Gay Rights in Russia - Alekseyev v Russia update

Today, at the first of its quarterly meetings to supervise the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (1164DH meeting), the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will consider compliance by the Russian Federation with the Court's judgment in Alekseyev v Russia

In Alekseyev v Russia, delivered in October 2010, the First Section of the Court held that the repeated refusal to allow the applicant a permit to hold a 'gay rights' parade violated his rights under Articles 11, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgment represents the most significant statement on the rights of sexual minorities to freedom of assembly under Article 11 of the Convention. 

Previous consideration of Alekseyev by the Committee of Ministers

At its meeting in June 2011 the Committee of Ministers placed the judgment under 'enhanced supervision' and has since twice considered the Russian government's response to the individual and general measures required by the Court. The Committee of Ministers did not accept that the Russian Government's response, originally outlined in its submission of 13th October 2010, satisfactorily complied with the judgment.

At its 6th June 2012 meeting the Committee of Ministers:

  • "noted [...] with concern that since the Court’s judgment, the applicant was not able to organise the Gay Pride marches in Moscow and invited the Russian authorities to provide detailed information on the reasons thereof;
  • expressed concerns with regard to different laws on prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality to minors adopted in different regions of the Russian Federation and invited the Russian authorities to clarify how these laws could be compatible with the Court’s conclusions made in the present judgment."

At its 26th September 2012 meeting the Committee of Ministers:

  • "took note of the information and statistics provided by the Russian authorities according to which out of the total number of notifications submitted in respect of events similar to those envisaged by the applicant, only a very limited number of such events could effectively take place;
  • noted in this respect that in the vast majority of cases, the competent authorities, in particular in Moscow, refused to agree the time and place for such events, and that the information provided does not allow the Committee to satisfy itself that these decisions were based on a thorough and objective assessment of the situation as required by the Court’s judgment;
  • reiterated in this context their concerns as regards the use of regional laws prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality among minors to refuse events similar to those concerned by the judgment;
  • observed that this situation calls for further general measures, in particular those regarding the training and awareness raising of the authorities responsible for handling the notifications for holding public events, and invited the Russian authorities to submit a comprehensive action plan in this respect;
  • observed further that the domestic remedy referred to by the Russian authorities may not provide adequate redress in all circumstances as required by the Convention and consequently invited the Russian authorities to adopt the necessary measures, through legislative action if need be."

What the Committee of Ministers will consider at its meeting starting today

The Committee of Ministers will continue its consideration of two inter-related issues in respect of the Alekseyev judgment: the continuing denial of permits to hold gay rights marches in Russia, and the proliferation of law prohibiting 'homosexual propaganda' to minors. 

In respect of the propaganda laws, nine regions of the Russian Federation have now passed laws that provide for the regulation of 'propaganda of homosexuality among minors'. The State Duma passed a federal version of the law at First Reading in January 2013.

The Russian Federation has submitted an updated action plan for consideration by the Committee of Ministers. In this plan, the Russian government submit that:

  • "where organizers of public events in question agreed their actions with the authories, trying to act within the framework of the lawful procedures as well as to comply with the rights and interests of other persons, such events were actually held, including Moscow."
  • "the implementation of the Laws against propaganda of homosexuality among minors demonstrates the clear and unequivocal character of the said laws' provisions as well as the well-balanced approach used by the authorities while applying these provisions. The existing cases of bringing to administrative responsibility or refusals to agree the time and venue for holding public events, based on the prohibition of homosexual propaganda among minors, bear a sporadic character and do not demonstrate any inappropriate limitation of citizens' freedom of assemble and association."

Three NGOs have submitted documentation which contest the government's claims that gay rights marches are able to take place in Russia and that propaganda laws do not interfere with Convention rights of assembly and association:

I will report on the outcome of the Committee of Ministers deliberations in due course.

My analysis of Alekseyev v Russia can be found in Human Rights Law Review or on the website of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights: 

And my comment on Russia's 'homosexual propaganda' laws can be found in Jurist