Analytics and Interview

On 16 January 2015 late in the evening the website of the Ministry of Justice published a statement that the NGO Committee Against Torture had been added to the register of non-profit organizations designated as ‘foreign agents’.
Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch and Honorary Participant of International Youth Human Rights Movement: As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it. Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.
Earlier this year, the correspondent of Youth Human Rights Movement from Germany Jakob Stürmann interviewed Konstantin Baranov, member of the Coordination Council of the International Youth Human Rights Movement. They discussed so called “law against homosexual propaganda” and the overall situation of LGBT in Russia.  

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Oleg Sentsov, Olexander Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasiev and Oleksiy Chyrniy have been held in Russian jails for two years already under fabricated charges of ‘terrorism’. We consider it being necessary to express solidarity with those who are persecuted due to their pro-Ukrainian views, civic stand and desire for freedom in Russia-annexed Crimea.
Helsinki Committee of Armenia has published “Human Rights in Armenia 2014” Annual Report. The report reflects on the Right to Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Political Persecutions, Freedom of Conscience and Religion, The Rights of the Child, Protection of Labor Rights.
«We have a few questions for you,» a border guard told Sinaver Kadyrov, a Crimean Tatar activist, at the Armyansk checkpoint in northern Crimea on Jan. 23. Kadyrov was on his way to Kherson, in southern Ukraine, to fly to Turkey for medical treatment. It was the beginning of an ordeal that ended with a local court expelling him from Crimea, his home of almost 25 years.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority It is time to sit back and reflect.

Mark Twain


Youth Human Rights Movement

Russia: Reject Homophobic Bill

Vicious attacks on gay rights protesters in Russia in recent days underscores the need for the Russian Duma to reject a draft law on “propaganda for homosexuality." Russian authorities should thoroughly investigate the violence and new threats and hold accountable those responsible.

On January 25, 2013, the Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, voted in the first reading in favor of draft provisions that would impose fines on individuals, government officials, and organizations that engage in “promoting” homosexuality to anyone under 18.

“The draft law contributes to an atmosphere that makes violence against LGBT protesters seem acceptable,” said Anna Kirey, a researcher with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) program at Human Rights Watch. “If adopted, the bill would violate the free expression rights of all Russians and discriminate against and further stigmatize Russia’s LGBT community.”

The bill led to protests before the Duma debate by LGBT rights supporters in at least six Russian cities and internationally. Assailants attacked protesters in several Russian cities, with the most severe attack in Voronezh, about 400 kilometers south of Moscow. Several nationalist groups published specific and explicit calls to attack LGBT activists protesting the bill.

On January 20, six activists protesting in Voronezh were attacked by a large mob. Alexei Kozlov, a prominent local activist who witnessed the violence, told Human Rights Watch that before the demonstration could even start, about 200 counter-protesters, some of them masked, gathered in concentric circles at the rally site to block the protest.

With the rally site blocked, the LGBT protesters gathered about 100 meters away. Kozlov told Human Rights Watch that the counter-protesters threw snowballs, plastic bottles filled with liquid, and cans of paint at the LGBT protesters, and shouted “Beat the faggots!”

Assailants threw Andrey Nasonov, one of the protest organizers, to the ground and kicked him until he lost consciousness, Kozlov said. They also attacked another young man, cutting his head, and several women, throwing one of them to the ground and kicking her.

Nasonov, 22, was hospitalized with a concussion and discharged that evening.

Law enforcement officers and municipal officials at the scene did not intervene to stop the assault on the LGBT protesters, Kozlov said.

According to various sources, the authorities detained between three and six people after the violence, all of whom were released the same day. The Investigation Committee, the state agency in charge of criminal investigations,opened a preliminary inquiry into the threats, violence, and interference with a public assembly, and the police inaction. The police department said that it opened a misdemeanor case against counter-protesters for violating the procedure for organizing public assemblies.

One of the protest organizers told Human Rights Watch that after putting an announcement about the demonstration on social media, the organizers started receiving death threats through social media platforms, with the authors stating specifically they would violently disrupt the rally. One of the threats read: “Blasphemous scum, we’ll come to kill you on Sunday!”

Three days before the protest, on January 17, the organizers filed a criminal complaint about the threats with the Investigation Committee and a statement with the police and the local authorities, calling on them to prevent violence at the protest.

“Opening an inquiry is a good step, but it’s only a beginning,” Kirey said. “There needs to be a thorough investigation and the authorities need to hold responsible the people who carried out the threats and violence.”
Instead of adopting a bill banning “homosexual propaganda” Duma members should publicly condemn homophobic violence, Human Rights Watch said.

Only one member of Russian parliament voted against the bill and one abstained, with 388 members voting for the bill. The Duma called for a working group to refine the definitions of “propaganda” and “homosexuality.”

The Duma postponed further discussion of the bill until May. If approved after three readings and signed by the president, it would become law.

The bill would amend Russia’s Code of Administrative Law Violations. Under the amendments, individuals found responsible for “propaganda for homosexuality among minors” would face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$160), and organizations would face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (US$16,000). Similar laws banning “homosexual propaganda” have been adopted in 10 Russian regions and are pending in another six. Russian activists report an increase in violence against LGBT people since these bills were introduced.

In its explanatory memorandum that accompanied the draft federal law, its sponsors justified the amendments as necessary “to ensure the intellectual, moral and mental protection of children.” However, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly affirmed that the desire to “protect” children from information about homosexuality is not justified by the principle of best interests of the child, and has found such measures to be discriminatory.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reiterated in 2003 that the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires “appropriate and timely information which ... enables them [children] to deal positively and responsibly with their sexuality in order to protect themselves from HIV infection.” The committee also urged countries to “refrain from censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting health-related information, including sexual education and information.”