LGBT Activists Labeled “Foreign Agents” by Court

Coming Out, one of Russia’s most prominent LGBT organisations and a partner of Civil Rights Defenders has been labeled a “foreign agent” by a court in St. Petersburg and fined with an equivalent of 12 000 EUR for not registering as foreign agent.

Coming Out was found guilty based on the “foreign agent” law that requires all non-governmental organisations that receive funds from abroad, and presumably carry out political activity, to register as “foreign agents”. The law and a number of other laws violating human rights, were passed last summer, shortly after Vladimir Putin became president of Russia for a third term.

“This sentence is another setback for human rights in Russia. There have been too many of those during the last year. The Russian authorities have to revise its legislation to respect freedom of association and stop the persecution of LGBT-activists,” said Joanna Kurosz, Eurasia Programme Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

The sentence against Coming Out came after the court’s third hearing on 19 June, and the defence is planning to appeal the decision within 10 days. The court dismissed all arguments of the organisation’s lawyers about the non-political character of its activities. As a result of the sentence, Coming Out is obliged to register with the Ministry of Justice as a “foreign agent”.

”Defence of human rights cannot be “commissioned” by foreign states, as human rights is a universal value and Russia has an obligation to uphold and protect them, as guaranteed by the Russian Constitution,” Coming Out wrote in a statement.

The process against Coming Out was preceded by large-scale inspections of hundreds of NGOs all over Russia. In 2013 several organisations have been sentenced for non complying with the “foreign agent” law, among them the LGBT organisation Side by Side that on 6 June was found guilty and fined with 12 500 EUR on charges similar to those presented to Coming Out.

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