NHC supports Pride Week and banned Belgrade Pride Parade 2012

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses genuine support and solidarity for Belgrade Pride Parade and Pride Week 2012 and condemns the decision by the Serbian authorities to ban Belgrade Pride 2012.

This event is an important opportunity for Serbia to show that the future bears promises of the event’s slogan: “Love, Faith and Hope” for all persons belonging to sexual and gender minorities (LGBTI).

This manifestation is not only a celebration – it should be considered as a serious reminder that the fight for equality before the law, and protection against hate crimes and human rights violations towards the LGBTI community in Serbia need to be fought persistently and in a systematic manner – all year round.

This week’s ban was announced after Patriarch Irinej, the head of Serbia’s Christian Orthodox church, urged the government to prevent Saturday’s march. He said in a statement that such a “parade of shame” would cast a “moral shadow” on Serbia – a conservative Balkan country whose gay population has faced threats and harassment. Allowing this year’s march had been regarded by some as a test of Serbia’s pledge to respect human rights as it seeks European Union membership.

Belgrade Pride repeatedly banned

Last year’s gay pride march was also banned by the authorities only days before it should have taken place, allegedly due to being a threat to national security. This was the third time that pride parades have been prevented by Serbian authorities. A minority group being repeatedly deprived their right to freedom of assembly and speech poses a severe threat to the development of a healthy Serbian democracy.

“We are concerned that anti-gay groups might interpret attempts to ban the parade, or evasiveness from Serbian Authorities when it comes to their ability to provide sufficient protection for the participants, as an excuse to attack the Parade or other events during Pride Week”, says NHC Secretary General Bjørn Engesland. “Banning or failing to protect the participants of the parade rewards the behavior of people that promote homophobic and transphobic attitudes and those who are responsible for any individual being subject to violence for belonging to – or supporting the LGBTI community”.

In Serbia, the history of pride parades, and the situation for the LGBTI community in general, calls for concern. The first attempt of organising a parade in 2001 left dozens of injured participants after attacks from violent protesters. The police offered no adequate protection, and there were no consequences for the perpetrators.

When making a new attempt in 2009, the parade was cancelled in the last minute. Even though a parade was implemented in 2010 with substantial police protection; the parade suffered severe attacks and there has been no adequate legal action taken towards those who were arrested.

Threats of violence have preceded this year’s events as well. A successful implementation of the pride events will be an important signal that Serbia takes its obligation to ensure the human rights for one of Europe most vulnerable communities seriously, NHC says.

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