Press release December 1, 2023
Russia: Freedom House Condemns Designation of LGBT+ Movement as “Extremist Organization”
The Supreme Court’s ruling against LGBT+ people in Russia undermines freedom of expression, assembly, and association and increases risk of violence.
WASHINGTON—In response to the Russian Supreme Court’s decision to categorize the “international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization,” Freedom House president Michael J. Abramowitz issued the following statement:
“We are profoundly dismayed by the Kremlin’s latest action to vilify one of Russia’s most at-risk populations, the LGBT+ community, under the absurd label of ‘extremism.’ The Supreme Court’s verdict yesterday deems an entire social group in Russia criminal, labeling their very existence as a threat to Russian national security.
“This move represents yet another blatant attack on fundamental rights in Russia—in this case, freedom of expression, assembly, and association. The deliberately vague decision grants the Kremlin the power to prosecute any perceived political threat it can tie to the LGBT+ community—be it as a member, ally, or advocate—under Russia’s draconian extremism laws. We are concerned this verdict may incite further aggression, discrimination, and violence against LGBT+ individuals, who already live under the real risk of attack from both state and nonstate entities. This move is a cynical ploy to spread fear, distrust, and animosity domestically; deflect attention from Vladimir Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine; and shore up the regime’s flagging credibility ahead of Russia’s 2024 presidential election.
“Individuals’ ability to freely express their identity and to associate with whom they choose are fundamental human rights. Freedom House reaffirms our steadfast support for Russia’s LGBT+ community amid this intensified attack.”
On November 17, 2023, the Russian Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to outlaw the “international LGBT movement” as an “extremist organization.” The Supreme Court hearing, held on November 30 behind closed doors, concluded with the court granting the Justice Ministry’s request.
Russia’s federal law “On Countering Extremist Activity,” adopted in 2002, vaguely defines “extremist” actions and imposes severe legal penalties. It has been used to target nongovernmental organizations and independent media, limiting freedoms of association and expression. Violations of the law can lead to the dissolution of the registered entity and include individual fines of up to 800,000 rubles ($8,835) and imprisonment for up to 12 years for involvement in an extremist organization or group. Notable examples of the legislation being employed against the Kremlin’s political opponents include Alexey Navalny and groups linked to his political movement.
In 2013, Russia enacted legislation banning what it termed the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. In 2022, the law was broadened to prohibit any public statements, activities, or publications seen as normalizing same-sex relations. In some regions, particularly in the North Caucasus, the enactment of these laws has coincided with the abduction, torture, and killing of members of the LGBT+ community, reportedly with the involvement of local security and law enforcement agencies.
Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2023 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2023, and it is categorized as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2023. Russia is also one of the world’s worst perpetrators of transnational repression.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.
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