Thursday, 9 February 2017

European Court of Human Rights upholds complaints against Russia by gay activists

On 7 February 2017 the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in Lashmankin and Others v Russia. The case was brought by 23 applicants from different parts of Russia who alleged that local authorities had imposed severe restrictions on peaceful assemblies planned by them, without any proper justification.

Five of the applicants are gay rights activists and their complaints related to refusals to allow them to hold the following events: two different pickets to protest about electoral violations and discrimination against certain groups; and two gay pride events in 2010 and 2011. In respect of the latter event, the applicants, despite obstruction by public authorities, participated in a gay pride event and were arrested and charged with the administrative offence of breaching the established procedure for the conduct of public events.

In considering the applicants' complaint that "the domestic law conferred an unduly wide discretion on the executive authorities to propose a change of the location, time or manner of conduct of public events which was not restricted by the requirements of proportionality or necessity in a democratic society or by effective judicial control" (§ 416), the Court noted the "clear risk of arbitrariness in the grant of such broad and uncircumscribed discretion to the executive authorities" (§ 429). The Court stated:
Indeed, the present case shows that the above powers are often used in an arbitrary and discriminatory way. It provides ample examples of situations where opposition groups, human rights defenders or gay rights activists were not allowed to assemble at a central location and were required to go to the outskirts of town on the ground that they might hinder traffic, interfere with the everyday life of citizens, or present a security risk, and were dispersed and arrested if they refused to comply, while pro‑government public events were allowed to take place at the same location, traffic, everyday-life disturbances and security risks notwithstanding. The most telling example is the case of gay rights activists who proposed ten different locations in the town centre, all of which were rejected by the town authorities on various grounds, while an anti-gay public event was approved to take place at one of those same locations on the same day ... (§ 429).
The Court concluded that the treatment of these applicants amounted to a violation of Articles 11 and 13 of the Convention.


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