Report provides unprecedented insight into discrimination in Russia based on analysis of more than 200 cases

On Wednesday 5 October 2016, the Equal Rights Trust launched Justice or Complicity? LGBT Rights and the Russian Courts, the first ever study of the practice of the courts in Russia in cases relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Justice or Complicity? examines judicial practice on issues ranging from homophobic and transphobic violence to restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. It also reviews cases dealing with discrimination in areas including family and private life, work and education. Among other findings, the report reveals that the Russian courts routinely fail to challenge the application of blatantly discriminatory “anti-propaganda” laws, which were approved by the government in 2013 to “protect” children from being exposed to content recognising homosexuality as being a norm in society.

Addressing activists, lawyers and academics at the launch at King’s College London, the report’s lead researcher, Russian legal expert Dmitri Bartenev said that:

[Of the cases examined for the report] there were just a handful where there has been successful protection of LGBT rights (…) Such positive examples may be regarded as the exception rather than offering any promising pattern. The overall conclusion of the study is that the Russian judicial system has not only failed to provide any effective redress for victims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity but effectively contributed to re-enforcing prejudices which lie at the heart of existing discriminatory attitudes.

Alongside Mr Bartenev, Jane Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Russian Law at King’s College London, spoke about the Russian legal system, the pressures on the judiciary and the increasing focus on “traditional values” impacting on the freedom of LGBT individuals. Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at King’s College London spoke about Russia’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Speaking after the launch, Joanna Whiteman¸ Co-Director of the Equal Rights Trust said:

Justice or Complicity? is published at a crucial time for the LGBT community in Russia and globally. By passing the notorious “anti-propaganda” law, Russia is among a number of states worldwide in which legislators are countering the movement towards greater equality, instead targeting LGBT individuals and restricting their freedom. Where states adopt discriminatory laws, the courts have a special responsibility to safeguard those at risk. As our report concludes, the Russian courts are failing in this role.

Justice or Complicity? is part of the Trust’s broader work on combatting LGBT discrimination in Russia carried out in partnership with the Russian LGBT Network to provide social and legal support to LGBT persons and to raise awareness on LGBT rights. 

The Trust is extremely grateful to its event sponsors, The Dickson Poon School of Law, King's College London and Rights in Russia


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