On August 30th, members of RFSL partner organization Gay Alliance Ukraine were attacked during the preparations for Odesa Pride-related demonstration. Due to inefficient actions of the police, several activists were injured, however, 10 days after the attack the investigation still has not been launched. RFSL stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian LGBTQ activists and urges the local law enforcement authorities to efficiently investigate the incident and bring the culprits to justice.
In the light of the violent attack on activists from Gay Alliance Ukraine in Odesa, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights has written an open letter to the mayors of Kharkiv and Zaporizhia in reference to upcoming Pride celebrations in these two Ukrainian cities. The intention is to encourage that the Pride celebrations (on the 13 and 20 of September respectively) should be carried out in accordance with the right to peaceful congregation and that the authorities should provide “effective and sufficient police protection”.
RFSL’s statement in reference to the as-yet uninvestigated attack at Odesa Pride, in its entirety, is as follows:
RFSL urges the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the attack against LGBT activists participating in Odesa Pride activities on August 30th.
As members and volunteers of Gay Alliance Ukraine (GAU), on August 30th, were preparing for a demonstration within the frames of Odesa Pride, a large counter-protest was held by the Ukrainian far-right movement Tradition and Order, involving approximately 200 members of this far-right political movement. Soon after the counter-demonstration had begun, a group of 30 far-right activists approached the area where GAU members and volunteers were setting up the stage and began the assault.
The attackers, armed with sticks, batons, pepper sprays injured several people. More serious injuries include face and arm burns caused by unidentified liquid (that the attackers were pouring from bottles) and a concussion along with traumatic injuries to torso and legs.
Police, who had prior assured the organizers of Odesa Pride that risks were minimal and relevant security measures would be taken, failed to intervene quickly, as well as bring the culprits to justice. Instead, LGBT activists were blamed for ’’provoking violence’’ and were refused evacuation assistance. After almost an hour and a half of being exposed to the violent counter-protesters, members of GAU managed to mobilise friends and allies who helped get people and equipment to safety in private vehicles.
Initially, 16 attackers were detained, according to the police statement, but most of them have been released after being charged for administrative offences, such as petty hooliganism and disobedience to the police officer. One person is being investigated for assaulting a police officer. In the assessment of survivors of the attack, these charges do not correspond to the severity of the attack and injuries suffered by the activists, 7 of whom filed complaints and 4 went through forensic medical expertise to document the injuries received during the attack. Despite this evidence, no investigation has been launched up to this day and the police refuse to meet with the organization representing the survivors.
RFSL is appalled by these developments, especially considering the positive practice of last year’s peacefully held Odesa Pride, where we witnessed how the correct and cooperative attitude of the law enforcement can make a difference in protecting people’s right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Ukrainian Constitution.
We call on authorities in Odessa to properly investigate the assault and bring all the culprits to justice. We also urge the police to assess the quality of security assessment before the incident as well as actions on-site, to outline areas for improvement and possible rights violations on the part of law enforcers.