A few weeks ago, I sent a letter to William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, raising concerns over the Russian anti-LGBTQ laws, and how they would affect those traveling to the Olympics, among others. The text of that letter can be found here. I also forwarded my letter to my MP, Tessa Jowell, who promised to raise the issue with the appropriate people, and pass any responses on to me.
This morning I got a letter from Dame Tessa Jowell which included a letter sent to her by the Minister for Europe, Rt Hon. David Lidington MP. I’ve written up the text below:
Thank you for your letter of 9 August, to the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of your constituent [me, but I’m not posting my address] about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Russia. I am replying as Minister responsible for Russia.
The new Russian law which prohibits the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” could in effect prevent LGBT people from fully enjoying the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the growing restrictions on LGBTQ freedoms in Russia, including at the 2013 UK-Russia Human Rights dialogue in May. We also raise concerns with the Russian government at political level. The Prime Minister most recently outlined our human rights concerns with President Putin in June, and I regularly raise cases of concern in my dialogue with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.
We want to see an open and inclusive games at the Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 but do not support a boycott. We have a better chance of influencing Russia by speaking to them and challenging prejudices as we attend, rather than through a boycott.
Our government is working with the International Olympic Committee and the British Olympic Association to ensure that the games take place in the spirit of the Olympic Charter and remain free of discrimination.
We have updated our travel advice on Russia to inform British nationals of the new law. We review this advice regularly and will update further as necessary.
It would be a crime in Russian law if any unlawful activities were carried out on an individual and we would expect the Russian authorities to fully investigate any such incidents.
Human rights form an important part of the UK-Russia relationship and we will continue to pay close attention to developments in this area, and take further opportunities to urge Russian to demonstrate that it is governed by the rule of law and respects human rights.
The Rt Hon David Lidington MP
Pretty much the response I was expecting. But it is at least a start. I’m considering sending Mr Lidington a further response, but we’ll have to wait and see.