Nikolai Alekseev

The European Court of Human Rights has slammed the Moscow authorities for repeatedly denying activists the right to hold gay pride marches.

The court, which finally ruled on the matter on Thursday, said the ban violated the right to freedom of assembly. It also ruled that the city had unlawfully discriminated against activist Nikolai Alekseev and the organisers of gay pride events on the basis of sexual orientation.

“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.”

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.”

The case was brought to the court by Alekseev, after he and other organisers were denied permission in 2006, 2007, and 2008, by the-then Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov, from holding Pride events. Russian courts upheld the mayor’s decisions.

Luzhkov, who was recently fired from his post, publicly described Pride parades as being “satanic”.

“This decision is a major victory for us because no judge, no lawyer and no politician will any longer be able to tell us that the bans of our events were lawful,” Alekseev told UK Gay News.

The ruling came on the same day as Sergei Sobyanin, described as a “faceless bureaucrat,” officially became the city’s new mayor.

“We hope Mr. Sobyanin will take note of the European Court’s decision and authorise the sixth Moscow Pride in May 2011,” said Alekseev.

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