RFSL, the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights, urges the Ukrainian authorities to protect the fundamental right to a peaceful assembly and ensure the protection of peaceful demonstrators after a March 8th parade for women’s rights in Kiev was attacked by 200 ultra-right radicals, armed with sticks and tear gas. Furthermore, all charges against Olena Shevchenko, one of the march organizers, must be dropped immediately in the resulting trial.
Seven people were injured during the attack, and a hate campaign by ultra-right group National Druzhina, targeting Shevchenko, head of RFSL partner organization Insight, was started on social media. The group has urged their followers to target Shevchenko and pressed charges against her on the count of ‘’violation of the procedure for conducting peaceful assemblies.’’
’’Right after we finished our public assembly police came to me as I was the main organizer of the manifestation and asked me to come with them to submit an administrative protocol on article 185-1 on ’violation of the procedure for conducting peaceful assemblies’, which we do not have: Ukraine does not have a procedure on peaceful assemblies,’’ Shevchenko said. ’’The police said some people notified them about a banner present during manifestation, which they think constitutes ‘abuse of state symbols.’’’
The banner in question has a drawing of a woman faced with different oppressions: domestic violence, trafficking, religious radicalism and ultra-right radicalism. Symbols representing these issues were a hanger, a coin, a rope, a cross and a symbol of National Druzhina, a well-organized ultra-right group in Ukraine. The latter resembles the coat of arms of Ukraine.
’’The banner was brutally taken away by police during the manifestation,’’ Shevchenko said. ’’I did not see this banner during the manifestation, but I am against censorship and don’t see any ’abuse of state symbols,’ because this was not a state symbol.’’
Shevchenko appeared in court on March 12th, where a group of ultra-right radicals gathered and threatened the human rights defender. The presiding judge advised her to not leave the building for security reasons, and law enforcement did not protect the group.
“RFSL urges the Ukrainian authorities to do its utmost to ensure the protection of Olena Shevchenko and others involved in the march, while dropping the charges against her. We stand in solidarity with the colleagues in Ukraine and monitor events closely,” states Marie Månson, Director of International programs at RFSL.
Shevchenko is due to appear for a second hearing in court on March 15th.
Insight is a feminist LGBTQI rights organization in Ukraine, with a focus on the rights and lived realities of lesbian and bisexual women and transgender, queer and intersex persons.