No parades for you

Yes I’m all over Russia like a bad rash today. This business of calling for people to be burned alive gets on my nerves.

Human Rights Watch reported on the ECHR’s ruling in October 2010.

In a stinging ruling issued against Russia, the European Court of Human Rights rebuked the Moscow authorities for repeatedly denying activists the right to hold gay pride marches, Human Rights Watch said today. The court, ruling on October 21, 2010, said the ban violated the right to freedom of assembly. It also ruled that the Moscow authorities had unlawfully discriminated against activist Nikolay Aleksandrovich Alekseyev and the organizers of gay pride events on the basis of sexual orientation, and had denied them a remedy having violated their rights.

And yet, oh look, more than three years later they’re behaving worse instead of better.

Alexeyev, a Russian LGBT activist, had requested permission, as required by law, from the-then Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov to hold a peaceful demonstration to draw attention to discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia, to promote respect for human rights and freedoms, and to call for tolerance on the part of the Russian authorities and the public at large towards gays and lesbians. He requested permission to demonstrate three years in a row, in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Each time the Moscow authorities denied permission on the grounds of public order, prevention of riots, protection of health and morals, and rights and freedoms of others.

Luzhkov repeatedly stated that he would not allow gay activists to hold public events in the streets of Moscow “as long as he was the city mayor.” He claimed that authorizing gay parades would breach the rights of those people whose religious and moral beliefs included a negative attitude towards homosexuality.

Ah yes that one again. It’s what the US Catholic bishops claim about employers having to provide health insurance that includes (gasp) contraception. It’s what B&B owners claim when they want to refuse to rent rooms to gay couples. It’s what theocratic bigots do these days: they wrap their bigotry in the kryptonite of “religious beliefs” in order to violate other people’s rights.

The court reiterated that it would be incompatible with the underlying values of the European Convention if the exercise of rights like the freedom of assembly by a minority group were made conditional on its being accepted by the majority: “Were this so, a minority group’s rights to freedom of religion, expression and assembly would become merely theoretical rather than practical and effective as required by the Convention.”

Rather than banning demonstrations on the basis of their potential to threaten public order and cause riots, the authorities should be fulfilling their duty to ensure that police protect peaceful demonstrators when they are exercising their freedom of assembly, Human Rights Watch said.

The court reminded the Russian government that demonstrators “must be able to hold the demonstration without having to fear that they will be subjected to physical violence by their opponents. It is thus the duty of …[s]tates to take reasonable and appropriate measures to enable lawful demonstrations to proceed peacefully.”

See how that works? Not “you can’t have a march because if you did thugs would beat you up” but “it is our job to make sure thugs don’t beat you up.” The latter is civil society; the former is a failed state.

HRW has been there.

On May 27, 2007 Human Rights Watch was present in Moscow, when Alekseyev and a small group of LGBT activists and their supporters tried to stage a peaceful public demonstration to claim their rights. Anti-gay nationalist groups assaulted them, beating some severely, pelting others with rocks and eggs. Police sided with the violent rather than the victims, failing to protect the peaceful demonstrators. Human Rights Watch documented this in “‘We have the Upper Hand’: Freedom of assembly in Russia and the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” a 20 page report, co-authored by ILGA Europe.

It appears that this battle may take some time.


  1. RJW says

    “Stinging ruling”, really? I doubt that the Russian oligarchy will take the huffing and puffing of the ECHR seriously, or even notice.—-‘Europe Warns the Tsar!’.

    What happened to post-Soviet ‘liberal democratic Russia’?

  2. says

    No protections for gays in the years leading up to the Sochi olympics, then pretend “openness” about human rights for them in the lead up to the games. And at the same time, extremists in the Russian christian church openly call for the murder of gay people.

    I get people tell me I’m exaggerating or going Godwin when I compare Putin and Russia now with Hitler and Nazi Germany in 1936. So far, the type of language and actions against people by both countries are identical.

  3. rq says

    What I’m rather afraid of is for these horrible views to spill over the border into some of the formerly Soviet eastern European countries. Russian political (oligarchic and religious) influence is still fairly strong through the efforts of local pro-Russian groups, and ideas like this just may get enough traction to become more mainstream here, too. And that isn’t a pleasant idea at all. 🙁

    It’s hard to be liberal and democratic when the people in power are the same ones running the secret police back in the day.

  4. RJW says


    Yes, I remember at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, rather naive predictions by neo-liberal commentators of a democratic future for Russia, which is a country and society with no democratic traditions whatsoever. Similar observations could apply to the so-called “Arab Spring.”

  5. MFHeadcase says

    But Russia IS democratic, in the sense of 6 wolves and 5 sheep voting on what to have for dinner tonight.

    I think you can guess the demographics of tomorrow night’s dinner vote.

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