President Obama Should Make Clear That Human Rights is the Center of U.S - Russia Relations
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - World leaders gathering in St. Petersburg this week must condemn Russia's draconian homophobic law and do all in their power to persuade authorities to scrap it, Amnesty International said ahead of the G-20 meeting starting tomorrow, September 5.
"Russia's new law effectively banning public activism by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals has done nothing but create a climate of intolerance and promote violence by vigilante groups," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia director at Amnesty International.
The law, which came into force last July, imposes fines on individuals and organizations accused of promoting "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," which it says could morally corrupt children.
Since President Barack Obama will be attending the G-20 summit, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) called him to send an important message to President Vladmir Putin that human rights will be integral to United States - Russia relations. Last week, a group of bipartisan U.S. senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to put human rights at the center of United States' relations with Russia.
"President Obama should not pass this important opportunity to send a clear message to President Putin," said Frank Jannuzi, AIUSA deputy executive director. "While he is meeting with Russian LGBTI activists, he should also reach out to other human rights defenders. The United States needs to show that it stands in solidarity with those who are putting their lives on the line for freedom of expression and assembly."
Since President Vladimir Putin's reelection, more than 5,100 people have been arrested in more than 200 demonstrations across the Russian Federation in a continued crackdown on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
On June, 55 LGBTI activists were detained by police after they attempted to hold a peaceful demonstration in St. Petersburg to raise awareness of rising discrimination and violent homophobic attacks in Russia. This was despite the fact that the organizers had informed the city authorities of the date and the purpose of the event, as prescribed by the law.
However, soon after the event started, police informed protesters that local authorities had received a complaint saying the meeting violated a ban on "propaganda of homosexuality" among minors, imposed by the municipal law in 2012. When the protesters refused to cease demonstrating and leave, police formed a line and kettled them towards police vehicles when the arrests were made.
The authorities later initiated administrative cases against those arrested for failure to abide by the lawful order of a law enforcement officer. Since then, all activists have been released. Public activities by LGBTI activists have been similarly prevented and disrupted in other parts of Russia.
LGBTI organizations, such as "Vyhod" (Coming Out) and the LGBTI film festival Bok o Bok (Side by Side), both based in St. Petersburg, have been targeted by the authorities. The organization and their leaders were also fined under the so-called "foreign agents law." It requires any NGO that receives foreign support and engages in loosely defined "political activities" to register and as "an organization performing the functions of a foreign agent" and mark all their public materials accordingly. Both these organizations have always rejected being defined as "foreign agents."
In addition to harassment by the authorities, vigilante groups openly targeting LGBTI people have emerged across Russia. The authorities have failed to take action to protect the victims and prosecute those behind the attacks despite evidence filmed by the perpetrators, who posted the videos on the internet.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.