The United Nations Human Rights Committee, based in Geneva, Switzerland, has given Russia six months to explain why it banned a picket by gay activists in Moscow.

This follows a complaint to the committee by Nikolai Alekseev, Moscow Pride’s chief organiser. The picket was to be held in front of the Iranian Embassy in Moscow last year to protest the execution of homosexuals and minors in Iran and to call for the repeal of the death penalty.

“It is the first time that we use this procedure of individual complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee and we are satisfied to see that it took only one month for the committee to start working on it,” Nikolai Alekseev said Tuesday at the Slavic Pride Press Conference in Moscow.

He expressed hope that the UN Human Rights Committee will condemn Russia for violating the rights of gays and lesbians before May 2010, when the fifth Moscow Pride is scheduled.

“This committee is one of the very few international means we have to appeal against unlawful decisions of Russian authorities, together with the European Court,” he said.

This month’s Moscow Pride, which was set to take place during the Eurovision Song Contest final, has been banned for the fourth year running by the authorities. Parade organisers say that they will go ahead anyway.

Dutch pop singer Gordon has threatened to boycott the event if Russian police violently attempt to stop the parade. The singer, who is homosexual himself, said that “if violence is used during the demonstration, I’ll fly straight back to the Netherlands.”

In related news, the lower house of the Russian parliament has rejected the first reading of a bill that introduced criminal responsibility for “homosexual propaganda”, Russian news agency Interfax reported on Friday.

The bill was originally submitted by a deputy of the pro-Kremlin party A Just Russia, Aleksander Chuev. It proposed depriving those who “openly demonstrated a homosexual way of life and a homosexual orientation” of the right to hold posts in educational establishments or in the army for between two to five years.

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