Strasbourg — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that a Russian law banning the promotion of homosexuality breaches European treaty rules on freedom of expression, and is discriminatory against gay people.
Three Russian gay rights activists brought the case against the 2013 federal statute, widely known as the "gay propaganda" law, after they were fined for holding banners to encourage acceptance of homosexuality between 2009 and 2012.
"The very purpose of the laws and the way they were formulated and applied in the applicants’ case had been discriminatory and, overall, served no legitimate public interest," the Strasbourg-based court said in a statement.
"Indeed, by adopting such laws, the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society." Human rights observers argue that this law has been broadly applied to target and intimidate the LGBT community in Russia.
The court concurred, arguing that its vague terminology allowed unlimited scope for abuse.
Russia has had a strained relationship with the European Court since the ECHR overruled a case decided by the Russian Constitutional Court in 2012. In 2016, the court ruled that Russia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights in all but six of its 228 judgments in Russian cases.
The ECHR oversees the application of the Convention to the 47 members of the Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member.