he will not take part in it. His parents were also threatened with possible problems at work.

On several occasions Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov declared that Gay Pride marches are satanic, weapons of mass destruction and lead to the growth of HIV infection in the city. In 2005 Mufti Talgat Tadjudin declared that gays should be beaten and killed. In 2008 the Governor of Tambov region Oleg Betin declared “Tolerance? To hell! Faggots should be torn apart and their pieces thrown to the wind”. The Russian courts dismissed all our three complaints against Mr. Luzhkov, Mr. Tadjudin and Mr. Betin.

In the last three years we have recorded more than 700 homophobic statements made by Russian politicians.

Because part of your mandate is to assist member states in the implementation of Council of Europe human rights standard, we would like to understand how can you explain Mr. Luzhkov that we are not weapons of mass destructions? How can you explain to Talgat Tadjudin and Oleg Betin that we should not be killed?

How can you assist Russian authorities in understanding that Gay Rights are Human Rights?

But most of all, how can you explain the Russian government that the right to organize peaceful marches is granted to us by the European Convention and that this right should not need to be systematically challenged up to the European Court in a procedure that last for 5 to 6 years for each case.

Mr. Hammarberg, we ask you to take your responsibilities as Humman Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe and to visit not only Moscow in your next trip to Russia but also Tambov and Liski. We ask you to write to the Mayor of Litski, Evgeniy Miturev, and remind him of his obligations.

We invited you to witness the violence against LGBT people during Moscow Pride 2006 and 2007. We invite you again to watch any of our events during your next trip to Moscow over the next months.

Russia has a a record of systematic violations of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights whether in Moscow, St Petersburg, Liski or Tambov.

How long is this disrespect of fundamental human rights going to be tolerated within the Council of Europe?

Yours sincerely,

Nikolai Alekseev,

Head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru

Chief Organizer of Moscow Pride

In the name of the members of the Organising Committee of Moscow Pride:

Nikolai Baev, Anna Komarova, Anna Gerasimova, Ksenia Prilepskaya, Anton Sutyagin, Yuri Gavrikov, Kirill Nepomnyaschiy, Alexei Kiselev, Alexander Hots, Tim Magomedov, Irina Fet, Ivan Yartsev