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July 04, 2014

Ukraine's Cancellation of Kyiv March for Equality is a Major Setback for Human Rights

Kyiv - Human Rights First today said that the cancellation of the 2014 Kyiv March for Equality is a disappointing failure in the struggle for the protection of human rights in Ukraine. The march, which was set to be held tomorrow, was cancelled following a statement by Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko urging the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to cancel the LGBT rights parade in the Ukrainian capital.
 
"The country is confronted with many challenges - fighting a war in the east, organizing a new government, and responding to Russian aggression but peaceful freedom of assembly cannot be denied, even in times of crisis," said Human Rights First's Brian Dooley who is currently in Kyiv on a research trip.
 
Despite months of negotiation with LGBT activists, the Kyiv authorities today said they could not protect the March for Equality scheduled for tomorrow. Organizers told Human Rights First that the march was designed as an opportunity for Ukrainians to demonstrate unity and shared values. Kyiv's first equality march took place in 2013 with police protection, and local activists hoped that once the precedent had been set this year's march would be able to take place safely.
 
"Kyiv Mayor Klitschko's statement that 'this is not the right time for a celebration' is a huge disappointment. He should have a better understanding of what a demand for equality is. You can't have a hierarchy of human rights," said Olena Shevchenko, co-chair of the organizing committee of Kyiv 2014 Pride. "It seems like it's never really the right time for LGBT rights."
 
Earlier this year, the Maidan revolution in Ukraine removed government of President Yanukovych and in May President Poroshenko was elected to replace him. Activists had hoped that the new administration would be more open to protecting equality, dignity, and basic rights of civil society for all.
 
"For all of its talk about sharing European values the new Ukrainian government has failed a major human rights test today," said Dooley. "The U.S. Government should make clear publicly to the Ukrainian authorities that peaceful freedom of assembly should be respected for all."
 
For more information or to speak to Dooley contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org.