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UN experts condemn Russian Supreme Court decision banning “LGBT movement” as “extremist”

07 December 2023

GENEVA (7 December 2023) – UN experts* today raised concerns about the dangerous precedent and far-reaching negative consequences of the Russian Supreme Court decision declaring the “international LGBT movement and its structural units” as “extremist”, which effectively bans all public LGBT activities and organisations within the country.

“The Supreme Court ruling significantly distances the Russian Federation from its obligations to promote and protect human rights for all,” the experts said. On 4 December 2023, the UN experts sent an official letter to the Russian Federation, outlining their urgent concerns about the Supreme Court ruling, which continues the trend of reported State-sponsored human rights violations against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and other gender-diverse (LGBT) persons in the Russian Federation.

On 2 and 3 December, law enforcement conducted raids in Moscow and Saint Petersburg at places commonly visited by LGBT persons, including LGBT-friendly bars and clubs. Policemen in balaclavas stormed in and carried out unsanctioned searches of the premises, while visitors had their identity documents checked and photographed, creating further risks of harassment or misuse of their personal information. Additionally, one of the venues decided to terminate its lease agreement due to threats from police officers citing the recent Supreme Court decision.

“The immediate and highly publicised nature of these police actions appears to be aimed at intimidating and instilling fear within the LGBT community in Russia,” the UN experts said.

The experts warned that human rights defenders and organisations working to defend the human rights of LGBT people in Russia are forced to discontinue their activities, fearing criminal prosecution. A number of lawyers and human rights defenders representing LGBT persons in Russian courts have either left the country or are planning to cease their activities on such cases, they said.

“This jeopardises access to legal representation and justice for victims of discrimination, violence, and other crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the experts said.

They warned that a broad range of human rights, advocacy and association activities protected under international human rights law risk falling under the sweeping decision of the Supreme Court, which is open to arbitrary application and abuse. According to the Russian human rights organization, SOVA Centre, 255 people were charged without proper grounds for “extremism” or related crimes in 2022.

“In line with the Russian President’s declared intention to maintain an anti-LGBT stance as a cornerstone of his political agenda, this decision marks the latest step in a series of legislative initiatives and related actions, eroding any last remaining human rights safeguards for LGBT persons in Russia,” the experts said.

They urged Russia to reject the decision of the Supreme Court and put an immediate end to the abuse of “extremism” legislation in the country, which has been increasingly used to crackdown on the legitimate exercise of human rights and peaceful dissent. The term “extremism” has no basis in international law, and when it triggers criminal liability, it is incompatible with human rights, the experts said.

*The experts: Mariana Katzarova, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation; Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Graeme Reid, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi, Working group on discrimination against women and girls.

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page – Russian Federation

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