February 21, 2013

Mr. Herman Van Rompuy

President of the European Council

Rue de la Loi 175

B-1048 Brussels

Mr. José Manuel Barroso,

President of the European Commission

Rue de la Loi 200

1049 Brussels

Brussels, 15 February 2013

Re: EU-Ukraine Summit

Dear President of the European Council,

Dear President of the European Commission,

We are writing to urge you to use the EU-Ukraine summit to speak out against draft legislation currently pending in the Ukrainian parliament that discriminates against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The EU should also express profound concern about the alarming rise in homophobic violence in Ukraine and call for resolute action on the part of the Ukrainian authorities to address the problem. This would be fully in line with the pledge made in the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy,adopted last June by EU Foreign Ministers and subsequently endorsed by the European Council, to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, and to raise human rights issues “vigorously in all appropriate forms of bilateral dialogue, including at the highest level.”

Considering the timeframe for the possible signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, as well as current discussions about the simplification of the visa regime between the EU and Ukraine, the EU is particularly well placed to make clear to the Ukrainian authorities that any deepening of relations between the EU and Ukraine depends upon the government upholding its international obligations with respect to human rights and the rule of law, including rejecting unequivocally the discriminatory legislation currently before the parliament.

The EU should, therefore, convey to the Ukrainian government that the crackdown on LGBT rights and the rise of violent nationalism, if left unaddressed, will jeopardize Ukraine’s attempts to establish closer ties with the EU, including within the framework of the proposed Association Agreement.

Homophobic legislation

Two anti-gay “propaganda” bills are scheduled to be discussed by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, during its current session.

Bill No. 1155, “Draft law on the prohibition of propaganda of same-sex sexual relations aimed at children” defines “propaganda of homosexuality” as “intentional activity,which aims to and is expressed in dissemination of any positive information about same-sex sexual relations that could negatively affect … development of the child, including forming a misconception of traditional and nontraditional marriage relations being equal, and in the future impact his or her choice of sexual orientation.” The bill also extends the definition of propaganda to any public activities that disseminate positive information about homosexuality, such as rallies, parades, demonstrations about LGBT rights, discussions, or optional classes that contain positive information about homosexuality. Bill No. 1155 would also ban the media from disseminating positive information about homosexuality.

Bill No. 1155 envisions “propaganda of homosexuality” as an administrative or a criminal offense punishable by fines of up to 2,000 Euros or a prison term of up to six years for “offenses repeated within a year.”

The second bill, No. 0945, titled, “Draft law on amendments to legislative acts concerning the protection of children’s right to a safe information space,” proposes to ban any production or publication of content “promoting” homosexuality; the use of media, TV, or radio broadcasting for homosexual “propaganda”; the printing or distribution of publications “propagating” homosexuality; and the import, production, or distribution of creative writings, cinematography, or video materials “propagating” homosexuality. If adopted, the bill will introduce fines or prison sentences of up to five years for the aforementioned acts. The bill passed the parliament in first reading in October 2012.

As cautioned by the European Parliament in a December 2012 resolution on Ukraine, the bills would violate fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and are deeply discriminatory towards LGBT people in Ukraine. They would create an unacceptable environment of state-promoted discrimination against LGBT people, including those under 18 years of age. The bills would also endanger the ability of human rights defenders to engage in work protecting the rights of LGBT people.

Attacks against LGBT activists

Throughout 2012 and in early 2013 there have been a growing number of attacks by neo-Nazi and nationalist groups targeting LGBT-related events. For example, on May 19, 2012, unidentified assailants defaced photographs at a Kiev exhibition depicting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families in Ukraine. LGBT Pride organizers announced at a May 20, 2012 press conference that they were cancelling a march scheduled for that day in Kiev following police claims that they could not protect participants from potential violence by neo-Nazi and nationalist groups who were planning a protest at the same time and location. Just after the May 20 press conference, five men beat Kiev Pride organizers Svyatoslav Sheremet and Maksim Kasyanchuk. The authorities opened a criminal investigation but failed to identify the suspects despite the existence of video recordings of the attack, and failed to record the attacks as hate crimes motivated by the victims’ sexual orientation and LGBT activism.

In June 2012, an unidentified man approached Kiev Pride head Taras Karasiichuk near his home, asked his sexual orientation, and beat him, breaking his jaw and giving him a concussion. Investigators were unable to identify the attacker.[1]In December 2012 and February 2013, Karasiichuk was approached by groups of men who warned him against organizing Kiev Pride and threatened to beat him.

In July and December 2012, neo-Nazis and nationalists verbally attacked LGBT rights protesters and tore their posters. In a statement published on December 8, 2012, Svoboda, a political party represented in the Verkhovna Rada, claimed responsibility for ripping the demonstrators’ posters and attempting to disrupt the protest. The statement called the protest “a Sabbath of 50 perverts” and blamed unidentified people for beating up “other perverts” after the event. While no criminal investigation was opened into the attack, some of the attackers and protest participants received minor administrative fines. Furthermore, the organizer of the protest, Olena Shevchenko, was fined 850 hryvna (75 Euros) by the Shevchenkivskiy District Court for alleged administrative violations in relation to the protest. The court ruled that Shevchenko, who is the head of the LGBT rights organization “Insight,” had not followed the procedures outlined in the administrative code for holding public gatherings but did not explain its reasoning. The Kiev Appeals Court upheld this sentence.

The December 2012 EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions welcomed what it termed Ukraine’s “European choice” and underscored that political association and economic integration were contingent on respect for common values. We hope that during the EU-Ukraine summit, you will urge Ukraine’s leaders to adhere to these values by:

  • Speaking out against the homophobic laws currently pending before Ukraine’s parliament, making clear that they breachUkraine's international obligations and the fundamental values to which Ukraine is expected to adhere;

  • Rejecting bills 1155 and 0945, should the Verkhovna Rada adopt them;

  • Ensuring effective investigations into acts and threats of violence against members of the LGBT community and holding accountable those responsible for such actions;

  • Ensuring adequate protection for organizers of LGBT related events and their participants;

  • Condemning, at the highest levels, hateful rhetoric against LGBT people and making clear such expressions have no place in Ukrainian society.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing matters and wish you a productive summit meeting.

Sincerely,

  1. All-Ukrainian Initiative “For Life”
  2. All-Ukrainian Public Organization ‘GAY-ALLIANCE UKRAINE’
  3. All-Ukrainian Union “The Council of LGBT organizations of Ukraine”
  4. “Avante” Foundation (Lviv)
  5. Center of Visual Culture (Kyiv)
  6. Chernivtsi Regional Public Organization “People of Bukovyna” (Chernivtsi)
  7. Coalition to combat discrimination in Ukraine (includes 41 member organizations)
  8. Community Organization “Our Center” (Dnepropetrivs’k)
  9. Donets’k regional public organization “Agora” (Donets’k region)
  10. Equal Rights Trust
  11. “Gay Alliance” (Cherkasy)
  12. Human Rights Center “Postup”
  13. Human Rights Watch
  14. International human rights organization – Ukrainian Section
  15. LBTQ Public Organization “Insight” (Kyiv)
  16. Mykolayiv Association for Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals “LiGA” (Mykolayiv)
  17. New Wave for a Better Future (Kherson)
  18. No Borders Project of “Center for Social Action”
  19. Public Association “Tema” (Uzhgorod)
  20. Public Organization “Center for Civil Freedoms”
  21. Tochka Opory (Lviv)
  22. Zaporizhia regional charitable foundation “Gender Z” (Zaporizhia region)
  23. “NASH MIR” (Our World) Gay & Lesbian Center (Kyiv)
  24. Zaporizhia regional department of All-Ukrainian charitable organization “All-Ukrainian network of People Living with HIV” (Zaporizhia)

CC:

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Baroness Catherine Ashton

Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Mr. Pierre Vimont

Deputy Secretary General for the European External Action Service (EEAS), Ms. Helga Schmid

Deputy Secretary General for the European External Action Service (EEAS), Mr. Maciej Popowski

Head of Cabinet to President of the European Council, Mr. Didier Seews

Advisor to the President of the European Council for Russia, Ms. Charlotte Sammelin

Head of Cabinet to President of the Commission, Mr. Johannes Laitenberger

Advisor to the President of the Commission for External relations, Mr. Hugo Sobral

Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Mr. Štefan Füle

EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis

Head of Cabinet to the High Representative, Mr. James Morrison

Advisor to the High Representativeon Eastern Neighbourhood,Mr. Carl Hartzell

Advisor to the High Representative on Human Rights, Ms. Suvi Seppäläinen

Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, Amb. Jan Tombinski

Managing Director for Central Asia and Europe, EEAS, Mr. Luis Felipe Fernandez de la Peňa

Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, and Central Asia, EEAS, Mr. Gunnar Wiegand

Head of Division for Eastern Partnership, EEAS, Mr. John Kjaer

Desk Officer for Ukraine, EEAS, Mr. Calin Ungur

Director of Human Rights and Democracy Unit, EEAS, Ms. Véronique Arnault

Human Rights Desk Officer for Russia, EEAS, Ms. Zuzana Sutiakova

Chair of the EU’s Political and Security Committee, Amb. Olaf Skoog

Chair of the EU’s Working Party on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST), Mr. Petteri Vuorimaki

Chair of the EU’s Working Party on Human Rights (COHOM), Mr. Engelbert Theuermann

President of the European Parliament, Mr. Martin Schulz

Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for Democracy and Human Rights, Mr.

Edward McMillan-Scott

Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Elmar Brok

Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, Ms. Barbara Lochbihler

Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, Mr. Paweł Robert Kowal

Members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee

Members of the European Parliament’s Sub Committee on Human Rights

Members of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee



[1]http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/06/26/ukraine-investigate-brutal-attack-gay-activist