Friday, August 30, 2013

Politics & Policy

'Hold Putin to account at G20 and Council of Europe,' Members of the European Parliament argue
By Mark Singer & Brody Levesque | BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- As opposition to Russia's stance on LGBT rights and special anti-gay legislation- which has been codified into law by Russian lawmakers- grows, members of the European Parliament are calling on EU leaders and the Council of Europe to denounce Russia’s increasingly forceful crackdown.
The European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights has sent a letter to EU leadership asking them to raise these important matters during the G20 summit which is to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia next week.
Citing the Russian Foreign Agents law as an example, which requires that requires LGBT nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) to register as “foreign agents,” Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, said:
 “Whether it is the propaganda laws, the Foreign Agents law or more legislation restricting the rights of minorities and migrants, Mr Putin’s regime is following a dangerous path. 
EU leaders cannot ignore that more red lines have been crossed, and they must hold Mr Putin to account at the G20 next week.”
A spokesperson for the Intergroup on LGBT Rights told LGBTQ Nation Thursday that besides the "frontal assault" on LGBT rights, Russia's increasingly hostile positions are also including several laws that were adopted to curtail the rights of ethnic minorities, and attack other NGO's defending human rights.
The Human Rights Watch, an advocacy and watchdog organisation reported in June that seven Russian groups have already been taken to court, of which five have lost administrative cases and have been ordered to pay fines and register.
Another 15 organizations received direct notices of violation from federal prosecutor’s warning that they may face administrative charges if they fail to register as “foreign agents.” Authorities have also warned at least 38 other groups to register as “foreign agents” if they receive foreign funding and plan to carry out “political activities.” Persistent failure to register can lead to an organization’s suspension and criminal charges against its leader. 
The spokesperson for the Intergroup also noted that recently a judge in St. Petersburg declared the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival a “foreign agent” in May fined it 12,500 euros for not registering as required by Russia’s new Foreign Agent Law. 
Another group, the St. Petersburg-based organisation Coming Out was recently fined €11,400, and its Director €6,800, [Euros] forcing them to shut down.
The laws have also directly led to an increase in violent attacks against LGBT people, particularly vulnerable closeted LGBTQ youth and other ethnic minorities.
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup said that the Intergroup membership has also asked the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to consider suspending Russia’s right to vote in the organisation, according to Article 8 of its own Statute.
”Russia is chipping away at the three central pillars of modern Europe: democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. It’s time for the Council of Europe to take action and suspend Russia’s voting rights,” she said adding, 
“Mr Putin is losing the plot: these laws don’t reflect Russia’s values, they don’t reflect European values, they reflect Putin’s ever-tighter hand of steel. It’s high time to act!”
The European Parliament already adopted a resolution on the rule of law in Russia in June this year.
The Intergroup is an informal forum for Members of the European Parliament who are committed to upholding the fundamental rights of LGBT people. Members of the Intergroup would usually take a positive stance on LGBT issues when they draft reports or amendments, when they vote in the Parliament, or when they deal with constituency affairs.
The Intergroup currently has 153 members, who are all democratically-elected Members of the European Parliament. Its work is led by 6 Presidents, and the day-to-day work is carried out by the Secretariat of the Intergroup.