Find Solution for Gay Pride in Moscow, Euro MPs Insist

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European parliamentarians urge Russia to find compromise with Pride organisers

A group of MEPs have sent a letter to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe raising the issue of the systematic bans of public events organised by gays in Russia.

In the letter to the Spanish Ambassador Ms. Marta Vilardell Coma (Spain currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe), 22 MEPs stress that “since May 2006, the Russian Federation officials have banned 167 public events planned by the local LGBT community in Moscow and other cities across the country.

“Several Members of the European Parliament were present during attempts to stage marches in support of freedom and rights for sexual minorities in May 2006 and May 2007, marches which lead to the beating of LGBT activists in the streets of Moscow.

“In May 2007, those Members were prevented from delivering a letter to the Moscow City hall,” the letter points out.

The signatories of the letter emphasised that “seven cases are already pending at the European Court of Human Rights on this specific issue. The oldest case was received by the Court in February 2007. The next Moscow Pride is planned to take place in Moscow on May 16th, the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final.”

The MEPs are asking the Committee of Ministers what action it plans to take to ensure that the Russian Federation stops the systematic breach of the right to freedom of assembly for the Russian LGBT community.

And they are also asking the Committee to urge the Russian Federation to accept a dialogue with the organisers of Moscow Pride in order to ensure that they can conduct their event in accordance with both the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the European Convention.

The letter to the Committee of Ministers is signed by MEPs Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Netherlands), Sophie In’t Veld (Netherlands), Graham Watson (United Kingdom), Marco Cappato (Italy), Alexander Alvaro (Germany), Chris Davies (United Kingdom), Johannes Lebech (Denmark), Maria Robsahm (Sweden), Ignasi Guardans (Spain), Jules Maaten (Netherlands), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (France), Kathalijne Buitenweg (Netherlands), Satu Hassi (Finland), Milan Horacek (Germany), Raul Romeva (Spain), Anne van Lancker (Belgium), Lissy Grôner (Germany), Marie-Arlette Carlotti (France), Glenys Kinnock (United Kingdom), Martine Roure (France), Britta Thomsen (Denmark), Sirpa Pietikainen (Finland).

The MEPs from ten countries suggested in their letter that “the Russian Federation which is a member state of the Council of Europe ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Articles 11 and 14 of the Convention declare the right to freedom of assembly without discrimination on any grounds”.

The letter is the result of discussions between Russian and Belarus gay activists and organisers of Slavic Gay Pride with European politicians at the European Parliaments in Brussels last month.

Speaking from Moscow this morning, Nikolai Alekseev, one of the Slavic Pride organisers, expressed his gratitude to the MEPs who signed the letter to the Committee of Ministers.

He especially thanked the MEP from the Netherlands, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who coordinated the initiative within the Parliament.

Among the signatories are two MEPs who took part in the events of Moscow Gay Prides – Sophie In’t Veld from the Netherlands, who came to Moscow in May 2006 and May 2007, as well as Marco Cappato from Italy, who attended Moscow Pride in May 2007.

Another official question concerning the breaches of the right to freedom of assembly by sexual minorities in Russia was sent to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe by the member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from Luxembourg Jean Huss in February.

In February organisers of Moscow Pride asked the European Court of Human Rights to give priority treatment to their applications concerning the bans of Pride events in 2006 and 2007.

Moscow authorities ban any public events of gays and lesbians, including Moscow Prides, for three years. Complaints concerning all three bans of Moscow Pride events are currently pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the head of Moscow police Vladimir Pronin have already said that this year they will not allow the Pride events for the forth consecutive year.

The Moscow Slavic Gay Pride will take place regardless the decision of the authorities on May 16, the same day as the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest, which will be beamed live throughout the world from Moscow.

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