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Court 'Defends Russia's Sovereignty' from Gays and Lesbians

Source: (info), 01/03/11

· The Courts · Sexual minorities · Tyumen Region

The Central District Court of the city of Tyumen has refused to protect the right to freedom of association of the LGBT minority in Tyumen. It was the second attempt by Rainbow House, a Tyumen NGO, to apply to the Ministry of Justice to be registered. The NGO's primary goal according to its statutes is to defend the rights of the LGBT minority and provide its members with social and psychological support. The Tyumen Ministry of Justice deemed these goals to be unlawful, in contravention of moral principles, and infringing Russia's sovereignty.

Human Rights Resource Centre reports that the Tyumen activists appealed in court against the decision of the Ministry of Justice on the grounds that it contradicted a basic principle of democratic society, namely the right to hold a plurality of opinions, and that it was therefore not up to the State to decide whether LGBT minority organizations are necessary. Appeals to notions of morality cannot justify banning an organization whose main goal is the protection of human rights, including those of the LGBT community.

At the judge's request, a Human Rights Resource Centre lawyer representing Rainbow House presented relevant international and Russian practice in court and listed numerous international treaties under which Russia is obliged to protect the right of association of the LGBT community. Rainbow House has also been supported by the Russian LGBT Network.

The Human Rights Resource Centre provides initiative groups and registered non-profit organizations with legal and information support, including the services of a registration lawyer.

For example, Human Rights Resource Centre lawyers were the first in Russia to successfully submit court documents required to register an organization openly aiming to protect LGBT individuals in St. Petersburg.

Human Rights Resource Centre lawyers were also the first in Russia to secure a legal victory on behalf of an organization whose request to change its statute to openly defend the rights of sexual minorities had previously been turned down by Russian courts.

In November 2010 the Archangelsk District Court ruling in a similar case created a legal precedent. The court ruled that it was unlawful to refuse registration to a non-governmental organization that aims to defend the rights of LGBT persons and disseminate information on the violations of the rights of this category of individuals. The court accepted the argument that there are no circumstances in which human rights activities could be deemed extremist. The District Court decision was much influenced by the 21 October 2010 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Alekseyev v Russia, which included a detailed analysis of what is involved in promoting a non-traditional sexual orientation. The Court considered these arguments convincing, agreeing that the protection of the rights of sexual minorities was not possible without promoting tolerance of these groups and without disseminating information about discrimination against them.

The Tyumen Court, however, chose not to follow relevant international or Russian legal practice, agreeing with the position of the Ministry of Justice that organizations defending the rights of one of the most discriminated population groups ought basically not to exist in Tyumen. This ruling of the court openly flouts the requirements of Russia's Constitution as well as of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, which guarantee the right of association to all.

The Court is yet to provide in writing the grounds on which the appeal was dismissed, but the Human Rights Resource Centre intends in any case to continue to defend the right of Rainbow House to freedom of association, and to appeal to a higher court.

When available, the full text of the court’s judgment will be posted on the website of Human Rights Resource Centre.
Rights in Russia,
14 Mar 2011, 07:44