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General rapporteur expresses deep concern for the rights of LGBTI people in or fleeing Ukraine

LGBTI conflict zones

“I am deeply concerned about the safety of LGBTI people in the context of Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine”, said Christophe Lacroix (Belgium, SOC), the Assembly’s General Rapporteur on the rights of LGBTI people.

“LGBTI people are already facing increasing violence, discrimination and stigmatisation in Europe, as the Assembly’s recent Resolution 2417 (2022) underlined. In times of war, however, they are at heightened risk of grave human rights violations, including sexual violence. Such abuses are already underreported in times of peace, and are far more likely to occur during war, with little chance of justice subsequently being done. Conflict also forces civil society organisations – many of which are already stretched due to the Covid-19 pandemic – to re-focus their resources towards humanitarian assistance. Escape to safety may also become more difficult, especially where a hostile climate towards LGBTI people exists in neighbouring countries. Crossing borders may be extremely difficult for trans and gender-diverse people, whose identification documents may have gender markers that do not correspond to their gender identity. Such dangers may moreover be increased by a lack of family and community support”, he said.

“Many LGBTI people have already been displaced in recent years from territory under the control of armed groups in Eastern Ukraine,” Mr Lacroix observed. "The flagrant violations of LGBTI people’s rights in the Russian Federation, which has frequently been found to have breached the European Convention on Human Rights, and the persecution of LGBTI people in the Chechen Republic, moreover give rise to serious alarm as to the safety of LGBTI persons who may now find themselves in areas controlled by Russian armed forces. LGBTI persons in Ukraine’s neighbouring State Belarus have also faced violations of their rights due to government crackdowns.”

“The unique threats to the safety of LGBTI persons in conflict situations mean we must now pay special attention to protecting their rights,” said Mr Lacroix. “I call on all Council of Europe member States to guarantee full respect for the rights of LGBTI persons in or fleeing Ukraine, and in particular to:

- ensure that all humanitarian assistance efforts systematically take account of the vulnerabilities of LGBTI persons in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and ensure that civil society organisations with the necessary expertise are directly involved in planning and implementing both assistance and recovery efforts;

- grant humanitarian protection to all LGBTI persons fleeing Ukraine, including those who do not have Ukrainian citizenship or permanent residence in Ukraine;

- provide safe shelter, in a place where they are not at risk of new violations of their rights, to all LGBTI persons fleeing or internally displaced within Ukraine, and ensure them access to the legal and psychological support they need in a language they understand and speak fluently;

- guarantee full access to hormone replacement therapy and other necessary medicines and medical care for trans and intersex persons, whether they have fled Ukraine or remain within its territory;

- take particular care to protect LGBTI people from sexual violence in this context;

- ensure that trans women are able to cross borders and internal check points just as other women can, even if their passport does not reflect their gender identity.”

“Finally, I wish to underline that regardless of the duration of the armed conflict in Ukraine, its consequences will be felt for many years to come,” Mr Lacroix concluded. “States must ensure that long-term support is available both to LGBTI refugees and to LGBTI persons who remain in Ukraine despite the conflict.”