Russia fined for refusing to register LGBT groups

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered the government of Russia to pay 42,500 euros in damages to three LGBT rights groups for having refused their registration.

Between 2006 and 2011, the government denied applications for registration from Rainbow House, the Movement for Marriage Equality, and the Sochi Pride House.

It claimed that these organisations would “destroy the moral values of society” or “undermine [Russia’s] sovereignty and territorial integrity… by decreasing its population.”

The government also asserted in its rejection of the Movement for Marriage Equality’s application that LGBT rights activities are “gay propaganda” and amount to “extremist activities.”

In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships to minors. The so-called ‘gay propaganda’ law has been used to ban LGBTQ Pride events and demonstrations and to restrict the positive depiction of LGBTQ people in public, on television, in print and on the internet.

The court ruled that Russia’s actions had contravened the European Convention on Human Rights and discriminated against the groups and violated their right to freedom of assembly and association.

It found in particular that the decisive ground for refusing to register the organisations had been because they promoted LGBT rights. “That ground could not be reasonably or objectively justified and had, moreover, amounted to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,” said the judges.

Russia was ordered to pay a total of 42,500 euros in damages to the groups, a decision welcomed by Human Rights Watch.

“The European court’s new judgement, which found Russia responsible for discrimination and violation of freedom of association, is a cautionary reminder to the Russian government that the baseless and vitriolic gay propaganda law should be repealed,” commented Kyle Knight, Human Rights Watch Researcher, LGBT Rights Program.

An application by Russian activist Nikolay Alekseyev was, however, rejected by the court because of his reaction to a previous judgement. He posted threats and personal insults against the court’s judges on social media, including describing them as alcoholics, drug addicts, corrupt and degenerates. He also called for the court to be burned down.

“These statements clearly exceeded the limits of normal, civic and legitimate criticism. Despite the Court sending a warning letter specifically mentioning the present applications and the risk of an abuse of the right of petition, Mr Alekseyev had not withdrawn his statements,” said the court.

In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights also fined Russia for banning LGBT Pride events and marches. That same year, the court further ruled that the country’s gay propaganda law is a violation of human rights. None of these decisions has so far had any effect in changing Russian laws or policies towards LGBT people.

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