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Oleksandr Popov
Head of Kyiv City Administration

May 21, 2013

Re: Kyiv Pride Equality March

Dear Mr. Popov,

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are following closely developments around the Kyiv Pride Equality March scheduled to take place on May 25, 2013. We are concerned by a statement that appeared today on the Kyiv City Administration website indicating that the administration will request a court to ban the march and other events scheduled for May 25, with the exception of those directly relating to Kyiv City Day, also scheduled for May 25.

We are writing to urge you not to request such a ban and to allow the Equality March to take place as scheduled, and to ensure that its participants are afforded the necessary protection to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression without fear of physical assault.

We are aware that that the city administration has received 500 letters from the public with more than 10,000 signatures, as well as a letter signed by 61 members of Parliament, to ban the Equality March. We are also aware that the administration has received 10 notices of planned events with more than 39,000 participants to protest the march.

We appreciate the complexity of the current situation. However, Ukraine is obligated under the Ukrainian Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and other international human rights treaties to uphold people’s right to assemble peacefully and express their opinions, without discrimination. The European Convention’s article 11 forbids restrictions on the exercise of freedom of assembly except “prescribed by law and ... necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Article 14 of the Convention requires Ukraine to secure protection of all rights, including freedom of assembly, without discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation. Ukraine has also ratified Protocol No. 12, requiring it to ensure no discrimination on grounds including sexual orientation to all for any right “set forth by law.”

The holding of events in connection with Day of Kyiv cannot justify the banning of all other events at which people wish to gather to express their views.

In light of the considerable, often heated, public debate surrounding the Equality March and its detractors who wish to protest the march, it is important to note that Ukrainian police have an obligation to facilitate the peaceful passage of the Equality March. Some commentators have suggested that authorities should ban the Equality March in order to prevent violence threatened by anti-pride protesters. However, the threat of violence cannot be used to silence pride marchers, indeed this would only serve to embolden those who threaten violence. It is incumbent on the Ukrainian authorities to protect the safety of the participants, and to ensure that anti-LGBT protesters, while being able to protest peacefully, are not allowed to disrupt or interfere with the Equality March. In judgments against Poland and Russia, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled unanimously that banning a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride parade violated the rights to freedom of assembly and association. In Alekseeyev v. Russia, the Court noted that “participants must be able to hold the demonstration without having to fear that they will be subjected to physical violence by their opponents. It is thus the duty of Contracting States to take reasonable and appropriate measures to enable lawful demonstrations to proceed peacefully.”

In 2010 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a set of recommendations – CM/Rec (2010)4 – on measures to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. The recommendations oblige Council of Europe member states, which include Ukraine, “to protect and ensure the respect of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons who wish to assemble and express themselves, even if their views are unpopular or not shared by the majority of the population.”

The Council of Europe recommendations further specify that “local authorities, the courts, the police and national human rights structures, including ombudspersons thus have a duty to protect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly also of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and organizations defending such persons’ rights.”

We call on you to fulfill Ukraine’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and uphold the right of LGBT people to exercise their freedom of assembly on May 25 in a peaceful manner and free from violence.

Yours sincerely,

Boris Dittrich
Advocacy director
LGBT Program
Human Rights Watch

John Dalhuisen
Europe and Central Asia Programme
Amnesty International

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