Russia: Investigate Attack on Gay-Friendly Bar

Published: October 12, 2012

Homophobic Laws Create Climate for Assault

Moscow–(ENEWSPF)–12 October 2012. Russian authorities should promptly and effectively investigate a violent attack on a gay-friendly club in Moscow on October 11, 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. The attack took place several days after People’s Council, a nationalist organization, said publicly that homosexuality is “a grave sin” and that it would try to close down gay clubs.

Soon after 9 p.m. on October 11, between 15 and 20 black-clad men wearing surgical masks ran into the 7FreeDays Club, which was hosting a party organized by gay activists in celebration of National Coming Out Day. The attackers rampaged through the bar, throwing chairs and bottles at guests and staff, kicking people, and destroying property. The attacks took place in the context of a sinister legislative trend in which many Russian regions are passing laws to ban “homosexual propaganda.”

“Russia’s leadership has stood by as regions have adopted blatantly homophobic laws,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These laws cannot but encourage attacks like the one last night.”

An ambulance worker at the scene told a correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta that four people had head injuries and that two of them had to be hospitalized. Several others had bruises and other minor injuries.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that about 70 people were at the party when the attackers arrived.  The witnesses said that the attackers had at least two guns, which may have been stun guns, and mace. They rushed into the premises screaming, “You wanted a pogrom? You wanted a flight? You got it!” and proceeded to destroy the club.  They held the bartender at gunpoint, forced her face down on the floor, and started smashing the bar, breaking bottles and glasses over her head. They also smashed plates and glasses, overturned tables, and threw chairs and other objects directly at the guests.  

The three witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that most injuries were caused by flying furniture and other objects. The attackers, who wore heavy boots, also kicked people, some in the head. One young woman’s eyeglasses were broken by a flying object, and shreds of glass got into her eye. The ambulance workers, who arrived at the club shortly after the attack, provided medical assistance to several people and took two people with head injuries to the hospital.

An activist who was at the club during the attack told Human Rights Watch that although there is a police station close to the club, it took the police half an hour to arrive after they were called.

“The authorities need to send an unambiguous signal that homophobia will not be tolerated, and the first step should be to investigate and prosecute the attackers,” Williamson said.  “The second step should be to annul the homophobic laws. They are discriminatory, they violate Russia’s international obligations, and they have no place in a society that upholds the rule of law.”

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