Human Rights Committee Finds Discrimination in Conjunction with Violation of Freedom of Expression

London, 3 December 2012

The Human Rights Committee in a communication issued during its 106th session found the Russian Federation to have acted in violation of Articles 19 (Freedom of Expression) and 26 (Prohibition of Discrimination) of the ICCPR. The case concerned the treatment of LGBT human rights activist Irina Fedotova, who was arrested by the police and fined by a Russian Administrative Court on grounds that she breached legislation on “public actions aimed at the propaganda of homosexuality among minors” after having displayed posters promoting tolerance towards homosexuality near a local school. On 30 March 2009, Irina Fedotova displayed posters that stated “Homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality” near a school in Ryazan. Following the interruption of her action by the police, on 6 April 2009 she was convicted by the justice of the peace of an administrative offence under section 3.10 of the Ryazan Region Law concerning “public actions aimed at the propaganda of homosexuality” and fined 1,500 Russian Roubles.

She appealed to the Oktyabrsky District Court of Ryazan (Oktyabrsky Court)   which upheld the decision of the justice of the peace on 14 May 2009. Following an unsuccessful appeal to the Constitutional Court she lodged her communication to the UN Human Rights Committee arguing a breach of Articles 19 and 26 ICCPR.

In its communication, the Committee examined whether there had been a restriction to the right of freedom of expression according to Article 19(2) and then, if this restriction had been “provided by law” and “necessary” according to Article 19(3). The Committee also considered whether the differential treatment amounted to discrimination in light of Article 26 of the Covenant.

The Committee found that there had been a restriction of the right of expression of the applicant, and that this was not even disputed between the parties. The Committee also found that the respondent failed to demonstrate why it was necessary, under one of the legitimate purposes stated in Article 19(3) of the Covenant, to restrict the applicant’s right to freedom of expression. Finally, the Committee was of the view that the law in question was discriminatory as it only applied to propaganda regarding homosexuality and not heterosexuality as well or sexuality in general.

Accordingly, the Committee concluded that the conviction of the applicant of an administrative offence for “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” on the basis of the ambiguous and discriminatory section 3.10 of the Ryazan Region Law, amounted to a violation of her rights under Articles 19(2) and 26 of the Covenant.

The Equal Rights Trust welcomes this communication by the Committee which reiterates the centrality of the principle of non-discrimination in international human rights law.

To read the full text of the Human Rights Committee Communication, click here.

To read ERT’s case summary, click here.