Front Line Defenders calls on Ukraine to investigate a crime committed against LGBTQI defender Olena Shevchenko on the anniversary of the attack against her
On 14 April 2022, woman human rights defender, Olena Shevchenko, was tear gassed on the streets of Lviv by two unidentified individuals while delivering humanitarian aid. On the one-year anniversary of the attack against the woman human rights defender, Front Line Defenders calls upon the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the crime commited against one of the most prominent LGBTQI rights defenders in the country.
Olena Shevchenko is a woman human rights defender and community organiser from Ukraine, working on advancing LGBTQI and women’s rights. Olena Shevchenko is the Chairperson of Insight, an NGO that focuses on promoting and protecting the rights of LGBTQI persons in Ukraine. The woman human rights defender is also a European Representative at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World), the co-chair of the European Lesbian* Conference, and a co-chairperson of the Coalition Against Discrimination in Ukraine. In 2023, Time Magazine listed Olena Shevchenko among it’s “Women of the Year” for her human rights and humanitarian work.
On 14 April 2022, while Olena Shevchenko was finishing unloading humanitarian aid from the organisation Марш Жiнок (Women’s March) in Lviv, an unknown individual approached the woman human rights defender on the street, and addressed her directly. When Olena Shevchenko looked at the person, the disguised individual yelled “pervert, get out of our city,” tear gassed her, aiming at her face and eyes, and disappeared from the scene of attack. Olena Shevchenko received emergency medical assistance at the site of the attack, as she suffered from a chemical burn on her face, eyes, and hands.
On 14 April 2022, the Lviv Regional Police Department #1 launched a criminal investigation concerning the attack against Olena Shevchenko part 2 Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine which provides for liability for violating the equality of citizens depending on their racial, national affiliation, religious beliefs, disability and other grounds. On 19 April 2022, the woman human rights defender had undergone a forensic medical examination. However, law enforcement officials failed to collect Olena Shevchenko’s statement as a victim, did not inform her about her rights and duties, and failed to inform her about the results of the forensic medical examination, despite requests from her lawyer. On 3 March 2023, Olena Shevchenko’s lawyer mailed a motion to the law enforcement authorities, requesting to collect the woman human rights defender’s statement in Kyiv, since she had moved back to her hometown. The motion submitted remains unanswered to date. On 10 April 2023, the lawyer filed a claim regarding the inactivity of the Ukrainian law enforcement officers to the Court.
Olena Shevchenko has been previously subjected to threats, harassment and intimidation. In 2016, the woman human rights defender was assaulted in Lviv during the Фестиваль Рiвностi (Equality Festival), when far-right protesters attacked the location, stoned the premises, and threw Molotov Cocktails (now in Ukraine referred to as Bandera Smoothies) at the participants. In March 2018, Olena Shevchenko and her colleagues were tear gassed during Kyiv Pride. She was arrested afterwards by the Kyiv police and charged with “violation of the procedure for conducting peaceful assemblies.” In November 2019, two unknown individuals beat the woman human rights defender up while shouting homophobic slurs. Olena Shevchenko also faced homophobic threats due to her recognition as Times “Woman of the Year.”
Front Line Defenders expresses serious concerns about the lack of investigative efforts in the homophobic attack against woman human rights defender Olena Shevchenko and the inactivity of Lviv-based investigative bodies in investigating the hate crime committed against her. It contributes to a pattern of systemic attacks, including homophobic and misogynistic threats, on women and LGBTQI rights defenders in Ukraine in recent years, and the failure to bring those responsible to justice. The organisation believes that the attack against Olena Shevchenko is a result of her peaceful human rights work to protect and promote the rights of LGBTQI persons in Ukraine.
Front Line Defenders acknowledges the incredible contributions of Olena Shevchenko and her colleagues from “Марш Жiнок”, with their human rights work assisting internally displaced women and children. Front Line Defenders is especially saddened that Olena Shevchenko was attacked while delivering humanitarian aid, as humanitarian volunteers play key role in supporting the Ukrainian people during Russia’s full-scale invasion. On the one-year anniversary of the attack against the woman human rights defender, Front Line Defenders calls upon Ukrainian authorities to investigate the crime committed against one of the most prominent LGBTIQ rights defenders, Olena Shevchenko.