MEPs call on Ukrainian authorities to ensure safety of LGBTI+ prides

In recent years, the pride in Kyiv has become the largest in Eastern Europe, while marches for equality also take place in other Ukrainian cities. However, the state does not always ensure the safety of the participants of such events, thus, in the opinion of the members of European Parliament, it does not explicitly demonstrate its intention to promote equality.

The rally in Kharkiv on September 13, 2020 took place without any violent actions by counter-demonstrators. A large-scale march is now scheduled in Zaporizhye for September 20, 2020. MEPs called on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure effective and sufficient police protection for the pride’s participants.

In their appeal to the Ukrainian authorities members of the European Parliament speak of the inadmissibility of violent disruptions of prides, as this had happened in Odessa on August 30, 2020, when homophobic protesters had shouted insults, sprayed gas, threw eggs at the pride participants. The risk of violence was increased due to the fact that a march for “traditional family values” was authorized in Odessa at the same time as the pride. Despite the arrest of 16 attackers, the law enforcement agencies failed to ensure security and order: there were direct clashes, including one with police officers, and due to the actions of the nationalists, the planned LGBTI march did not take place. Attacks on the public events organized by LGBTI+ rights supporters occur regularly in Ukraine, but the police is often unprepared to provide security, while representatives of right-wing groups rarely bear appropriate responsibility for their actions. Investigators and courts do not discern motives of hate crimes and often misclassify the legal charges.

The problem of not ensuring the safety of participants of LGBTI+ events, as well as the lack of punishment and proper legal qualifications, are typical for a number of countries of Eastern European.

For example, after the law enforcement agencies in Georgia failed to prevent an attack against the participants of the Pride in 2012, the victims then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. In its 2015 ruling in the case of “Identoba and others v. Georgia”, the ECtHR ruled that the state’s failure to protect peaceful demonstrators violated two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (Articles 3 and 14, dealing with prohibition of degrading treatment and discrimination respectively). The authorities, aware of the homophobic sentiments, which are widespread in Georgia, had to foresee the risks of conflicts and guarantee the safe exercise of the right to peaceful assembly. The European court considered the failure of the state to take due measures to protect the participants of the event and to conduct a quality investigation of the attack as support for the homophobic views of the attackers and recognized this as discrimination. This ruling prompted Georgia to police officers training regarding hate crimes and hate speech.

In 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recommended certain measures to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). In particular, states must ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are protected for peaceful demonstrators defending the rights of LGBTI+ persons. According to the MEPs, peaceful demonstrations are both a way of advocacy and actual implementation of these rights. Prides are an important tool that gives visibility to LGBTI+ people and their supporters and provides an opportunity for them to voice concerns and show achievements in the field of human rights equality.