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Belgrade pride ban slammed as ‘victory for prejudice’

Belgrade pride ban slammed as ‘victory for prejudice’

Human rights group Amnesty International has slammed the decision to ban a gay pride event in Serbia’s capital Belgrade as a ‘victory for prejudice’.

The organization claims the Serbian government’s order not to allow the LGBT rights march to go ahead on Saturday (6 October) is in breach of the country’s law and constitution.

It is the second year in a row that the festival has been banned by authorities, with Prime Minister Ivica Dačić citing serious security concerns, protection of human lives and preservation of public peace and order as reasons for outlawing the event.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen said: ‘The banning of the 2012 Belgrade pride is a victory for prejudice and a sorry defeat for human rights and common decency.

‘By banning the 2012 Belgrade pride, Serbia’s government is effectively going against its own legal and constitutional protections for basic rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Serbia.

‘It is the government’s job  and its obligation to ensure that peaceful gatherings such as the Belgrade pride can go ahead without unlawful interference. Sadly, it appears that this new government lacks the political will to guarantee such rights.’

The Serbian authorities banned pride in 2009 and 2011, claiming they were worried about public safety.

Anti-gay rioters at 2010 pride injured hundreds of marchers and caused more than €1 million in property damage.

Serbia, along with other EU hopefuls, has been urged by the European Parliament to do more to defend the rights of its LGBT citizens.

Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), including Marije Cornelissen, Jelko Kacin and Keith Taylor, were due to attend the march and should fly to Belgrade as planned later this week.

Taylor says he will meet with the march’s organisers and LGBT rights campaigners to hear about their experiences of living in Serbia.

The Green Party politician says Serbia must improve their record on LGBT rights if they want to join the EU.

‘Unfortunately yet again this year, Serbian homophobes won by threatening large-scale unrest and violence,’ he said.

‘Why does Serbia continue to allow high-risk football matches, providing police protection from hooligans but not homophobes?

‘The theme for this year’s Belgrade Pride is the three universal values ”‹”‹of love, faith and hope. But these need to be more than just words. There is a need for more understanding and respect for LGBT people in Serbia.’

Reacting to the ban, Kacin, European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia, called the ban a ‘political decision’.

He said: ‘I regret that freedom of expression and assembly, two cornerstones of all European democracies, cannot be exercised freely by all Serbian citizens.

‘This ban is a lost opportunity for Serbia, and it gives an impression the country does not deserve.

‘Serbian police are professional and capable of ensuring public law and order. I feel safe walking the street of Belgrade, and I am convinced state authorities could have ensured the safety of both the public and participants had they wanted to. This decision was a political one.’

Gay rights group ILGA-Europe also condemned the Serbian authorities saying they are ‘deeply disappointed’ by the decision and has called on the government to reverse the ban.

‘No one argues that this event unfortunately attracts violent protesters,’ said Gabi Calleja, co-chair of the executive board ILGA-Europe.

‘However, it is a state duty to provide protection to everyone who wants to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful demonstration.’