Russian Government Supports Freedom of Assembly for GaysGay Russia, UK Gay News - 9 Feb 07
In a remarkable statement on the banning of Moscow Gay Pride last year, the Russian government has strongly supported the right of sexual minorities to freedom of assembly.
The statement was made by the Russian Federation in its role as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, a position it held from August 2006 to January 2007.
While acknowledging that the Moscow gay pride demonstration was banned, and that a case is pending before the courts, it underlined that:
People belonging to sexual minorities enjoy the same right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly as any other individual
Not only can peaceful demonstrations in favour of sexual minority rights simply not be banned, but the police has a duty to protect such manifestations when they take place
A general ban of a peaceful demonstration can only be justified if there is a real danger of disorder which cannot be prevented by reasonable and appropriate measures
"The strength of the statement, coming with the agreement of the 46 member states, is important for many countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, where LGBT freedom of assembly has been challenged on many occasions," commented Patricia Prendiville, executive director of ILGA-Europe, speaking from Brussels.
And Maxim Anmeghichean, ILGA programmes director, pointed out that, because of their chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, the Russian government had little alternative but to make a positive statement, even if that meant effectively condemning the actions of the Mayor of Moscow.
"What really matters is whether they take concrete actions, ensuring freedom of assembly, responding to acts of violence, and promoting awareness of the rights of the LGBT community," he said.