The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russian legislation banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ is discriminatory and a breach of human expression, in a case brought to the court by gay rights activists. In the summary of the decision the court said that by adopting such laws “the (Russian) authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society.” The case was brought to the Strasbourg-based court by three activists after they were arrested on three occasions in central St. Petersburg as well as in front of a school and a children’s library for holding signs saying that homosexuality is natural. The men were arrested under a law that bans the “promoting of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors” and “creating a distorted image of the social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships”. Having unsuccessfully appealed their fines in the constitutional court in Russia they brought their case to the ECHR where it was ruled yesterday that the law violated Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The court deemed that compensation of €8,000, €15,000 and €20,000 be paid to the three men respectively. The finding against Russia marks the latest in a series of run-ins between the court and Moscow. In April, it ruled that the Russian government was guilty of failings in the way it handled the Beslan hostage crisis in 2004. At least 330 people including 186 children were killed when Chechen militants attacked a school and executed a number of students and teachers before Russian security forces stormed the building. Judges ruled that the sum of three million euros should be paid to families of victims.