Ukraine: Support the Rights to Hold the Rainbow Spring Festival in Mykolayiv

The rights violated in this case include freedom of opinion, expression and assembly; equality and non-discrimination; the rights of human rights defenders; the right to security of the person; the rights of minorities; the right to an effective remedy for violations.

The Issue

Following legal action from the city administration, a local court in the city of Mykolayiv, Ukraine, banned the local LGBT organization LiGA from organizing their Rainbow Spring Festival, which includes indoor and outdoor events, planned for May 15-17, 2009. The staff of LiGA received phone calls threatening violence, and unidentified persons attempted to enter their office. LiGA has had to arrange twenty-four hour security for the office.

LiGA is appealing the decision and hopes to be able to hold their activities as planned.

Take Action

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) joins local and other groups in their efforts to protect the human rights of LGBT people and their supporters in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. IGLHRC asks that you email the letter below this week asking Ukrainian authorities to uphold the human rights of all, without discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to allow the festival to take place. Please send your letters to:

Mr. Victor Yuschenko, President of Ukraine
press@stpu.gov.ua
Ms. Yulia Timoshenko, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine
pr@kmu.gov.ua
Mayor Chayka Volodymyr, Mykolayiv City Council
mer@nikgor.mk.ua
cc: Ms. Nina Karpacheva, Ombudswoman of Ukraine
omb@ombudsman.gov.ua

Please also send a copy to:

Detrich Peeler, IGLHRC
dpeeler@iglhrc.org

Sample Letter

Mr. Victor Yuschenko, President of Ukraine

Ms. Yulia Timoshenko, Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine

Mayor Chayka Volodymyr, Mykolayiv City Council

cc: Ms. Nina Karpacheva, Ombudswoman of Ukraine

Your Excellencies:

For the second year in a row, Ukrainian authorities are denying the fundamental rights to free expression and assembly of the members and supporters of the Ukrainian Association LiGA from Mykolayiv. I am writing to you following a call from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) to ask that you uphold their rights and allow the Rainbow Spring Festival, including all of its outdoor events, to take place as scheduled on May 15-17, 2009.

On May 6, 2009, LiGA received a letter from the Mykolayiv City Council banning any public event organized as a part of their Rainbow Spring Festival. The letter stated that while city authorities do not consider LiGA’s activities to be illegal, they have to take into account the “interests, rights, religious and ethical beliefs of all residents of the city.” The letter also referred to messages from religious groups and other civic groups urging them to prevent the festival from taking place in the street because it would have a “negative impact on the moral and spiritual atmosphere of the city.” Fearing “civic unrest” and possible “mass disorder and conflict,” the Council said that events associated with the Rainbow Spring Festival could only take place indoors.

On May 12, 2009, LiGA received a summons from the Mykolayiv City Court announcing the city’s lawsuit against LiGA to prevent them from holding the festival altogether—indoors or outdoors. On May 13, 2009, LiGA was invited to the court for the official announcement of the decision, only to be pushed back until May 14, 2009, when LiGA learned that the court has banned the entire festival. This delay has made it very difficult for LiGA to appeal the court's decision in adequate time for the festival to take place this weekend.

We are also very concerned that the staff of LiGA have received phone calls threatening violence and that unidentified persons attempted to enter their office. LiGA has had to arrange twenty-four hour security for the office.

Ukrainian legislation on freedom of assembly requires that those wishing to conduct a public assembly inform the relevant authorities; however, it does not require them to obtain permission. In this case, city authorities acted on a letter received from opposition groups, before LiGA had the chance to inform them about this public event, and without requesting that LiGA provide additional information concerning the festival.

City authorities are obligated to comply with Ukrainian and international human rights law. As a member of the Council for Europe, Ukraine needs to implement the European Convention of Human Rights, including the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Baczkowski and Others v. Poland (2007). In this case, the European Court found Poland in violation of the European Convention because the Mayor of Warsaw did not authorize a LGBT march. In Plattform Artze fur das Leben v. Austria (1985), the European Court explicitly stated that: “A demonstration may annoy or give offense to persons opposed to the ideas or claims that it is seeking to promote. The participants must, however, be able to hold the demonstration without having to fear that they will be subjected to physical violence by their opponents.”

Demonstrations, marches, and other public events are organized by LGBT people and supporters in many parts of the world as a means to claim their space in civil society and to draw attention to the human rights violations they regularly confront. Through such public events the majority in society learns about differences in general, and different sexualities and gender identities in particular. Little by little, prejudice and misconceptions about LGBT people diminish. LGBT people who live in fear because of their difference can see not only that their opponents may voice ideas in the street, but also that their supporters may exercise the same rights; this way, LGBT people can regain their confidence, dignity, and hope. They take part in building their community.

We ask city authorities and the executive government of Ukraine to allow LiGA to hold its Rainbow Spring Festival, and protect the participants in the festival for all indoor and outdoor events. In so doing, the authorities will honor Ukraine’s obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights to ensure that all people, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity, have the same right to free expression and assembly.

Sincerely,

[name, place, date]