DEMAND FOR ACTION AFTER ATTACK ON GAY PARTY
Mon, 15 October 2012Human Rights Watch has demanded that the Russian authorities investigate last week's brutal attack of party-goers celebrating National Coming Out Day in Moscow.
Soon after 9 p.m. on Thursday October 11, between 15 and 20 black-clad men wearing surgical masks ran into the 7FreeDays Club, which was hosting the party organised by gay activists.
The attackers rampaged through the bar, throwing chairs and bottles at guests and staff, kicking people, and destroying property.
The attack took place several days after the People’s Council, a nationalist organisation, said publicly that homosexuality is “a grave sin” and that it would try to close down gay clubs.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that about 70 people were at the party when the attackers arrived. The witnesses said that the attackers had at least two guns, which may have been stun guns, and mace.
They rushed into the premises screaming, “You wanted a pogrom [a violent riot]? You wanted a fight? You got it!” and proceeded to destroy the club. They held the bartender at gunpoint, forced her face down on the floor, and started smashing the bar, breaking bottles and glasses over her head. They also smashed plates and glasses, overturned tables, and threw chairs and other objects directly at the guests.
The three witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that most injuries were caused by flying furniture and other objects. The attackers, who wore heavy boots, also kicked people, some in the head. One young woman’s eyeglasses were broken by a flying object, and shreds of glass got into her eye. The ambulance workers, who arrived at the club shortly after the attack, provided medical assistance to several people and took two people with head injuries to the hospital.
An ambulance worker at the scene told a correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that four people had head injuries and that two of them had to be hospitalized. Several others had bruises and other minor injuries.
The incident occurred amid a legislative trend in which many Russian regions are passing laws to ban “homosexual propaganda”, said Human Rights Watch.
“Russia’s leadership has stood by as regions have adopted blatantly homophobic laws,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These laws cannot but encourage attacks like the one [on Thursday].”
An activist who was at the club during the attack told Human Rights Watch that although there is a police station close to the club, it took the police half an hour to arrive after they were called.
“The authorities need to send an unambiguous signal that homophobia will not be tolerated, and the first step should be to investigate and prosecute the attackers,” Williamson said. “The second step should be to annul the homophobic laws. They are discriminatory, they violate Russia’s international obligations, and they have no place in a society that upholds the rule of law.”
Russian gay rights leader Nikolai Alexeyev wrote on Gayrussia.eu that the attackers probably took action because they believe that they will not be prosecuted.
"The main reason for what happened is the feeling of complete impunity of the people who commit such crimes, which must be considered hate crimes — in this case, hate crimes against those who love others," said Alexeyev.
In September, Russia sponsored a resolution on “traditional values” at the United Nations Human Rights Council that threatens the rights of LGBT people and women in particular. It passed on September 27. The resolution contravenes the central principles of the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch said.
“It’s bad enough that the Russian government is not stopping discrimination against LGBT people in Russia,” Williamson said. “It’s particularly disturbing that the government is essentially promoting a position that will be used to silence LGBT people and groups around the world. Russia should strengthen, not undo, protection for universal rights.”