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News 08 Mar 16

Bosnia Gays Demand Probe Into Attack on Club

Members of the LGBT community in Bosnia have demanded that the authorities arrest those behind last Friday's homophobic attack on a gay-friendly club in Sarajevo.

Rodolfo Toe
 The director of Art Kino Kriterion Vanja Lazic | Photo: Anadolu

The LGBT community in Sarajevo has called on the Bosnian authorities to punish the perpetrators of an attack last Friday on the Kino Kriterion, one of the few LGBT-friendly clubs in the capital.

"Authorities need to prosecute this homophobic attack as a proper hate crime," Emina Bosnjak, from the Sarajevo Open Center, which promotes LGBT rights in Bosnia, told BIRN on Monday.

On Friday night, a small group of people barged into the Kriterion club, screaming homophobic insults and beating up one of the waiters, the media reported.

Vanja Lazic, the director of Kriterion, criticised the weak reaction of the police after the attack, saying they did not intervene promptly.

"We have suffered other attacks in the past and we already know how it works ... the police don't intervene and do not arrest anybody," Lazic said.

Kriterion witnessed a similar assault in January 2014, during the LGBT Merlinka festival, which the club has hosted for the past four years.

Lazic told BIRN that "prosecuting the authors of this [latest] attack is necessary not only for LGBT persons but for the entire community."

Following the attack on the club, police claimed the cause and motive for the attack was unknown.

Four persons, all born in 1998, were temporarily detained but then released after interrogation.

The Ministry of Interior of the Canton of Sarajevo told BIRN that the police were collecting evidence against three Sarajevo residents, L.K., C.S. and M.M., two of whom are minors.

At a meeting in Kriterion on Sunday, the Ministry of Justice of the Canton of Sarajevo, Mario Nenadic, condemned the attack and said this kind of aggression should not be qualified only as violent conduct.

"Violent behaviour caused by xenophobia or homophobia cannot be considered [only as] violence ... in these cases, we should use a more serious qualification to describe these acts," Nenadic said.

Activists from the Sarajevo Open Centre optimistically noted that for the first time a senior government official had shown some support for the LGBT community.

"For the first time, we have heard a clear commitment from the authorities and we feel optimistic that measures will be taken against the aggressors," Bosnjak told BIRN.

About 75 per cent of LGBT persons in Bosnia have suffered psychological violence as a result of their sexuality and 20 per cent have experienced physical abuse, according to a survey conducted in 2015.

The Bosnian authorities have yet to approve a law naming homophobic aggression as a hate crime, however.

"Bosnian institutions ignore the problem and are not ready to fight homophobia and this kind of violence," a 30-year-old LGBT resident of Sarajevo, who wished to remain anonymous, told BIRN on Monday.

He said he had been the victim of several verbal attacks and one physical attack, which he had not reported to the police "because I wouldn't receive support and would be mocked as gay.

"I don't expect to be able to hold anybody by the hand or kiss anybody in the street ... but I expect at least to be able to walk without fear of being attacked or provoked", he told BIRN.

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