Russia
17.02.12
Urgent Interventions

Open Letter to the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg

OPEN LETTER - THE OBSERVATORY

Open Letter to the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg

Address: 190107 St Petersburg

Isaakievskaya square, 6

Fax: +7 812 5703049

Paris-Geneva, February 17, 2012

Re: Concern about the possible approval in third reading by the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg of a bill that could curtail LGBT activities, amid crackdown on LGBT activists

Dear members of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is writing to you to express concern regarding the possible approval in third reading of a bill providing administrative liability for public activities “promoting homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors”. If the bill passes the third reading, it will be signed into by the Governor of Saint Petersburg.

This bill, which aims at amending the Law “on administrative violations in St Petersburg”, was introduced to the Legislative Assembly of St Petersburg on November 10, 2011. The bill provides administrative liability for public activities promoting the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), and could lead to fines of up to the equivalent of 1,600 USD for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors". This could result in prohibition of certain legitimate activities of promotion of LGBT rights.

The Observatory is all the more concerned that on February 8, 2012, six protesters, including Russian LGBT Network Chairman Igor Kotchenov, were arrested as they were picketing around the Marinski Palace (where the City Parliament of Saint Petersburg is located) to call for the repeal of this bill. The protesters were standing away from each other so as to conform to the provisions of the legislation on demonstrations. However, the six were arrested as five of them were opening their placards. Even those who closed the placards immediately were accused of disobeying police orders. The six protesters were then brought to Saint Petersburg police station nr. 40. Five of them were released at around 4 pm, while the sixth was released earlier as she did not hold any placard.

The five above-mentioned protesters were charged under Articles 20.2 pt. 2[1] and Article 19.3 pt. 1 - which can be sanctioned by up to 15 days' imprisonment - of the Administrative Code. The courts of their district of residence will issue a decision on their case on February 28, 2012.

The Observatory has already expressed concerned over this bill, and recalls that such a text would violate the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and in particular Article 6 (b) and (c) which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others [...] freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms"; "to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.

We are also concerned by the fact that the amendment proposals brought to the bill were all rejected by the Legislative Committee of Saint Petersburg without a debate, and that the President of the Legislative Committee Mr. Vitaly Milonov has recently compared homosexuality with drug-trafficking and paedophilia. Such slandering statements by officials fuel the level of homophobia within the Russian population, as peaceful protesters - including LGBT ones - are increasingly under attack and need to be adequately protected. We wish to recall in that regard that Article 12.2 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the [...] Declaration”.

We therefore respectfully request the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg to vote down the above-mentioned bill, and to prevent any other text or initiative that would limit the rights to promote LGBT rights and to fight against any kind of discrimination. We also request Russian officials to put an end to all kinds of harassment and discriminations against peaceful demonstrators, including LGBT activists.

We express our sincere hope that you will take these considerations and requests into account.

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr BELHASSEN

FIDH President

Gerald Staberock

OMCT Secretary General


[1] “Violating the procedure established for conducting a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket - shall entail the imposition of an administrative fine on the organisers thereof in the amount of from ten to twenty times the minimum wage, and on the participants thereof in the amount of from five to ten times the minimum wage”.

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