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(Berlin) – Ukrainian authorities should allow the Kiev Pride Equality March, scheduled for May 25, 2013, in Kiev, to proceed and protect its participants from violence, Human Rights Watch said today. In a letter sent to Kiev’s city administration on May 21, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the office not to ban the Equality March, and to protect its participants from violence.

Kiev’s city administration announced on May 21 that it would seek a court-mandated ban on the march and other events scheduled for May 25, except for events on that date linked to a citywide celebration marking Kiev City Day. The announcement came against the backdrop of mounting opposition to the march by numerous right-wing and religious groups in Ukraine, including the far-right Svoboda party, which threatened violence if the march is allowed to proceed.

“Banning the Kiev Equality March would send all the wrong signals to those seeking to prevent or obstruct it,” said Boris Dittrich, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should show political leadership and make it clear they won’t let hateful rhetoric, threats of violence, and bullying tactics dictate their policies.”

Ukraine is obligated under its 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, Human Rights Watch said.

Some commentators have suggested that authorities should ban the Equality March to prevent violence by anti-pride protesters, but such a move would only serve to embolden those who threatened violence, Human Rights Watch said.

“Authorities should investigate threats of violence, not use them as a justification to silence pride marchers,” Dittrich said.

Human Rights Watch will be in Kiev to monitor the events on May 25 with two staff members on the ground, available to comment on developments as they happen

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