Ukraine: 'Shameful' decision to ban first ever Kiev gay Pride march with two days to go

Just days before the Ukrainian capital Kiev was due to host its first-ever Pride march, a city court has banned the event in what Amnesty International called a shameful about-face that tramples on human rights.

Today’s court hearing cited this weekend’s Kiev Day celebrations in the city centre – which coincide with the planned Pride march on Saturday 25 May – as a reason for banning the event. For the first time ever, the Kiev city council applied to the courts for a ban of all public events not organised by them, during Kiev Day.

In their application to the court, the city authorities raised the spectre of a threat of violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activists organising the march, despite earlier police assurances that they can guarantee the protection of Pride march demonstrators.

Last year, a planned Kiev Pride march was cancelled in the face of a violent threat posed by groups of extreme-right youth.

Amnesty International Ukraine campaigner Max Tucker said:

“This shameful decision does a disservice to the city of Kiev – instead of allowing all of its residents to join in the celebration of culture, the city authorities are picking and choosing who is allowed to take part. This discrimination must not be tolerated.

“The Kiev city council’s desire to ensure citywide cultural events must not trump Ukraine’s international obligation to guarantee the right to freedom of assembly.

“It is clear from the counter-protesters’ involvement that their aim all along was to silence Kiev’s LGBTI community, something the court and city authorities have shockingly colluded in. Ukrainian authorities must allow everyone to exercise their rights to freedom of assembly and expression without discrimination, and must protect LGBTI activists from attacks when they do so.”

The Pride’s organisers were informed about the court hearing at 9 am today, only two hours before the case was due to begin. They were denied legal representation because they did not have time to sign over power of attorney, which must be done in the presence of a notary.

Kiev Pride 2013 spokesperson, Stas Mischenko, said:

“Not only are the council attempting to deprive us of our right to freedom of assembly, they have also denied us the opportunity of a fair hearing in court.”

During the court hearing, the organisers pointed out that the planned Pride march route actually fell outside the city centre – where Kiev authorities wanted to enforce the ban. Rather than proceed on that basis, the judge allowed the city authorities to submit a new handwritten application on the spot for a ban that included the Pride march route. 

Counter-protesters who had planned to hold a demonstration against the Pride march were also present at the court, and were parties to the ban application.

Since the Pride march organisers first notified the Kiev city council on 11 April about the planned Pride march, the authorities have twice cited a double-booking of different events – including music performances and a bike race – over portions of the march route.

The Pride march organisers plan to submit a new notification for a route outside of the city centre.

Amnesty and other local and international human rights organisations have urged the Kiev authorities to allow the Kiev Pride to take place safely and securely. The European Union and numerous international embassies in Kiev have also spoken out in support of the event.

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