The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment; press release, PDF] Thursday that Russia violated the rights of gay activists by banning gay rights parades in Moscow. Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev argued before the court that the ban violated Articles 11, 13 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The court unanimously agreed, finding that gay rights parades are protected by the freedom of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and the prohibition of discrimination. The ECHR ruled:
It has been established ... that the main reason for the ban imposed on the events organised by the applicant was the authorities' disapproval of demonstrations which they considered to promote homosexuality. In particular, the Court cannot disregard the strong personal opinions publicly expressed by the mayor of Moscow and the undeniable link between these statements and the ban. In the light of these findings the Court also considers it established that the applicant suffered discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation and that of other participants in the proposed events. It further considers that the Government did not provide any justification showing that the impugned distinction was compatible with the standards of the Convention.The court ordered Russia to pay Alekseyev 12,000 euros for non-pecuniary damages and an additional 17,510 euros for costs and expenses.
The status of gay rights in Russia has been a contentious issue in the past, particularly in Moscow. In 2007, a Moscow district court upheld a ban on gay pride parades [JURIST report] under both Russian law and the European Convention of Human Rights. Following the ruling, several gay rights activists were arrested [JURIST report] in 2008 during a Moscow Pride event held in the city. Additionally, gay rights demonstrators, including European lawmakers, were arrested [JURIST report] in 2007 while protesting Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's rejection of gay rights parade request.