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Oct 08, 2007 News: Council of Europe Must Distance Itself from Patriarch Alexy
By Sven Rabatzky

(EU) - ILGA-Europe is very concerned that the Council of Europe has allowed itself to be used as a platform for an attack on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. Responding to a question following an address to the Parliamentary Assembly on 2nd October, the Christian fundamentalist leader justified his opposition to the Moscow Gay pride march on the basis that it was "propaganda for sin". Homosexuality was "an illness and a distortion of the human personality" comparable to kleptomania. His comments were met with applause by many of the Assembly members present, although some walked out in protest.

Earlier, in his main speech to the Assembly, he had implicitly attacked the Council of Europe's support for LGBT rights: "Today, there occurs a break between human rights and morality, and this break threatens European civilisation. We can see it in a new generation of rights that contradict morality, and in how human rights are used to justify immoral behaviour".

The Patriarch had been invited to the Assembly by its President, Mr Rene van der Linden, as part of a policy promoting tolerance and understanding through intercultural and interreligious dialogue. He appeared unconcerned by the Patriarch's comments, thanking him "most warmly" for "contributing to dialogue, understanding and tolerance".

This lack of concern was not shared by other delegates, who signed a declaration urging the Patriarch "to avoid the use of language inciting intolerance" and "to respect … the fundamental rights of sexual minorities".

ILGA-Europe's Executive Director, Patricia Prendiville commented: “It is highly regrettable that the Council of Europe has allowed itself to be associated with such a serious attack on the rights of a minority. We urge Mr van der Linden to distance the Assembly from the statements of the Patriarch".

The adviser of ILGA-Europe on Council of Europe, Nigel Warner, added: "These events are a serious blow for the Council’s credibility. It will be important to ensure that the programmes of intercultural and interreligious dialogue are not again used to undermine human rights, and that they work to resolve cultural differences over the rights of women and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons".

The Council of Europe is Europe's principal human rights organisation, based in Strasbourg, with 47 member states embracing all of Europe except Belarus. Its most important institution is the European Court of Human Rights. Its Parliamentary Assembly consists of delegates from the parliaments of the member states. It plays an important role in the promotion of human rights, and in helping the member states bring their human rights standards into line with those of the Council of Europe.

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