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03.4. 2011

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Special Rapporteur of PACE Russia:
«It Is Impossible to Ban a Gay Pride»

Moscow Gay Pride is scheduled to be held this year on Saturday May 28

MOSCOW, April 3, 2011 (GayRussia) – The Special Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to Russia, Swiss MP Andreas Gross, has said that Russia has no right to ban Gay Prides.

Mr. Gross, said that in interviews last week that Russia must comply with the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe. The ECHR has already ruled the bans on Moscow Gay Pride were contrary to the European Human Rights Convention which Russia has signed. But Russia has asked that the Grand Chamber of the human rights court look again at the ruling – effectively an appeal. «It is impossible to ban a gay pride parade,» Gross told Radio Liberty. «Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. And the [European Court of Human Rights] protects these basic human rights. «The State can not decide whether these rights are implemented or not. The state’s task is to ensure the implementation of these rights.»

Mr. Gross also criticized the statement by the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin, that gay parades do not need Moscow. «I am very disappointed that the new mayor inherits the policy on Gay Pride parades which was held by the previous mayor. Yuri Luzhkov had his flaws – he was not a democratic mayor and has been associated with corruption. I really do not understand why the new mayor is so against gay pride parades,» he said.

«First of all, we must remember that Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, therefore, it adopted its basic principles. If a citizen feels that his rights have been violated, he may go to court. If the court agreed, then Russia should fulfill the court order. These are the rules. The Court finds that people have the right to assembly so it is protected by the convention. Russia signed the Convention,» he pointed out. «If Russia wants to remain a member of the Council of Europe, it needs to take-on those values on which it is based. European culture is based on values rather than money or military principles.»

Mr. Gross, in an interview with Ekho Moskvy, also drew attention to the fact that the Russian authorities should ensure the safety of gays and lesbians who openly express their opinions. «The Committee of Ministers made clear that the government’s duty is to protect people when they want to say that some of their rights are not respected. If there is another group that wants to hold an alternative demonstration and say they are against homosexuals, then they, too, should have the right to express their opinions. In this case, the police must work to avoid any direct confrontations between the two groups,» he told the newspaper.

Mr. Gross said that homosexuals in Russia should have the right to freedom of assembly and association. «I think these two examples – the right to organise and the right to a free demonstration, the right to go out and hold demonstrations and peaceful protests – are very important because those two rights makes it possible to communicate to society, people in the community to discuss any problems together,» he said.

«And if there is no arena for free discussion, society begins to cultivate stereotypes, prejudices, and some bad feelings. Most problems occur from the fact that society is very poorly informed. For example, very few people know about the problems of transgender people,» he concluded.


Russian gays face political discrimination

MOSCOW, March 31 (UPI) -- A senior European lawmaker says gays and lesbians in Russia face the same kind of pressure as the political opposition.

Andreas Gross was in Moscow to participate in a round table on homophobia held Wednesday as part of a public campaign to improve the rights of sexual minorities such as gays and lesbians, The Moscow Times reported. «The respect is not there when it comes to non-mainstream political organizations and non-mainstream sexual orientation,» Gross told the round table.

Gross's committee is drafting a Russian report on human rights with the state Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament. The report will be presented to the Council of Europe, although no date was given. Russia has been criticized for its human rights violations, especially with regard to gays. Former Mayor Yury Luzhkov called homosexuals «satanic» and his successor, Sergei Sobyanian, upheld Luzhkov's ban on gay parades. «In short, we won't have any gay pride rallies,» Sobyanian said. «Moscow doesn't need them.» Six of Russia's registered political parties, including the ruling United Russia, refused to participate in the round table.


Russia Faces Rebuke on Gay Rights

By Alexander Bratersky

The Council of Europe may pressure Russia on gay rights, including Moscow City Hall's ban on gay pride parades, a senior European lawmaker said Wednesday. Russian sexual minorities see the same kind of pressure as the country's political opposition, which is a violation of basic human rights, Andreas Gross, a member of the human rights committee with the council's Parliamentary Assembly, told The Moscow Times.

Gross was visiting Moscow to participate in a round table on homophobia, held Wednesday as part of a public campaign for sexual minority rights staged by gay activists this week. «The respect is not there when it comes to non-mainstream political organizations and non-mainstream sexual orientation,» Gross told the round table. His committee is drafting a Russia report on human rights, including gay rights, together with the State Duma. The report will be presented to the Council of Europe, though Gross did not specify a date.

Gross' main complaint was with the ban on gay pride parades. Activists have campaigned for years to hold the parades in Moscow, but long-serving Mayor Yury Luzhkov spoke against it, calling homosexuals «satanic.» Sergei Sobyanin, who replaced him as mayor last fall, has upheld the ban, saying in February: «In short, we won't have any gay pride rallies. Moscow doesn't need them.»

The authorities' opposition to parades represents the tip of the problem, because many hate crimes against gays and lesbians go unreported by victims afraid to attract attention, said Igor Kochetkov, head of the Russian Lesbian and Gay League. He could not provide crime estimates.

Gross, speaking to The Moscow Times on the sidelines of the round table, did not elaborate on the possible consequences of his report. But a Moscow-based UN diplomat said political discrimination against sexual minorities has harmed Russia's image for years — a problem that even Russian officials admit in private conversations. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. But pushing for gay rights might have domestic repercussions because many people remain hostile toward sexual minorities and are likely to disapprove of any political effort to support them.

Even the liberal Yabloko party is divided on whether to collaborate with gay activists, said Galina Mikhailova, a senior party member who attended Wednesday's round table. «It is a very difficult topic that can only be resolved in a democratic country, not in an authoritarian one like ours,» she said. In a tacit confirmation of her words, the country's six other registered political parties, including the ruling United Russia, declined to participate in the round table.

Male homosexuality was a criminal offense in the Soviet Union, but the clause was canceled by Russia, which after joining the Council of Europe in 1996 signed the European Convention of Human Rights that holds it responsible for protecting the rights of sexual minorities. Still, homophobia runs deep in society, with Tambov Governor Oleg Betin even saying publicly in 2008 that gays «should be torn apart and their pieces thrown to the wind.» Gay activists unsuccessfully sued him over the statement. Kochetkov said Wednesday that Betin's call, if taken literally, would result in the slaughter of 4 percent of the population. He was referring to a nationwide Levada poll on sexual orientation conducted last year. «That means each of us could potentially be killed,» Kochetkov said.

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