Convicted For Homophobic Attack

A recent attack on a participant of a peaceful action on LGBT rights has been met with legal consequences for the first time in Russia. Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the ruling and hopes that the verdict is a step in the right direction.

In the aftermath of the so called ”propaganda laws” there has been an increase of aggression and violence towards LGBT people in Russia. And lawyers who defend victims in these cases are increasingly under attack. Despite this the courts usually treat the cases as hooliganism instead of hate-crimes.

The perpetrator Gleb Lihotkin shot at a participant of an LGBT-action with a gas pistol. He claimed that the text ”Jesus loves men and women equally”, which the victim had written on a balloon, insulted his religious beliefs.

The Petrograd District court found Gleb Lihotkin guilty of “major violations of public peace and severe interference with public order”, referring to the Russian Federal Constitution that ”guarantees equal rights of individuals and citizens”. The Court ruled that personal views couldn’t be a reason for violence, and that “all forms of limitations of civil rights of citizens based on social and religious identity” are prohibited. Lihotkin was sentenced to 2 years probation and ruled to pay moral damages to the victim.

“This is an important ruling and we welcome the Court’s decision. But, the legal system is still flawed and has not yet fully recognised the severity of crimes committed against LGBT-people. We hope that this verdict is a step in the right direction for recognising attacks on LGBT-people as hate-crimes, which is not the case today,” said Cecilia Rosing, Programme Officer for Eurasia, Civil Rights Defenders.

Aggression and violent attacks towards LGBT people have steadily increased since Russia introduced laws that ban “propaganda of homosexuality”. And lawyers who defend victims in these cases are increasingly under attack. On 3 November, two men showed up at a community centre in St. Petersburg where “Rainbow Coffee” was held. A young man was shot in the face and got a bullet stuck in his eye. He will most likely not recover from his eye injury. The other victim was a young woman who was beaten badly with a baseball bat. Even though substantial evidence and expert opinions are presented in many of these cases, the Courts usually treat them as “hooliganism”.

”The attack by Lihotkin is not an expression of hooliganism, but a crime based on hate against homosexuals. It is good that the Court has referred to the ban on discrimination of social groups and we hope that the next step will be the acknowledgment of the specific severity of crimes that are committed out of hatred,” said Sasha Semenova, an activist from Civil Rights Defenders’ partner organisation Coming Out.

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