The decision is in effect, the Serbian state succumbing to pressure from violent and intolerant groups, preventing a peaceful celebration of human rights. Belgrade Pride that should have been held on October 2nd, was banned together with other so-called high-risk gatherings this weekend on the grounds of threats to national security.
The other mentioned gatherings are predominantly protests to the Parade. Organizations such as the ultranationalist Obraz and Dveri are currently claiming their victory on the subject matter. Last year Belgrade Pride was carried out with effective support from the police, and this was an important signal from the authorities to the forces in Serbia that encourages discrimination and violence towards sexual and gender minorities. In 2009 the Parade was cancelled in the last second due to security reasons, and the parade in 2001 was characterized by massive violence when the police did not protect the participants from attacks by anti-gay protesters and hooligans.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses its concern that the signals from the Serbian authorities are no longer in line with last year’s positive development. The Serbian Constitution and the Anti-discrimination Law prohibit any direct or indirect discrimination based on any grounds including sexual orientation and gender identity. NHC calls upon the Serbian state to carefully consider what new measures that needs to be taken to ensure that they can fulfil these legal responsibilities.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee regrets the statement given by the Belgrade Mayor Dragan Dilas, saying that “If a mayor could decide on holding of the Pride Parade, like in other countries, I would not allow such manifestations’’. Dilas stressed that Serbia currently had much more serious problems than Belgrade Pride, and that the parade “(…)allegedly aims at showing differences and waking up tolerance, but it always causes the opposite. Xenophobia has increased in Serbia after last year’s parade”.
Belgrade Parade’2010: many arrested, even more injured
During Belgrade Pride parade last year rioters threw petrol bombs and stones at armed police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The office of the ruling Democratic Party was briefly set on fire, and at least one shot was fired. The violence was eventually stopped but more than 100 people, mostly police, were injured, with another 100 arrested.
While the Gay Pride parade was moving though the city, several hundred protesters began chanting at those taking part as they tried to get close to the march. Last year Serbian government was quick to denounce violence, but did not directly denounce hatred against sexual minorities “What’s going on now has nothing to do with the Pride parade. Unfortunately there are always people who will use every opportunity to destroy their own city“, – said Dragan Djilas, Blegrade mayor to his interview for BBC. Last year parade was being seen by European Union as a test of how far the country has come from the ultra-nationalism and violence of the 1990s on its path to EU membership.
Authorities “capitulated to extremists”
Irinej Gavrilovic, the head of the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, labelled the planned event a “pestilence” and a “parade of shame“. Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said the marches had been banned to avoid “major chaos”. “Because of these rallies – above all the anti-parade protests – we could expect enormous damage to public order and peace,” he said. “We have seen reports that indicated riots would spread in central Belgrade… to burn cars, headquarters of ruling political parties, seats of foreign companies and embassies. “In a statement supporting the ban, President Tadic said: “That way, the citizens, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population are protected.” In turn even counter-demonstrations against such decision have been banned.
Organisers have criticised the ban, saying that Serbian authorities have capitulated to extremists, even though officials insist it is to protect public safety. Local correspondents say that homophobia is widespread in Serbia. “Last year they said the state is stronger than the hooligans but this year they capitulated,” organiser Goran Miletic told the AFP news agency. “They don’t want a pride parade, it is a lack of political will,” Militec added. After decision to ban parade was publicly announced, the ultra-nationalist group Obraz (Honour) declared on its website that the ban was a “victory”.
The ban on Belgrade Pride happens just before October 12th, when the European Commission will make their recommendations on the possibilities for Serbian candidacy for the European Union, and it should be no question at this time whether the Serbian state should be prepared to protect public human rights manifestations and the rights of people to belong to sexual and gendered minorities.