While Pussy Riot Awaits Verdict, London’s Pro-Gay Protests Draw Further Attention to Extremism Laws in Russia

New York City – Today British activists led by Peter Tatchell held a rally to protest Russia’s ban on a Pride House for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Human Rights First reiterates its call to Russia’s Ministry of Justice to reverse the discriminatory court decision that denied registration to the Sochi Pride House.  The organization also urges the International Olympic Committee to be as vigilant about confronting homophobia as it is at combating racism and other forms of discrimination. Building on the success of Vancouver’s Pride House two years ago, the London Olympics feature a special meeting place for gay athletes and their supporters.  This tradition will be under threat in Russia after a regional court upheld a verdict that denied registration to the Sochi Pride House—a civil society group that, like many advocacy organizations of different causes, seeks to capitalize on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to promote tolerance in sports.  The decision against the Sochi Pride House stated that “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation” inherently incites “social and religious hatred” and is therefore a direct threat to Russian society and even statehood, calling all attempts to confront homophobia “extremist.”  Last year the same court banned several Jehovah’s Witnesses and Falun Gong publications as “extremist.” “Today’s protests highlight that there is growing international attention on Russia’s misguided use of extremism and incitement laws,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “These vaguely defined statutes are often misused to discriminate against and persecute dissidents or minority groups.” The same extremism statutes are being used in the politically motivated trial against Pussy Riot, the punk band whose members are now facing up to three years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”  The authorities in Russia can solve this problem by amending the country’s ambiguous anti-extremism legislation to prioritize violent crime instead of going after dissenting voices. “The Olympics are a time to promote tolerance and inclusion for all athletes.  The Sochi Pride House ban flies in the face of the spirit of the Olympics, and violates Russia’s constitution and its international obligations to freedom of expression and assembly,” concluded Grekov.  “The International Olympic Committee must show full support for the Sochi Pride House not to backpedal on the progress it has made in recent years.”

Press

Published on August 9, 2012

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