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  WINDY CITY TIMES

World News
by Rex Wockner
2011-06-08

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Officials denounce ban, crackdown on Moscow Pride

European and U.S. officials have denounced the Moscow government for banning gay pride for the sixth year in a row and violently arresting people who defied the ban.

France's Foreign Ministry said Russia has an obligation to protect freedom of speech and assembly and is violating a European Court of Human Rights ruling.

Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland said, "The right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, belongs to all people without any discrimination."

The U.S. State Department said: "We note with concern that in Moscow on Saturday, May 28, a peaceable demonstration of Russians advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians, joined by international supporters, was forcefully disrupted by counter-protesters, and that Russian security forces then detained people from both groups, including American citizens. Some protestors were seriously injured according to media reports. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right all members of the OSCE committed to, including in the Moscow declaration and as recently as the Astana summit. As nationwide legislative elections approach, constraints on the ability of Russian citizens peacefully to gather and express their views will be closely watched in evaluating the integrity of the electoral process. We call on Russian authorities to work with municipal officials to find better ways to safeguard these fundamental freedoms."

Undeterred by the April ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that banning Moscow Pride is illegal in multiple ways, the city blocked the May 28 gay pride parade for the sixth time. Activists responded by trying to rally near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and City Hall. They were violently arrested.

Activists said the Council of Europe, of which the court is a part, must respond by terminating Russia's voting rights within the association.

"My concern now is about European institutions," said Louis-Georges Tin, president of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, who was among those arrested. "The right to vote of Russia within the Council of Europe has to be suspended. ... The Council of Europe, which was created to promote human rights, cannot include (in its membership) without any reaction a member state that denies human rights so clearly."

In ruling against the Moscow government, the Euro Court said that previous years' gay-pride bans by then-Mayor Yuri Luzhkov violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the areas of freedom of assembly and association, the right to an effective remedy and prohibition of discrimination.

Cameroon man jailed under gay-sex ban

A man in Cameroon, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, has been sent to prison for three years for violation of the nation's ban on gay sex, Amnesty International reported June 3.

Mbede is serving his sentence at the Kondengui prison in Yaoundé, where Amnesty International said he is "at risk of physical attack and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on account of his real or perceived sexual orientation."

"Amnesty International considers Jean-Claude Roger Mbede to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely because of his sexual orientation," the group said.

Amnesty said Mbede was arrested in March by Defense Ministry police during a meeting with an acquaintance whom he had been text messaging.

He was later charged under Section 347a of the Penal Code, which stipulates, "Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and with a fine from 20,000 ($43) to 200,000 CFA francs."

Amnesty added that the prison in which Mbede is incarcerated suffers from overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food.

The group asks activists worldwide to write letters calling for Mbede's "immediate and unconditional release." It requests that they be sent to Cameroon President Paul Biya and numerous other officials. See amnesty.org for details.

Anti-homophobia events in 17 Turkish cities

Turkey's 6th International Meeting Against Homophobia expanded to 19 university campuses in 17 cities this year.

Between March 14 and May 22, events took place in Mersin, Adana, Trabzon, Samsun, Eskisehir, Kars, Kayseri, Antalya, Nigde, Nevsehir, Isparta, Izmir, Mugla, Istanbul, Van, Diyarbakir and Ankara.

Among other things, the attendees worked on plans to create a Middle East, Caucasus and Balkans LGBT Network to fight homophobia. Activists participated from Armenia, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

About 100 speakers made presentations at the many meetings, which were supported by 66 Turkish organizations. The events included workshops, forums, panels and exhibitions.

Maltese transwoman loses marriage battle

A Maltese transwoman's battle to get married suffered another setback in late May after the nation's attorney general won an appeal of a ruling that had been in Joanne Cassar's favor. Cassar has been fighting for the right to marry a man since 2006. She won two cases, but later lost both on appeal.

Assistance: Bill Kelley


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