news 04 Oct 12

Belgrade Pride Ban Disappoints EU and Some Serbs

EU officials and few Serbian politicians have expressed their disappointment that the authorities Belgrade have yet again capitulated to violent groups by banning the Pride Parade.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

For the second year in a row, Serbia caved in to the extremists' demands and banned Belgrade's Pride Parade, which was due on October 6, citing security reasons.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the Council of Europe Secretary General, said he was "surprised and disappointed that the Belgrade Pride event has been banned again".

"Serbia should be in a position to safeguard an event which is a common place in modern democracies," said Jagland.

Amnesty International said the government's decision was a "victory for prejudice and a sorry defeat for human rights and common decency" that put the country "in breach of its own law and constitution."

Jelko Kacin, the European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, said the decision to ban the pride was a "political one that questions the rule of law" in Serbia.

"I am convinced that the state could have secured the safety for all Pride participants if there had been a will," Kacin said in a written statement.

He also noted that the political message that the Serbian authorities sent to its gay minority would be duly noted in the European Parliament.

The Swedish Minister for European Affairs, Birgitta Ulson, has also expressed her regret over the ban on her Twitter account.

"Yet I will travel to Belgrade and will meet directly with the activists of the LGBT community," she said.

The US government also expressed it  "profound disappointment" over the ban.

"By giving in to threats of violence, the government of Serbia has missed an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to upholding the rights of all the citizens of Serbia," reads the statement by the US Embassy.

Meanwhile, the Serbian authorities believe the ban was necessary due to security threats and say they did not want the repeat of previous clashes.

Last year the authorities also cancelled the parade following the threats by the far right that they will cause mayhem on the streets.

The 2010 Pride went ahead, but several thousand youngsters, including football fans and members of ultra-rightist organizations, threw stones and explosives at the police, injuring police officers and setting buildings and vehicles on fire.

However, some Serbian officials disagree with the ban.

Nevena Petrusic, Serbia’s Commissioner for Equality, believes that the decision to ban the march is an expression of the state’s unwillingness to protect the constitutional right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.

"The ban also shows how high the level of homophobia in Serbia is and how little has been done in all these years to promote the rule of law and a culture of peace and tolerance," Petrusic told reporters.

According to her, the long fermenting hatred and intolerance towards the LGBT community has reached its culmination with this year's ban.

Cedomir Jovanovic, the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, said that Serbia has capitulated to hooliganism and violence.

"No democratic society should cave in to the threats of violence," Jovanovic said in a written statement.

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