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Support for LGBT-rights in Russia

27 August 2013

Netherlands Helsinki Committee director Harry Hummel spoke at a protest against the Russian LGBT policy held on 25 August in Amsterdam. The protest was held just before the Constellation of Russia concert, an official Russian government contribution to the Netherlands – Russia Year. It was organized by LGBT NGOs COC and Pride United to draw attention to Russian policies to curtail freedom of expression on LGBT-issues, in particular through ‘anti-propaganda’ laws. The organizers put this development in the wider context of increasing difficulties for civil society to operate freely and invited a number of other NGOs to speak about this matter. The NHC contribution at the protest focused on the growing pressure on civil society organisations that are critical towards the government, even if these organizations contribute to democratic and human rights values which are subscribed to by the Russian state. The so-called ‘foreign agents’ law, which directs NGOs that have income from foreign source to identify themselves as foreign agents, a delegitimizing label in Russia, has led to a wave of inspections of NGO offices; other regulations affecting NGOs are also often used as a pretext for inspections.

The protest was attended by several thousand persons. Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan expressed his support for the protest, and called for initiating a state complaint by the Netherlands against Russia under the European Convention of Human Rights over Russian legislation with respect to LGBT persons, a rarely-used procedure. Frank van Dalen, chair of co-organizer Pride United, called on Dutch sport’s organizations, businesses and universities to insist their Russian partners put in place explicit anti-discrimination policies.