by Rex Wockner
On the last possible day, the Russian government on Jan. 22 appealed a European Court of Human Rights ruling from last October that struck down Moscow’s yearly bans of public gay pride events.
The government asked the court’s Grand Chamber to reconsider the ruling that had been made by a smaller group of the court’s judges.
Plaintiff Nikolai Alekseev, founder of Moscow Pride, predicted the Grand Chamber would deny the request for a rehearing within two to three months, “which means the verdict will come into force before the sixth Moscow Pride on May 28,” he said.
In its decision, the court said that former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s routine bans of gay pride violated guarantees of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.
The court ordered payment to Alekseev of 12,000 euros ($16,313) in damages and 17,510 euros in costs and expenses.
The judges rejected Moscow’s excuses for the bans, which included the alleged need to protect public order, health, morals and the rights and freedoms of others – as well as the desire to prevent riots.
In reality, Luzhkov had vowed to never allow a gay pride parade in Moscow no matter what. He called gay parades “satanic” and “weapons of mass destruction,” and called gay people “gomiki” (“faggots”).
“(T)he main reason for the bans on the gay marches had been the authorities’ disapproval of demonstrations which, they considered, promoted homosexuality,” the court’s registrar said in a summary of the ruling. “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.”
At the time, Alekseev said: “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 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.”
Small groups of LGBT activists defied Luzhkov’s bans each of the past five years, provoking him to send riot police to arrest and sometimes beat them. The gatherings also were routinely attacked by anti-gay hooligans.