Court rules Russia’s President is immune from gay legal action

Stephanie Phillips July 8, 2008
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Organisers of Moscow’s Pride event have been told their complaint against the President of Russia will not be considered because he is immune from legal action.

They claimed that Dmitriy Medvedev’s failure to answer a letter sent to him in May asking him to intervene broke a law that guarantees citizens a response within 30 days.

A Judge at Tverskoi District Court referred to a number of articles in the Russian Constitution including Article 91, which states that the President has immunity from any legal actions, in dismissing their claim.

Moscow Pride organisers were denied permission for a series of marches in May by the city authorities.

They appealed to the President to allow a march to take place in Alexander’s Gardens (Alexandrovsky Sad) located between the Kremlin and Manezhnaya Street, which is under the authority of the President, on 31st May.

Their letter reached the President’s administration on 16th May and was forwarded five days later to the Prefecture of the Central Administrative Area of Moscow.

The Presidential Administration relied on the law that allowed them to forward the letter to the most competent authority.

Organisers took their case to court on the 23rd June when they received no reply after 30 days.

“We are going to appeal this decision of Tverskoi District Court in Moscow City Court and take this case up to the European Court of Human Rights if needed,” said Nicolas Alexeyev, Pride organiser.

“We were denied court protection which contradicts with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“By issuing such a decision the court admitted full immunity of the head of state and his full unaccountability for the actions and inactions.

“Now the President is not obliged to answer to any letters of Russian citizens, he can just ignore them.

“The President quite possibly did not know anything about our letter to him though we, as applicants, are not obliged to understand how bureaucratic procedures of Kremlin administration work.”

Even though the Court recognised that the Constitution says that “everyone is equal before the law and court,” they came to the conclusion that a few people, including the President, are still protected by immunity.

“Our letter was addressed to the President and that is the reason why we apply to court against the President,” said Mr Alexeyev.

“Presidential administration officials probably again wanted to put all responsibility on Moscow authorities, but in this case representatives of the Prefecture acted in accordance with their powers and sent the letter back to the Administration.

“Only the President has powers to allow the events in Alexandrovsky Sad.

“We applied to Dmitriy Medvedev as a safeguard of the Constitution because Moscow authorities unlawfully denied us our constitutional right to freedom of assembly enshrined in Article 31 of the Constitution.

“It’s a pity that the President, even though he proclaimed that he would fight for human rights, did not interfere and put an end to the unlawful actions of Moscow officials.”

A group of 30 gay activists managed to stage short protests in front of Moscow City Hall and a statue of Tchaikovsky on June 1st without being arrested.

There followed a farcical game of cat and mouse as police surrounded an apartment where four activists were eventually arrested after hours of siege.

They were held overnight and charged with taking part in an unauthorised demonstration and failing to obey police orders.

The short demonstrations were planned in order to take the authorities by surprise.

The Mayor of Moscow has called gay rights activists “Satanic” and banned Pride in 2006 and 2007.

Pride organisers had applied for permission to hold five marches a day, every day of May.

All were rejected by Moscow municipal authorities on the grounds they would “endanger public order and cause negative reaction of the majority of the population.”

Last month Tverskoi District Court of Moscow held that the ban on one of those Pride marches was lawful.

Organisers are again planning to appeal the decision in Moscow City Court and then at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.”

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