Violent reactions against peaceful diversity and LGBT demonstrations
Peaceful demonstrations celebrating the 10th anniversary of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, and the International Day against Homophobia were met with violence and retaliation.
Friday, 08 June 2012, by HRHF Geneva Office, based on various sources and HRHN partners
The 10th anniversary of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development was marked by tension and violence in Armenia. In Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, LGBT rights demonstrations have been met with resistance from authorities and conservative sectors of society. The United Nations 2012 world day of cultural diversity, on 21 May, sought to encourage support for diversity, to foster an intercultural dialogue on inclusion, and to combat isolation and stereotyping.
ARMENIA: DEMONSTRATIONS FOR DIVERSITY ATTACKED
May 2012 demonstration in Yerevan (Nazik Armenakian picture)The peaceful march staged in Yerevan on 21 May, organised by Human Rights House Network partners PINK and Womens Ressource Centre, to promote and celebrate Armenia’s cultural, ethnic, human and fauna diversity, was met with violence from civilian protestors. The march - which included participants from various social backgrounds; civic activists, refugees living in Armenia, and representatives of NGOs and international organisations - was surrounded by a human chain formed by the civilian protestors, who directed homophobic insults and fascist slogans at the procession.
Prior to the march, misleading information had been spread via social media, claiming that it was in fact a gay parade, provoking the discriminatory actions of the civilian protestors. The extremist protestors attempted to stop the march, threatening violence and intimidating the participants, the homophobic hate speech directed towards the marchers was framed as “patriotic.” Police clashed with the protestors, and managed to stop them from gaining entry to the art exhibition that had been organised for the occasion, however, PINK reports that the situation was not handled well by police, as their presence failed to ensure the safety of the activists.
The actions of the extremist protestors in Yerevan constitute criminal behaviour, which is based on discrimination against sexual minorities. This kind of hate speech, which amounted to threats of violence, is illegal under the Armenian Constitution.
GEORGIA: LGBT RIGHTS DEMONSTRATIONS NEED TO ENJOY PROTECTION BY AUTHORITIES
In Tbilisi, a peaceful demonstration organised in support of LGBT rights on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, on May 17th, was met with opposition from protestors, most of whom were Orthodox Christians or priests. BBC reports that one priest among the civilian protestors called the march “propaganda [for a] wrong way of life.” These protestors called on the police to put a stop to the march, and when the police refused to do so, the protestors took matters into their own hands, and violence erupted. Police stepped in, and arrests where made on both sides.
Human Rights House Tbilisi member, the Human Rights Centre reported that the police action was unsatisfactory in protecting the LGBT activists and their right to freedom of expression; despite contacting the police in advance about possible threats to their safety during the march, activists’ security was still not guaranteed.
Furthermore, Human Rights Centre reports that when making arrests, the police targeted the LGBT activists, rather than the violent protestors.
UKRAINE: FOOTBALL YES, LGBT RIGHTS NO
Svyatoslav Sheremet (on ground), head of the Gay Forum of Ukraine, beaten in connection with the May 2012 Kiev Gay PrideKiev Pride, the march for LGBT rights which had been planned for the 20 May, few days before the opening the European football championship, was called off at the last minute for security reasons, when a large group of right wing extremists turned up to attack the gay parade, despite heavy police presence.
In response to the attacks, which put at least two people in hospital, Svyatoslav Sheremet, Head of Gay-Forum Ukraine, announced the cancellation of the march to the media. Following this announcement, a group of attackers assaulted Sheremet, and another organiser was attacked with pepper spray. Amnesty International has accused the Ukrainian police of connivance in this incident.
According to Kyiv Post, the Svoboda All-Ukrainian Union released a statement claiming that, “the Ukrainian nationalists and public have managed to prevent the so-called gay pride parade.” The statement went on to condemn the activists as “sexual perverts” who were attempting to impose their “perversion” upon the community.
The German member of Bundestag Volker Beck (right) witnessed the violence in Kiev on 20 May, and reported via Twitter (@Volker_Beck) that there were “anti gay protestors armed with whips” and that despite there being “militia everywhere” that “security couldn’t be guaranteed”; he tweeted: “City administration wants to protect #kyivpride2012 but police are not enforcing it”. Beck also commented on State level discrimination towards LGBT people: “The accepted place (to hold the demonstration) is far away from public attention. This shows the strategy of marginalising of LGBT, but it is a start.”
BELARUS: NOBODY HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTEST – SAME FOR LGBT RIGHT DEMONSTRATORS
According to Radio Free Europe/Liberty Radio, authorities refused activists’ requests for three separate demonstrations to celebrate the International Day against Homophobia in Minsk.
On the 15 of May, a Gay Pride demonstration was held in Minsk despite the fact that the local authorities had denied permission. The parade was broken up by authorities, which made arrests, and allegedly physically assaulted some participants in the parade.
THE RIGHT TO PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION SHOULD BE GUARANTEED TO ALL
The situation in the Republic of Belarus is equally worrying; the refusal of local authorities to allow the parade to take place, demonstrates the level of institutionalised discrimination against LGBT people. Accusations that the Ukrainian police did not do enough to stop the violence at Kiev, and the alleged beatings by the Belarusian authorities, imply that the protection of human rights defenders by authorities is unsatisfactory. Under article 12 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders the state has the responsibility to protect people exercising rights, and to protect human rights defenders from any violence, discrimination or threats that may arise in response to their work.
In her 2011 report to the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya (right) showed that defenders working on gender issues are more at risk then others and face threats and acts of violence.
The violence and discrimination directed towards activists by governments and society alike, point to a culture of discrimination, including discrimination against LGBT people. Government authorities should ensure the protection of people exercising their human rights, and respond to retaliation and hate speech that endangers human rights defenders, or impedes them from exercising their rights.
Furthermore, this discrimination is in violation with the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, as well as the right to be a human rights defender. Change on a societal level is needed to promote the full enjoyment of these rights, and it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights, by ensuring a safe environment for people to exercise them.
HRHF Geneva Office, based on various sources and HRHN partners
EU statement on intolerance in Armenia:
The EU Delegation recalls that human rights apply equally to all human beings and underlines the value of non-discrimination and protection of human rights.
At the same time, the EU Delegation is concerned about recent developments, which endanger non-discrimination and protection of human rights in Armenia. The firebombing of a pub in Yerevan and the subsequent disruption of the Diversity March – both portrayed as an anti-LGBT action by certain radical groups, as well as discriminatory statements from certain politicians and in particular the proliferation of hate speech are worrying. These developments have sparked a new debate about the extent of discrimination and tolerance in Armenia.
Worrying situation in East and Horn of Africa:
LGBT rights defenders are in very difficult situation in countries in East and Horn of Africa, especially in Uganda.
More than 40 members and partners of the Human Rights House Network (HRHN) issued a letter of concern calling for an immediate investigation into the murder of David Kato.
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) received the Rafto Prize in 2011, from HRHN member based in Bergen.