Case of Romanov and Others v. Russia (Applications nos. 58358/14 and 5 others – see appended list)

A selection of key paragraphs can be found below the judgment.


68. The Court observes that the ten applicants concerned (see paragraph 59 above) were subjected to vicious hate speech and physical violence during the attacks or clashes with the counter-demonstrators, facts which were not disputed by the Government (see, in particular, paragraphs 5-6, 13-16, 20-22, 26, 31-33 and 41 above). It is apparent from the material in the case file that the purpose of these verbal and physical attacks was to intimidate the applicants into refraining from publicly expressing their belonging to and support of the LGBTI community, such as by holding demonstrations or thematic meetings. In the cases of Mr Romanov, Mr Lebedev, Mr Nasonov, Mr Starov, Ms Pitenova Mr Fedorov and Mr Prokopenko, the applicants’ emotional distress must also have been further exacerbated by the fact that police protection was not provided in due time or adequately (see Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group and Others v. Georgia, nos. 73204/13 and 74959/13, §§ 60-61, 16 December 2021; see also paragraphs 5-6, 16 and 21 above).

72. The Court further notes that it is not disputed that police were present in sufficient numbers at the demonstration sites before the beginning of the incidents (compare Identoba and Others, cited above, § 73; see also paragraphs 5, 16, and 20 above). Specific information about prior threats had been transmitted to the police by the organisers of the 20 January 2013 demonstration (see paragraph 15 above). The police should have been aware in advance that there existed a real risk to the applicants’ physical safety stemming from their manifesting of views that were unpopular with the counter-demonstrators, or should have reacted to such threats as they developed (see paragraphs 5, 16 and 21 above). Yet it does not appear that the police took steps to neutralise the threats in advance or to de-escalate the tension between the applicants and counter-demonstrators; instead, they allowed it to degenerate into physical violence (see, mutatis mutandis, Association ACCEPT and Others v. Romania, no. 19237/16, § 110, 1 June 2021). When the counter-demonstrators started insulting the applicants, throwing objects at them and physically attacking them, the police did not intervene immediately to stop the attacks and protect the applicants. The Government did not argue that the police officers had been outnumbered by the counter-demonstrators or that they had lacked the proper equipment to intervene. No explanation was provided as to why the police stepped in only after the attacks had already progressed and the applicants had had to stop their participation in the demonstrations.

77. Turning to the cases of Mr Starov, Ms Pitenova, Mr Fedorov and Mr Prokopenko, the Court notes that the investigators refused to open criminal investigations into the attacks on them (see paragraph 24 above). In the case of Ms Gromadskaya and Mr Martin, the police also refused to open criminal investigation but opened administrative-offence proceedings instead. Those proceedings were, however, opened five months after the incident and were eventually discontinued as the limitation period for the offence had expired (see paragraphs 43-46 above). In Mr Chechetkin’s case, a criminal investigation was initiated immediately after the incident but was later suspended as the attackers could not be identified (see paragraphs 33, 38-40 above). Lastly, the Court notes that in Mr Romanov’s case, where the perpetrator had been identified and convicted of hooliganism, he was amnestied shortly after his conviction (see paragraphs 7 and 10-12 above).

79. Having said this, the Court observes that the investigating authorities repeatedly rejected the applicants’ allegations in a summary manner, without properly addressing their complaints in that regard (see paragraphs 9, 24, 36-39 and 45 above). The Court notes with great concern that this appears to be common practice in dealing with hate crimes against LGBTI people (see paragraphs 55 and 65 above). As a result, the authorities failed to adequately address the homophobic overtones of the attacks and to subject them to a proper evaluation under the domestic law, in line with the requirements of the Convention (see Association ACCEPT and Others, cited above, §§ 123-25).


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