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Russia: Those responsible for murder of LGBTQI rights activist Yelena Grigoryeva must brought to justice

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Russian authorities to ensure an impartial, prompt and thorough investigation into the murder of LGBTQI activist and human rights defender, Yelena Grigoryeva and for all those responsible to be brought to justice. The activist’s body was found on 20 July 2019, close to her home in St Petersburg. Grigoryeva was an outspoken local activist for LGBTQI rights and other human rights issues in Russia, where discrimination and violence against LGBTQI people are common and often met with impunity by authorities. She had reportedly received death threats in relation to her LGBTQI activism in the lead up to her death.

Yelena Grigoryeva actively participated in the work of Alliance of Heterosexuals and LGBT People for Equal Rights, also known for her protests against Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the ill-treatment of prisoners and other human rights violations in Russia. The death threats she had received in relation to her work as a human rights defender were reported to police but reportedly ignored. It is therefore essential that any investigation into her murder seeks to identify whether this brutal attack was connected to Grigoryeva’s work as a human rights defender.

LGBTQI people and their allies in the Russian Federation face significant violence and discrimination, often emanating from the State and enshrined in its laws,” said Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19. “Russian state officials regularly attack LGBTQI groups verbally in public statements and on social media, and their views are spread in pro-government media, laying the ground for threats, violence and – as we see in the case of Yelena Grigoryeva – murder. The Russian authorities must stop denying LGBTQI people their basic human rights.”

Russia’s ‘homosexual propaganda’ laws, alongside other repressive legislation, are regularly used to target activists speaking out on LGBTQI rights issues. These discriminatory laws enable an environment where hate speech and incitement against LGBTQI people can thrive, putting those speaking out on these issues at further risk.

The work of the human rights defenders is essential for the protection of all fundamental rights, and States have a specific responsibility under international standards to providing protection to human rights defenders at risk. International human rights laws require the Russian government to make sure that human rights abuses that seek to silence LGBTQI people and their allies are investigated speedily, effectively and independently in compliance with international legal standards, and that those responsible for attacks are held accountable.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Russian authorities to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of human rights defenders, including those advocating for LGBTQI rights, and to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. Russia should repeal repressive legislation, such as the ‘homosexual propaganda ban’, which is used to both censor and stigmatise LGBTQI people, further entrenching discrimination, and preventing them from accessing important information and support.