The report analyzes unjustified detentions and arrests in Russia, imprisonment for political reasons, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the apparent interference of authorities in private life.
Executions, abductions and torture.
Significant problems include “extrajudicial executions, including by lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and intersex people in Chechnya by local authorities”, kidnapping, torture, difficult and life-threatening conditions in prisons.
In December 2018 – January 2019, the authorities of the Chechen Republic resumed a campaign of violence against persons belonging to the LGBT community. Chechen authorities illegally detained and tortured at least 40 people, two of whom died in custody.
By the end of 2019, the Russian authorities did not investigate reports of extrajudicial executions and mass torture in Chechnya, continuing to deny since 2017 that there are members of the LGBT community in Chechnya.
On May 24, Maxim Lapunov, who survived the 2017 “gay purge”, publicly offered to cooperate with the investigating authorities, but later filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights because the federal authorities did not want to investigate his case properly.
Meanwhile, Chechen police continued a campaign of illegal detention and torture of gays and bisexuals. The total number of victims during the year reached 50 people.
In May, Human Rights Watch published a report based on an interview with four men who were detained between December 2018 and February 2019 in the Grozny police department building, where law enforcement officers kicked them, beat them with sticks and trumpets, and refused them in food and water and tortured three out of four with electric shock. One was reportedly raped with a stick. Four men described how they were being detained with many others who had been subjected to the same treatment because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. As of April 1, more than 150 LGBT people left Chechnya, and most of them left Russia.
According to the UN working group on forced abductions, in Russia in total 849 outstanding cases of disappearances were recorded.
During 2019, authorities constantly referred to a law (passed in 2013) prohibiting the “propaganda” of “non-traditional sexual relations” by minors to discriminate and prosecute LGBT activists and their supporters.
On October 28, the Moscow branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs opened an administrative case on suspicion of “promoting non-traditional sexual relations with minors” against producers and participants in a YouTube video in which children interviewed gay Maxim Pankratov about life.
The video did not contain a discussion of sex, but included questions about Pankratov’s sexual orientation, how he would like other people to relate to him, and his vision of life in the future. On November 2, the Investigative Committee of the Moscow Region launched a criminal investigation against producers and participants of a video on suspicion of “sexual abuse of a minor” under the age of 14 years, which is punishable by imprisonment of 12 to 20 years.
According to press reports, the parents of the children in the video were under pressure from the authorities. Forcing them to testify against the video producers, they were visited by child protection services with threats of deprivation of parental rights. Pankratov reported receiving threats of physical violence from unknown persons after the opening of the criminal case. As of December, Pankratov was hiding in an unknown place in Russia, while the video producer, the popular online person Victoria Peach, left Russia.
Freedom of assembly.
Authorities continued to strip LGBT people and their supporters of their rights to freedom of assembly.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling that LGBT citizens are allowed to participate in public activities, a law prohibiting “propaganda of homosexuality” among minors was used to interrupt public demonstrations of LGBT activists.
In November 2018, the ECHR ruled that a refusal to grant permission to hold public meetings could not be justified by reasons of public security and constituted a violation of the right to freedom of expression.
However, on August 3, police and the “National Guard” of St. Petersburg violently dispersed approximately 50 solo picketers who advocated for the rights of the LGBT community after the city authorities rejected their request for a “pride parade”. Law enforcement authorities detained 12 people, three of whom were hospitalized due to injuries resulting from police brutality.
Moscow authorities refused to agree on an LGBT pride for the 14th consecutive year, despite a 2010 ECHR ruling that the denial violated the right to freedom of assembly and freedom from discrimination.
Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
The law criminalizes the spread of “propaganda” of “non-traditional sexual relations” and effectively limits the right to freedom of expression and assembly for citizens who are willing to publicly advocate that homosexuality is the norm.
The government considers “propaganda” materials that “directly or indirectly approve of people who are engaged in non-traditional sexual relations.”
However, the law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in housing, work or access to public services such as health care.
Officials attacked, harassed, and threatened LGBT activists. For example, on June 17, an activist from Novocherkassk reported that an employee of the Center for Combating Extremism (CPE) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs had searched and harassed him, and then launched an attack on June 14. Doctors have diagnosed a closed head injury and concussion. When the activist wanted to file a report with the police, the officers laughed and joked about his situation.
Open gays became objects of social violence in Russia, and the police often did not respond adequately to such incidents.
In July, police refused to resume a criminal case on the beating of a Volgograd teenager Vlad Pogorelov in 2017, as they did not consider “hatred and enmity” as the motives of the attackers. Instead, the court fined each of the rapists 5,000 rubles ($ 78). In June 2018, Pogorelov filed a complaint with the local prosecutor’s office about the police decision to terminate the criminal investigation into the 2017 attack.
The victim, who was then 17 years old, came to the meeting with persons posing as gays on a dating site. He was beaten and robbed. The police opened a criminal case on the fact of the attack, but closed it within a month, citing the “low significance” of the crime and informing Pogorelov that the police were not ready to defend LGBT people.
The incident clearly showed the authorities’ reluctance to conduct adequate investigations or to consider homophobia as a motive for attacks on members of the LGBT community.
Authorities did not respond when there were real threats of violence against LGBT people.
Thus, the authorities failed to investigate the appearance in spring 2018 of the Pila website, which called for violence against specific LGBT people and human rights defenders.
Although the site was blocked several times by Roskomnadzor, it periodically appeared under a new domain name. After the July 23 killing of LGBT activist Elena Grigoryeva, whose name was on the Saws list, the site was again blocked. Despite the fact that on August 1, the police arrested a suspect who admitted to the murder, the authorities did not indicate the motive for the attack, and human rights activists believe that the investigation did not try to connect the murder of Elena Grigorieva with LGBT activism.
On August 4, the Ministry of Internal Affairs informed the people who filed a complaint about the Pila website that, since it was blocked and inaccessible, they could not examine its contents. On August 14, the FSB reported that they had investigated the site, but found no evidence of a crime.
104 cases of physical violence against LGBT people were recorded, including 11 murders in 2016-2017.
The report notes that homophobes are luring gay people into fake meetings to beat, humiliate, and rob. At the same time, the police claimed that they did not find any evidence of the crime or refused to consider the attacks on LGBT people as hate crimes, which prevented the investigation and holding the perpetrators accountable.
During the investigation (in such cases), members of the LGBT community risk being exposed by the police to their families and colleagues as homosexuals. LGBT people often refused to report violence because of fears that the police would abuse them, publicize their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Police conducted physical examinations of transgender or intersex people.
On May 1, in Makhachkala, Dagestan, police arrested intersex Olga Moskvitina during a protest rally. Finding in the passport that she was framed by a man, the police forced the detainee to undress to the waist so that the police could examine her, and was interrogated on the subject of genitals. During these procedures, she was threatened by police officers. On May 1, personal information was published on social networks along with threats that, according to Moskvitina, were coming from the local police. On May 5, plainclothes officers forced the owner to evict her apartment.
The Association of Russian-speaking intersex people reported that medical professionals often forced intersex Russians (or their parents if they were minors) to carry out the so-called “normalization” operation without providing accurate information about the procedure or what intersexuality is.
Prohibition of openness.
The law prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientations” restricted the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for LGBT people and their supporters. Significant social stigmatization was associated with official propaganda of intolerance and homophobia.
High levels of discrimination in employment remain. Most LGBT people hid their sexual orientation and gender identity for fear of losing their job or place of residence, as well as for the risk of violence.
LGBT students reported discrimination in schools and universities.
Roman Krasnov, Vice-Rector of the Ural State University of Economics in Yekaterinburg, admitted that the institution controlled students’ social media accounts to make sure that they demonstrate the necessary “moral appearance” that is incompatible with LGBT people. A student who wished to remain anonymous in September told the media that Krasnov had threatened him with expulsion after he noticed LGBT symbols in his account.
Practitioners reportedly continued to refuse services for LGBT people due to intolerance and prejudice. When revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBT people often faced negative reactions and the assumption that they were mentally ill.
In 2019, a homophobic campaign continued in state-controlled media in which officials, journalists, and other media people called LGBT people “perverts,” “sodomites,” “abnormal” and linked homosexuality to pedophilia.
Censorship was also widespread. On January 21, the Yaroslavl branch of Ekho Moskvy radio station canceled a planned interview with LGBT activists after receiving threats, including from local officials.
Discrimination against transgender people.
Transgender people had difficulty updating names in government documents to reflect gender identity, because the government did not establish standard procedures for this, and many civil registry offices refused.
If the documents did not reflect gender identity, people faced harassment by law enforcement officials and discrimination in access to healthcare, education, housing, transportation and employment.
There have been reports of discrimination in parental rights. The law does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children together, only as individuals.
LGBT parents often feared that the ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation” among minors would be used to end custody of children. So, Andrei Vaganov and Evgeny Erofeev were forced to flee the country in August after the Investigative Committee announced that it had opened a criminal investigation into negligence against officials who had adopted two boys.
Although the couple married in Denmark in 2016, only Vaganov had legal relations with children in Russia. A statement on the Investigative Committee’s website accused the men of “promoting unconventional relationships, giving children a misconception about family values and harming their health and their moral and spiritual development.”
The police found out that the children lived with two fathers after the doctor who treated one of the children reported this to the “authorities”. The couple said that they had no choice but to leave the country because of the likelihood that their children would be removed from the family.
HIV / AIDS and social stigma.
People with HIV / AIDS have experienced significant legal discrimination, growing informal stigma barriers and violation of employment rights. They continued to face problems in adopting children.
According to NGO workers, men who have sex with men (MSM) sometimes did not seek antiretroviral treatment for fear of stigmatization of HIV carriers, and sex workers were afraid to appear in the official database due to threats from law enforcement agencies.
Economic migrants also hid their HIV status and avoided treatment due to fear of deportation. By law, foreign citizens infected with HIV can be deported from Russia. The law, however, prohibits the deportation of HIV-infected foreigners who have Russian citizenship, a child or parents in Russia.
Prisoners with HIV / AIDS were regularly abused and denied medical care and had fewer opportunities to see their families.
Children with HIV have experienced discrimination in education.
For example, on April 10, a woman in the village of Iskitim in the Novosibirsk Region reported that local authorities refused to take her adopted six-year-old son to school because the child was HIV-positive. The local clinic staff violated the confidentiality rules between the doctor and the patient and warned other villagers about the diagnosis of the child. The family received threats demanding to leave the village. On April 18, the local Investigative Committee launched an investigation into the violation of the privacy of the child.
Until June 2018, when the Constitutional Court declared this practice unconstitutional, HIV-infected parents were forbidden to adopt children. On May 3, President Putin signed into law allowing people with HIV to adopt children already living in families.
This law was preceded by several lawsuits, one of which was filed by an HIV-infected woman in Balashikha. Since she could not have children, her sister decided to bear the child from her husband through artificial insemination. The woman planned to adopt this child, but her HIV-positive status did not allow her to do so. She filed a lawsuit and won the case, after which she was allowed to adopt.
The Ministry of Justice continued to call HIV-related non-governmental organizations “foreign agents,” reducing the number of organizations that can serve the community.
Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been a problem, especially in the public sector and in education.
Employers fired LGBT people for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or social activism in support of LGBT rights. Primary and secondary school teachers were often subjected to such pressure due to the law on “propaganda of gay sexual orientation” aimed at minors.
On April 9, a St. Petersburg court ruled that the printing house had illegally fired Anna Grigoryeva, a transgender woman who had worked there for many years as a man. This was the first time that a court has ruled in favor of a person fired due to transgender issues.
People with HIV / AIDS were prohibited from working in certain areas of medical research and medicine. For example, the Ministry of Transport forbade HIV-infected employees to work as air traffic controllers until the Supreme Court lifted the ban on September 10.
Attack on Free Media.
Last year, journalists continued to be arrested, imprisoned, physically abused, harassed and intimidated in connection with their professional activities.
(We already wrote about the “case” of the LGBT activist, blogger Yulia Tsvetkova and the threats against her).
In March 2018, Agora published a report on politically motivated searches, which analyzed the searches in the homes of 600 political activists that the special services carried out over the previous three years.
Authorities often used searches to intimidate and threaten political activists. In 98 cases, the police used the threat of violence, actual violence and the display of firearms during searches; in 47 cases, authorities searched the premises of relatives and friends of activists; and in 70 cases they broke doors or entered a house through a window.
Problems were noted in the Russian judicial system, where judges remain under the influence of the executive branch and the security forces, especially in cases with high-profile political cases. At the same time, the results of court proceedings seem predetermined, and the number of acquittals remains low. In 2018, the defendants were acquitted only in 0.43% of cases.
Source: Newsru.com, US Department of State website.