Europe’s top human rights court ruled on Tuesday that Russia’s prohibition of “the promotion of homosexuality” discriminates and violates freedom of expression.
The prohibition became Russian law in 2013.
The case was brought to the court by three gay activists in Russia.
The European Court of Human Rights found that “the very purpose of the laws and the way they were formulated and applied” was “discriminatory and, over all, served no legitimate public interest” and ordered Russia to pay the men a total of 43,000 euros in damages.
The three activists who sued were Nikolai V. Bayev, 42; Aleksei A. Kiselev, 33; and Nikolai A. Alekseyev, 39. They had staged demonstrations from 2009 to 2012 in the cities of Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and St. Petersburg, carrying banners stating that homosexuality is natural, and not a perversion. They were arrested and fined.
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Ukrainian politicians and foreign diplomats joined thousands marching for gay pride in Kiev today, carrying banners and waving rainbow and Ukrainian flags in a parade which was flanked by a thick cordon of police.
The march was largely incident-free, but 200 people protested, variously calling it an affront to traditional values and to soldiers fighting pro-Russian separatist rebels in the eastern Donbass region.
Ukrainian authorities have increased their support for gay rights since a pro-Western government took power in 2014. In 2015, a law was passed banning workplace discrimination against the LGBT community.
Two men from Chechnya have told Reuters they were detained by police and subjected to torture and beatings because they were gay.
Seeing his rings and bracelets, the policemen asked if he was “a faggot” and beat him severely, the man said in an interview.
“Then they … forced me to tie a cable to my little toe and to my little finger. I was forced to do it myself, to attach the wires. And then they started using electric shocks,” he said.
The accounts that the two men gave could not be independently verified by Reuters. They fit in, however, with a pattern of persecution described by other sources.
Nikita Safronov, a Moscow-based LGBT activist, said almost 100 people from Chechnya had already got in touch via an LGBT-network hotline, and that more than 40 of them had been “evacuated”. Some had already left Russia, he added.
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France welcomed its first gay refugee from Chechnya on Monday on the same day French President Emmanuel Macron pushed Russian leader Vladimir Putin to investigate the treatment and imprisonment of transgender and gay people in Chechnya, which is led by pro-Kremlin leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin visited Paris to hold talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and to open a French and Russian exhibition. Mr Macron said that Putin had promised “the whole truth”.
“I had the chance to bring up how important it is for France to respect all people, all minorities and all sensibilities in a civil society,” he said, as Mr Putin stood beside him listening to the translation.
“President Putin told me… he had undertaken several initiatives on the subject of LGBT people in Chechnya with measures aimed at establishing the whole truth about the activities of local authorities,” Macron said at a press conference with Putin after talks in Versailles. “I spelled out France’s expectations very precisely.”
Mr Macron warned Mr Putin that he would monitor further civil rights violations of gay people in Chechnya. The pair of leaders shook hands for the cameras in front of the Palace of Versailles, but their body language appeared tense.
It is reported that Russian officials are examining claims that a deadly anti-homosexual purge has been unfolding in Chechnya. Detainees who spoke to the Guardian reported being held in a secret location for days or weeks, beaten and tortured with electric shocks.
After international outcry, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been briefed on the situation by the country’s human rights ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova. The Guardian reports there is evidence Russian authorities are investigating the allegations.
Human rights groups have urged Moscow to investigate the reported abuse and alleged deaths of gay men. German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Putin about the issue during a recent meeting with him.
Today Human Rights Watch issued details of alleged abuses of gay men at the hands of Chechen authorities. The report says the men who are released face reprisals not only from Chechen security forces, but also from their own families.
Chechnya is an extremely conservative society and homosexuality is considered a “stain” on the family honour.
A spokesperson for Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s strongman leader, again dismissed reports of the purge by saying that there are no gay people in the quasi-independent state. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” he said, according to the New York Times.
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Three French gay rights groups have filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Chechnya of the genocide of gay people.
They blamed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and state officials for a “wave of persecution”, and cited the case of a teenage male thrown out of a ninth-storey window, allegedly because of his sexuality.
The three French groups want the International Criminal Court in The Hague to start work before Russia withdraws from its jurisdiction in November.
There’s the problem.
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Russian police have detained five activists who tried to deliver a petition to prosecutors in Moscow against the treatment of gay people in Chechnya. Police said they arrested them because their actions amounted to an unsanctioned protest.
Hundreds of thousands of people had signed the petition calling for an official investigation into the alleged torture and killing of gay men in the Russian territory.
Police detained the activists, four Russian and one Italian, on Thursday as they walked along Moscow’s Tverskaya Street holding mostly empty boxes with the words “Justice for the Chechen 100” written on them.
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Russian LGBT campaigners have rescued at least 40 people from Chechnya where a teenage boy was recently killed after being pushed off a 9th floor balcony by his uncle who believed he was gay. The Russian LGBT Network has organised an emergency evacuation of gay people eager to escape.
A hotline has been set up. A spokesman said:
‘Well, the first thing for us to do is, of course, to evacuate them from Chechnya, like, to other parts of Russia.
But we are also working to evacuate them, to relocate them to – out of Russia because for most of them it’s just deadly dangerous to stay in Russia because some of them are already hunted by their relatives outside of Chechnya.
They’re telling us that they are beaten. Sometimes some people are beaten to death. And also people are saying that they’re tortured with electric current, they are not fed properly and they don’t have any water.’
Over 40 gay men saved from Chechnya’s homophobic ‘purge’
Your Activist makes no apologies for returning to the tragedy of Chechnya’s gay community.
Dozens of men are now known to have fled from Chechnya in the past few months, forced out, by police or their families, because they are gay.
“Arthur”, who has fled Chechnya, told Sky News:
“The most difficult thing that could happen to a person is to be gay in Chechnya. You can be easily killed and no one would be punished – ever. Even your relatives would be happy.”
In December the police began to round up gay men and imprison them in an operation that was described by activists and human rights groups as an “anti-gay purge”. The regional police chief turned up with some of his men at Arthur’s home but he was out at the time.
“I was saved by just a few minutes. But the policemen called (my telephone) and told me to come back to the house. My relatives also asked me to come back to the house. (The police chief) said I should stand in front of him because I have betrayed him personally, because I am gay, a gay Chechen. I think he also wanted to get information from me about other friends. I understood the situation very well. I didn’t come back.”
That’s when Arthur fled. The officer in charge threatened to take away one of his family members until he returned, but Arthur fled for his life.
Dozens of men have fled from Chechnya in the past few months, including Maxim who told Sky News that he was electrocuted and beaten over the course of two weeks in a Chechen prison.
Prison officers gave metal bars to inmates in his crowded cell and singled out other prisoners for beatings, adding that upon his release, the police told his family that he was gay. Maxim said his relatives did not believe the police – but Arthur says “My relatives are trying to find me, so they can avenge the family’s honour.”
This must stop.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to help protect gay rights at her first visit to Russia since 2015. She held talks with Mr Putin at his summer residence in Sochi.
At a joint news conference, Mrs Merkel said she had received “negative reports on the way that homosexuals are dealt with, particularly in Chechnya. … I asked President Putin to use his influence to ease the way that homosexuals… are dealt with in the country.”