Officials denounce ban, crackdown on Moscow Pride

by Rex Wockner

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

European and U.S. officials have denounced the Moscow government for banning gay pride for the sixth year in a row and violently arresting people who defied the ban.

France's Foreign Ministry said Russia has an obligation to protect freedom of speech and assembly and is violating a European Court of Human Rights ruling.

Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said, "The right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, belongs to all people without any discrimination."

The U.S. State Department said: "We note with concern that in Moscow on Saturday, May 28, a peaceable demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counter-protesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups, including American citizens. Some protestors were seriously injured according to media reports. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right all members of the OSCE committed to, including in the Moscow declaration and as recently as the Astana summit. As nationwide legislative elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens peacefully to gather and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process. We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms."

Undeterred by the April ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that banning Moscow Pride is illegal in multiple ways, the city blocked the May 28 gay pride parade for the sixth time. Activists responded by trying to rally near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and City Hall. They were violently arrested.

Activists said the Council of Europe, of which the court is a part, must respond by terminating Russia's voting rights within the association.

In ruling against the Moscow government, the Euro Court said that previous years' gay-pride bans by then-Mayor Yuri Luzhkov violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.

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