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European Parliament to debate Russia’s homophobia and xenophobia

MEP Sophie in 't Veld says IOC has 'chosen Russia’s side by shielding them from criticism'

Sophie in 't Veld is a member of the European Parliament. Credit: wikimedia.org

While International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials have declared they are satisfied with Russian assurances that LGBT athletes and spectators have nothing to fear at next year’s Winter Games, a European Parliament member says Vladimir Putin’s decree banning protests in Sochi should be a “wake-up call” for the IOC.

Speaking on the eve of a parliamentary debate on the “increase in homophobia and xenophobia in Russia,” Sophie in ‘t Veld, of the parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, says the IOC has “chosen Russia’s side by shielding them from criticism.”

She also highlighted the IOC’s threat to penalize athletes who make political statements at the Games. 

At a press conference following a last visit to Sochi, IOC Coordination Commission chair Jean-Claude Killy said Russian officials had given assurances there’ll be no discrimination. Killy’s comments follow a recent statement from former IOC president Jacques Rogge that he had received “strong written reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation.”

When Germany’s Thomas Bach was elected to succeed Rogge as IOC president, he also touted the receipt of “assurances from the highest authorities in Russia.” In 't Veld has called on Bach to "fiercely condemn" the Russian legislation.

Human rights organizations have also taken the IOC to task for its stance.

The European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup says the legal and social environment for NGOs supporting ethnic minorities, migrants and LGBT people has “sharply deteriorated” with the passage of the federal anti-gay gag law in June and the foreign agents law last year.

St Petersburg’s Side by Side LGBT film festival, which was fined 400,000 rubles (about 9,000 euros) for violating the foreign agents law, has won its appeal against the charge, IndieWire reports.

In delivering the decision, the deputy chairman of St Petersburg City Court, which overturned two previous court rulings, said the magistrates court had “incorrectly applied the procedural provisions of the Administrative Code, and in the case of the District Court the Judge overlooked these significant violations of procedural requirements."

Following the ruling, Side by Side issued a statement, saying the festival is requesting reimbursement of the fine and plans to sue for damages.

Festival organizer Manny de Guerre, who was also charged under the foreign agents law, awaits a hearing of her appeal of the guilty verdict.

The European Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup notes there is “ample evidence” that a number of groups like Side by Side face unfair trials.

The European Parliament debate on Russia can be seen live Oct 10 at about 9:30am CET (Strasbourg time).