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Press briefing note - Ukraine / law on homosexuality, Guatemala killings

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 5 October 2012

(1) Ukraine / law on homosexuality

We regret that on 2 October the parliament of Ukraine adopted at first reading draft law 8711 which criminalises any reference to homosexuality in the media or public domain and, if adopted in its current form, could result in fines or prison sentences of up to five years.

The law, which introduces anti-homosexuality amendments into four existing laws as well as into Ukraine’s Criminal Code, is clearly discriminatory and runs counter to Ukraine's international commitments to ensure freedom of expression and information. It may also undermine the rights to health and equality before the law, and raises serious question marks over the country's adherence to fundamental human rights values, as contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Draft law 8711 cannot be reconciled with the recent adoption of an anti-discrimination law by Ukraine, which was a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, in order to clear away some of the contradictions, the anti-discrimination law would be strengthened by explicit references to sexual orientation and gender identity as possible grounds for discrimination.

We welcome the statement by Ukraine’s Ombudsman expressing concerns about the limitation of rights the draft law would introduce, and about possible abuses it may give rise to. We also note that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has stated that it expects parliament to take into account Ukraine's international obligations to protect minority rights in its further consideration of draft law 8711.

We urge the Ukrainian authorities to take all necessary steps to strengthen individual human rights guarantees against discrimination, and note that the second reading of the draft law will provide an opportunity for the new parliament, which will be elected at the end of October, to rectify the situation.

The UN Human Rights Office, in close partnership with international and regional organisations as well as national institutions and civil society organisations, is ready to assist Ukraine to promote an inclusive anti-discrimination agenda and legislation that will be protective of the rights of all without any distinction.

(2) Guatemala killings

We have received alarming information that six indigenous peasants were killed and at least 30 injured as a result of clashes between indigenous communities, police and the military in the Department of Totonicapan in western Guatemala yesterday (Thursday). Seven soldiers are also reported to have been injured.

According to reports, the day started with a large number of indigenous people putting up several roadblocks protesting against the increase of electrical tariffs and provision of other basic services. Details remain unclear and our Office in Guatemala is shortly sending two teams of Human Rights Observers - one to Sololá Department and one to Totonicapan - to verify the facts and follow up on the incidents. There have been conflicting reports about the location in which this incident occurred.
During her mission to Guatemala in March this year, High Commissioner Navi Pillay visited Totonicapan and met with traditional indigenous authorities to discuss a range of human rights concerns.

ENDS


For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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