Investigate attack on Olena Shevchenko

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee strongly condemns an attack on Olena Shevchenko, head of our Ukrainian partner organization “Insight,” in downtown Kyiv Friday afternoon.

Olena was attacked by two assailants, shouting homophobic slurs before running away from the scene. She sustained moderate injuries from the attack.

– We urge the police to investigate this attack as a hate crime and ensure that the attackers are prosecuted accordingly, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary general of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

– We also ask that Ukrainian authorities condemn the attack, and clearly state that such attacks will not be tolerated.

Continuous threats

Olena has been under threats from hate groups for a long time, due to her efforts to improve the human rights of LGBTIQ people in Ukraine, as well as her women’s rights activism.

She is one of 12 human rights defenders featured in the Norwegian Helsinki Committees campaign #12 women on the barricades.

During a recent visit to Oslo on occasion of NHCs annual Anna Politkovskaya seminar, she spoke about continuous threats against her and fellow human rights defenders both online and offline. Events in support of the LGBTIQ community in Ukraine, as well as womens’ rights manifestations have become a target for far-right groups in Ukraine.

Olena together with columninst Nora Mehsen and editor of Fett Hanne Skogvang at the panel discussion “Women on the barricades” at Ingensteds 10 October. Photo: Hilde Sandvær

Culture of fear

In 2018, Olena was prosecuted after an 8 March protest. The reason for the accusation was that a right-wing group complained to the police over a banner at the event.

During the trial that followed, the right-wing radicals came in large numbers to court, so the first hearing had to be canceled for security reasons. Olena even had to call a private security company to ensure her safety while leaving the building. The charges against her were later dropped.

– Ukraine should take careful notice that such attacks can lead to a culture of fear that makes it more difficult to be a human rights defender and more dangerous to be openly LGBTI,” says Engesland.

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Mina Wikshåland Skouen

Senior Adviser Equal RightsEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 90 82 50 76
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