The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has given Russia until January 20 to answer the cases of the bans of the Moscow Pride marches and pickets in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Those cases are represented before the ECtHR by Russian ECSOL-member, Dmitri Bartenev.
“We hope to have a decision before the fifth Moscow Pride scheduled for May 29, 2010” said a delighted Nikolai Alekseev, chief organiser of Moscow Pride and plaintiff in the case, Alekseyev v. Russia.
Mr Alekseev was arrested while attempting to march at Moscow Prides 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Over the past few years, Moscow Pride became a recurring hurdle bouncing back regularly ‘on the table’ of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, either by several questions from Jean Huss, a Member of the Parliamentary Assembly, or private individuals.
In March this year, 22 Members of the European Parliament leaded by Jeanine Hennis and Sophie In’t Veld sent a collective letter to the Committee asking which measures it plans to take to ensure that Russia stops the systematic breach of the right to freedom of assembly for the Russian LGBT community.
Last February, gay activists held a picket in Strasbourg demanding the Court prioritised the case, but in March, the European Court said it would not speed-up the process.
Since 2006, the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, imposed a ban on any form of public demonstration by the LGBT community. He further called homosexuals responsible for spreading HIV and considered gay prides “satanic gatherings”.
The anti-gay policy of the Moscow City was followed by other officials in different regions of Russia. Applications to host public actions by sexual minorities were successively turned down in Tambov and Ryzan. These cases are to be considered by the European Court at a later stage.
Russian Courts, up to the Supreme Court, always upheld the bans, rejecting the precedent made by the European Court over the Warsaw Pride ban in 2005.
In a decision given last month on the ban on the Moscow Pride 2009, a Judge considered that the precedent of the European Court in the case of “Bączkowski and others vs Poland” does not say that the safety of the participants should not be taken into consideration.
“This case is not about one gay pride ban,” Mr. Alekseev pointed out this afternoon. “This case is about a systematic denial of freedom of assembly for LGBT people in Russia since 2006. We are looking here at 163 banned events.
“But [the case] goes beyond the LGBT borders and will help all human rights defenders and political groups as it will force Russia to change its law on demonstration and public events which is not applicable in its current form,” he suggested.
The move of the European Court comes after the UN Human Rights Committee opened a case last April over the ban of a picket in support of gay rights near the Embassy of Iran in Moscow.
The UN Human Rights Committee is expected to give a decision early next year.
“We have already received the position of Russia on our complaint to the UN,” Mr. Alekseev said.
“Within a few months, we should get a decision of the European Court and the United Nations over freedom of assembly for the LGBT community in Russia”.
“Justice always comes, it’s only a matter of time,” he concluded.