European Court of Human Rights Rules in Favor of Gay Activists Over Banned Moscow Pride Parade Complaints

Nikolai Alekseev and other gay rights activists are celebrating over a ruling handed down todayby the European Court of Human Rights, to which they brought complaints over the banning of several Gay Pride parades by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Alexeyev The court ruled that Russia had violated three articles dealing with freedom of assembly and association, right to an effective remedy, and prohibition of discrimination in banning the parades. It ordered a payment of "12,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 17,510 for costs and expenses" to Alekseev.

The ruling said, in part, that "the main reason for the bans on the gay marches had been the authorities’ disapproval of demonstrations which, they considered, promoted homosexuality. In particular, the Court could not disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the Moscow mayor and the undeniable link between those statements and the bans. Consequently, the Court found that, as the Government had not justified their bans in a way compatible with the Convention requirements, Mr Alekseyev had suffered discrimination because of his sexual orientation."

Said Gay Pride organizers in a press release:

Pride1 "Today, for the first time, the European Court of Human Rights gave a decision against Russia in the case of the Moscow Pride ban. This is also the decision against Russia on a gay rights case. The case has a significant importance for Russia. The European Court decision is considered obligatory for Russia… The case lost today by Russia concerns the combination of the bans of Moscow Gay Pride in 2006, 2007 and 2008 as well as 164 LGBT public demonstrations. It evidences that the breach of the right to freedom of assembly of LGBT people in Russia is systematic. Moscow Pride is an annual campaign of 'GayRussia' which became a platform allowing to promote over the years campaigns on freedom of expression, Same-sex marriage or MSM blood ban.The lift of the MSM blood ban obtained in 2008 by GayRussia remains to date the only discrimination removed in Russia since the decriminalization of mal same sex relations in 1993.  The members of GayRussia have 16 complaints against Russia still pending at the European Court on issues such as Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association, Same-Sex unions, Hate speech, Discrimination in education."

Luzhkov Said Alekseev: "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. This decision is the first judicial blow for former Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov who declared on several occasions that gay pride organizers and participants are satanic, weapons of mass destruction and faggots. This decision is the first to recognize that the Russian law on freedom of assembly contradicts with the European Convention. It is a gift to all democrats and human rights activists in Russia. It is a gift of the LGBT community to some groups who still have difficulties to stand up for equal rights of LGBT people."

Alekseev added:  “We declare October 21, the Russian LGBT Liberation Day and we will celebrate it every year from now on with public demonstrations. Today, we demanded the EU representative in Moscow to impose a visa ban to all the Russian judges who breached the law and confirmed the bans of Moscow Prides. Today, we asked the General Prosecutor to initiate criminal prosecution against former Moscow Mayor for using his official capacity to prevent public event which is a breach of article 149 of criminal code. Ironically, today, Moscow’s local Parliament put a final dot on the Luzhkov era by appointing a new Mayor. We hope Mr. Sobyanin will take note of the European Court’s decision and authorize sixth Moscow Pride in May 2011. I want to personally extend my deepest gratitude and respect to all my team of fellow activists in Russia who stood next to me during the last five years in the good and hard times. These people are my heroes."

You may recall that Alekseev was recently abducted at the Moscow airport by captors thought to be Russia's secret police who demanded that he withdraw the complaints with the European Court of Human Rights over the Gay Pride parades. Alekseev described his harrowing kidnapping here

Read the European Court of Human Rights judgment, here:

Chamber Judgment Alekseyev v Russia 21 10 10