Responding to news that the prominent British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been arrested and charged with a criminal offence after staging a protest near Moscow’s Red Square about LGBTI rights in Chechnya, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:
“The response to Peter Tatchell’s protest is straight out of the Russian authorities’ playbook – protest in a high-profile location like Red Square, hold a placard criticising Putin or speak in support of LGBTI right in public, and face immediate arrest by the police.
“In present-day Russia, there’s no right to peacefully protest, no right to publicly stand up for LGBTI people, and certainly no chance of staging a street protest about last year’s sinister gay crackdown in Chechnya.
“It’s no surprise to hear that Mr Tatchell has been arrested solely for exercising his right to peaceful protest. We understand he has now been released but will stand trial for this ‘offence’. This is outrageous – all charges against him should be dropped immediately.
“Peter Tatchell’s arrest should not distract attention from his message. The Russian authorities should explain what steps have been taken in earnest to investigate reports of a ‘gay purge’ in the Chechen Republic.”
Due in court on 26 June
Having reportedly been charged under Federal Law 54 and Presidential Decree 202, which prohibit all protests near the Kremlin and during the World Cup, Peter Tatchell has been bailed and is due to appear in court on 26 June.
Earlier this week, Amnesty warned that the authorities in Russia have been using “Soviet-style” tactics against human rights defenders in recent years, with a marked decline in the safety of human rights activists since Russia was named World Cup hosts in 2010.
In April, activists staged a vigil in London marking the one-year point since reports emerged of a “gay purge” in the Chechen Republic, with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reporting that dozens of men had been abducted, tortured and killed. To date, not one person has been held to account for these crimes and no meaningful investigation has taken place.