The European Court of Human Rights condemns Russia for failure to Prevent and Investigate hate attacks on members of the LGBTI community

The European Court of Human Rights condemns Russia for failure to Prevent and Investigate hate attacks on members of the LGBTI community
LGBTI flags by Halis Yilmaz via Flickr


Sofía Medina Sánchez 

International Justice and Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence 

On the 12th of September, the European Court of Human Rights issued its decision on the case of Romanov and Others v. Russia, finding Russia in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), examined alongside Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), concerning seven of the applicants. Moreover, Russia was in breach of Article 3 (effective investigation), considered in conjunction with Article 14, concerning eight of the applicants, of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) on its own and in conjunction with Article 14, affecting eight of the applicants. Lastly, the court unanimously determined that, regarding three of the applicants there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 11.

The case concerned 11 Russian citizens part of the LGBTI community who experienced a series of attacks and discrimination between May 2012 and June 2013. During this period, seven of them were assaulted by counter-demonstrators while participating in authorised LGBTI protests in St Petersburg and Voronezh. The police, responsible for maintaining security, did not intervene in these incidents. 

Two of the applicants received death threats for organising a demonstration and were subsequently assaulted at the event in Voronezh. While a criminal investigation was initiated, one of the attackers was released after being charged and convicted. Similarly, four other applicants were attacked and beaten during a St Petersburg demonstration, but the police refused to launch a criminal investigation, despite orders from the prosecutor to do so. Furthermore, eight of the applicants faced verbal abuse and physical violence due to their affiliation with the LGBTI community. For instance, Mr. Chechetkin was shot in the eye with an air gun and beaten with a baseball bat, resulting in blindness in one eye. Ms. Gromadskaya and Mr. Martin were assaulted in a bar because a friend was wearing a rainbow bracelet, but the police declined to initiate criminal proceedings.

The investigations into these incidents, if they were opened at all, were prolonged and failed to identify the attackers. Additionally, despite evidence suggesting otherwise, the investigating authorities rejected the applicants' claims that the violence was motivated by homophobia.

In addition, three of the applicants (Mr. Fedorov, Mr. Prokopenko, and Ms. Levina) allege that they were arbitrarily arrested by the police before a pro-LGBTI demonstration in Saint Petersburg in October 2013, in which they intended to participate.

The Court found that the authorities had failed to take measures to prevent the hate-oriented attacks. Therefore, the Russian authorities committed a violation of Article 3 of the Convention read in the light of Article 14. Furthermore, the court observed that the investigating bodies had consistently dismissed the applicants’ claims of homophobic motives for the attacks without adequately addressing these allegations. This pattern appeared to be a widespread practice in handling hate crimes against LGBTI individuals in Russia, raising significant concern. This case highlights the precarious situation faced by LBTI individuals in Russia.

Sources and further Reading: 

Case of Romanov and Others v. Russia (Application no. 58358/14), Judgement, Third Section, 12th September 2023:{%22itemid%22:[%22001-226466%22]}

Press Release issued by the Registrar to the Court, ECHR 255 (2023) 12 September 2023: