RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Shameful anti-LGBT bill must be voted down!

Urgent Appeal
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The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), calls for the Russian Duma to vote down Draft Federal Law n°44554-6, which is scheduled to be examined in first reading on December 19, 2012.

Under the pretext of protecting the rights of minors, the Draft Federal Law n°44554-6 risks to sanction de facto public demonstrations and gatherings of human rights defenders advocating for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT).

If adopted, this text would indeed amend the Russian Code of Administrative Law Violations and make the promotion of homosexuality among minors an administrative offence under federal law.

Accordingly, organisations or individuals defending the rights of LGBT or showing their belonging to sexual minorities could be condemned, and fined to up to 500,000 rubles (about 12,500 euros). Since the concept of “promotion of homosexuality” is not defined in the bill, this would open the door to abusive interpretations, with the aim to stifle the legitimate activities of LGBT groups in favour of fundamental freedoms.

The examination of the bill takes place in a context in which over the past years LGBT groups in the Russian Federation have increasingly been harassed – legally, judicially, verbally and physically.

At the legal level, on February 29, 2012, a bill prohibiting public activities “promoting homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors” was approved in third reading by the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg. It came into force shortly after. The prohibition of so-called “promotion of homosexuality” is already in force in a number of other regions such as Ryazan region since 2006, as well as Arkhangelsk and Kostroma regions since 2011.

At the judicial level, a number of LGBT activists have been facing abusive charges for promoting activities defending the rights of LGBT persons: in Saint Petersburg, shortly before the passage of the local law, on February 8, 2012, six LGBT activists were arrested during a protest before the Legislative Assembly, as they were calling for LGBT rights. Five of them were then abusively charged under the Administrative Code. On May 4, 2012, the Zentralnyi District Municipal Court of Saint Petersburg sentenced Mr. Nikolai Alexeyev, a prominent LGBT rights activist, lawyer and head of the LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru, to a 5,000 rubles fine (approximately 127 euros) under charges of “promoting homosexual propaganda” under the recently enacted legislation. Mr. Alexeyev had been arrested on April 12, 2012 while picketing alone in front of the Smolny Institute holding a sign which affirmed that “homosexuality is not a perversion”. He was then shortly detained by the authorities before being released.

At the verbal level, a number of public figures have taken hostile stances against LGBT activities. In February 2012, the President of the Legislative Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, Mr. Vitaly Milonov, compared homosexuality with drug-trafficking and paedophilia. Most recently, an article published in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper alleged that people of “non traditional sexual orientation” were exploiting the government to impose their unusual lifestyles upon other people, and suggested that States should have the right to act as a censor in the private domain.

Such slandering statements by officials fuel the level of homophobia within the Russian population, and lead to increasing acts of intimidation against LGBT persons and activists, notably from extremist groups.

“I firmly denounce this shameful draft legislation, and I call for its immediate withdrawal, as well as for the immediate abrogation of similar legislations which are already in force at the regional level” FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today. “If adopted, such a text would further consolidate the repressive legislative arsenal, dramatically strengthened over the past months to further strike down all human rights activities in the country. This is unacceptable” she added.

“This law runs directly counter a ruling by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in October of this year (Fedotova vs Russia) that held Russia in violation of human rights by penalising a picket for homosexuals. Rather than promoting tolerance and complying with the decision as one should have expected this piece entrenches discrimination and violations of freedom of speech and assembly”, said Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

The Observatory calls on the Russian authorities to fully conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and in particular with Articles 6 (b), 6 (c), and 12.2.

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