February 26, 2009 – ukgaynews.org.uk
US State Department Criticises Russia, Serbia for Breaches of Human Rights of Gays – Human Rights Report praised by Moscow Gay Pride Organisers
Washington – Russia is condemned for breaches of human rights in the US State Department’s annual Human Rights Report, published yesterday. And human rights for gay men and women are highlights by the cases of continued bans on Moscow Gay Pride. The report also criticises other countries, like Serbia and Nigeria, for their attitudes towards gays. In the section on Russia, a large part of the report is given over to the human rights situation in the North Caucasus, highlighting cases of kidnapping, tortures, and killings of civilians. And the report points out that quite often the Russian special services are involved in these crimes.
On gay rights issues, the report says:
On June 1, after a number of gay rights activists were repeatedly denied permission to hold parades, gay pride organizers held two demonstrations in Moscow. Organizers had announced that the demonstration would take place across the street from the mayor’s office, and police and counter-protesters gathered there to confront them. However, the organizers secretly notified participants of a different location and, in contrast to the banned parade in 2007, a short march took place largely free of violence. The human rights ombudsman criticized the mayor’s policy of denying permission for gay parades. In October, the Moscow City Court upheld a ruling by the Tverskoy District Court banning 10 marches that were part of the gay parade.
While homosexuality is not illegal, the gay community continued to suffer societal stigma and discrimination. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or refuse their access to health services due to intolerance and prejudice. According to recent studies, male homosexuals were refused work due to their sexuality. Openly gay men were targets for skinhead aggression, which was often met with police indifference. A few gay rights organizations operated out of public view. The law does not provide for increased penalties for violence motivated by sexual orientation. In March, two youths killed a man in Sverdlovsk Oblast whom they perceived to be a homosexual. Both individuals were arrested and remained under investigation. There was no update in the case at year’s end.
On June 1, gay pride activist Alexey Davydov was assaulted while addressing reporters at the Moscow Gay Pride event. Members of the National Slavonic Union pushed to the ground and severely beat Davydov. The police managed to arrest the attackers, although police also detained Davydov and sent him to the same police station along with the attackers. There were reportedly no charges filed against the perpetrators. The report also cites the 2007 Moscow Gay Pride: “In May 2007, participants in a Moscow gay rights demonstration were assaulted by counter demonstrators. Security forces did not protect the demonstrators and arrested approximately 25 gay rights activists”
It is not the first time that the US State Department has highlighted the violation of Freedom of Assembly for the LGBT community in Russia, and in particular the bans of the Moscow Pride events. But Nikolai Alekseev pointed out that the issue of Freedom of Assembly for gays and lesbians was not only in Moscow: “Whether in Moscow, Tambov, Liski, or anywhere, freedom of assembly does not exist in Russia for LGBT people,” he said this evening. “It’s already a turnaround that a report on human rights dedicates a large part to LGBT issues. This is a great reward for our fight of freedom of assembly that GayRussia and Moscow Pride have started in 2005 already. In 2009, we keep fighting,” he added.
Elsewhere in the Human Rights Report, there is criticism of Serbia and Nigeria for continued problems suffered by gay men and women. But the report recognises improvements in Latvia and Poland.
Violence and discrimination against homosexuals was a problem. A comprehensive survey of societal perceptions of homosexuality and attitudes towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population, conducted in February and March, showed that the dominant opinion was that homosexuality is a disease and represents a threat to society. Several Serbia-based Neo-Nazi web sites and Facebook pages hosted anti-LGBT forums and groups. During the Eurovision song contest in May, the right-wing youth group Obraz organized squads that patrolled Belgrade to protest against the “street conference of gay-lesbian groups”. The group stated it would not tolerate any public promotion of “evil”, but there were no reported incidents. On September 19, a group of approximately 20 youths wearing surgical masks and hoods attacked participants in a gay rights festival in Belgrade. Several participants suffered minor injuries, while an U.S. citizen suffered a broken arm and concussion. According to press reports, the police reacted swiftly, arresting two of the attackers and filing criminal charges. There was no further information available at year’s end.
After denying a permit in 2006, authorities issued, for a second year, a permit for a gay pride parade in Riga. While the parade was held on May 31, its organizers questioned the extremely high level of security measures taken by authorities, which organizers believed discouraged participation and limited visibility of the event.
During the year there were some reports of skinhead violence and societal discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation. On April 25, an estimated 1,000 persons took part in Krakows annual gay March for Tolerance to call for an end to prejudice against homosexuals. The event took place without major incident; organizers noted that, for the first time, they were not forced to change their route and could march through the city’s main square. A small counter-demonstration was organized by the All Youth and National Rebirth of Poland activists. Some hooligans threw eggs, stones and bottles at march participants; six people were detained by police. In May 2007 the UN Committee Against Torture raised concerns over violence and hatred against homosexuals in the country. On June 7, Warsaw authorities allowed the annual Equality Parade to take place in the city center for the third consecutive year. Approximately 2,000 local and international gay rights advocates participated in the march without serious incident. Some 100 members of the All Poland’s Youth and National Radical Camp staged a counterdemonstration, but there was no direct confrontation between the two groups due to police protection.
Homosexuality is illegal under federal law; homosexual practices are punishable by prison sentences of up to 14 years. In the 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, adults convicted of engaging in homosexual intercourse are subject to execution by stoning, although no such sentences were imposed during the year. Because of widespread taboos against homosexuality, very few persons were openly homosexual. On September 12, local newspapers Nation, Vanguard, PM News and the Sunday Sun published photos, names, and addresses of members of the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered-friendly church in Lagos. Following publication, persons started harassing the 12 members. One woman was attacked by 11 men, while others were threatened, stoned, and beaten. No investigation was initiated by year’s end.
The full US State Department’s Human Rights Report can be read HERE
March 12, 2009 – 365gay.com
Thugs storm Serb LGBT news conference
by 365gay Newscenter Staff
Belgrade – A news conference by a Serbian LGBT rights group in Kragujevac, south of Belgrade, was disrupted by six unidentified men who smashed the plate glass front door of a cultural center and threatened reporters. The Gay-Straight Alliance called the press conference to criticize the government for withdrawing a human rights bill that would have included gays and lesbians. The group had planned on presenting a report showing widespread discrimination against Serbia’s LGBT population.
It is believed the thugs were members of an ultra-rightwing Serbian nationalist group which a week earlier threatened a GSA news conference in Belgrade. GSA president said the disturbances prove the need for the human rights bill. The legislation was withdrawn by the government after the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church objected to the inclusion of protections for gays and lesbians.
The government said this week that it will reintroduce the bill, but would not say if it would include LGBT measures. Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg condemned the attacks on the GSA and called on the government to get on with passage of an inclusive rights bill.
“Politicians use discriminatory language and similar texts appear in the media unpunished. Human rights activists in most cases confront intolerance, hate speech and threats, and sometimes even physical attacks,” he said in a statement to the government. “Such incidences must be condemned by the political elite and answer to sanctions.”
March 27, 2009 – OnTopMag.com
Serbian Lawmakers Adopt Gay Protections
by On Top Magazine Staff
Serbian lawmakers managed to squeak out an EU-backed gay protections law on Thursday. AFP reports that the law passed by a single vote. A slim majority of 127 members voted in favor to 59 against. 59 of the 250 member Parliament did not attend the vote. The Serbian Orthodox Church and social conservatives strongly opposed the measure. The Parliament took about 4 hours to debate on the law that bans discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender before putting it up for a vote.
The Serbian Orthodox Church led the opposition effort of mostly religious groups, arguing that the law could be misinterpreted. The church specifically objected to the inclusion of gay rights. Other groups said it ran counter to widely-held traditions in the conservative country. The legislation is part of a number of reforms needed to gain entry into the European Union. Serbian leaders hope to become the 28th member nation by 2014.
April 29, 2009 – iglhrc.org
Serbia: Anti-Discrimination Law is Adopted
On 13 March 2009 the Serbian government resubmitted the draft anti-discrimination law for the consideration of the National Assembly of Serbia, four days after IGLHRC and ILGA-Europe’s letter urging the Government to do so, and nine days after the draft law had been withdrawn from parliamentary consideration (4 March). Nearly two weeks later, on 26 March, the National Assembly voted by a narrow majority to adopt the anti-discrimination law, officially banning acts of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, among other grounds.
The reintroduction of the draft to the National Assembly’s consideration came as a result of domestic and international pressure to align the domestic law of Serbia with the standards of the European Union.
The present version of the law, which flew in the face of opposition from conservative organizations and the Serbian Orthodox Church, includes prescriptions against the discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (in Article 21) and, although similar protections against discrimination on grounds of gender identity were removed from the initial draft, the current text of Article 20 could be interpreted to prohibit discrimination against transgendered individuals. Below are the relevant articles in Serbian and in an English translation (for which the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is responsible). The full texts of the law can be downloaded from the right-hand column.
Article 20: Discrimination on the grounds of gender
Discrimination shall be considered to occur in the case of conduct contrary to the principle of the equality of the genders; that is to say, the principle of observing the equal rights and freedoms of women and men in the political, economic, cultural and other aspects of public, professional, private and family life.
It is forbidden to deny rights or to grant privileges, be it publicly or covertly, pertaining to gender or gender change. It is forbidden to practise physical violence, exploitation, express hatred, disparagement, blackmail and harassment pertaining to gender, as well as to publicly advocate, support and practise conduct in keeping with prejudices, customs and other social models of behaviour based on the idea of gender inferiority or superiority; that is, the stereotyped roles of the genders.
Article 21: Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation
Sexual orientation shall be a private matter, and no one may be called to publicly declare his/her sexual orientation. Everyone shall have the right to declare his/her sexual orientation, and discriminatory treatment on account of such a declaration shall be forbidden.
20 August 2009 – ILGA Europe
Gay Straight Alliance in Serbia: Two worrying attacks on LGBT people in Belgrade
ILGA-Europe recieved this sad news from Gay Straight Alliance in Serbia concerning two incidents of violence on LGBT people in Belgrade.
by Gay Straight Alliance in Serbia.
The first incident occured on Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 2 AM, when the tear gas was fired inside the gay club "Hrabro Srce" premises in Belgrade. The club had to close down for the night and more than 200 people were evacuated from the premises.
The second incident occured in the night between August 6-7, 2009. The group of aproximately 10 FC Crvena Zvezda supporters attacked a 30yo N.A. who happened to be a lesbian. The incident took place on a night bus, route 56, in Belgrade. One of the attackers was identifyed as S.T., age 20, from Belgrade, and others, among which were two women, are currently listed as unknown perpetrators of the criminal offence.
N.A., on her way home with her partner took a bus-ride, was initially verbally attacked with insults such as "Lesbian groups", "Dike whores", "Kill a fag" and similar. When she reacted against this kind of behavior, the group attacked her. They were kicking her in the stomack, head and her backside. The beating continued even after she passed out while the bus was on its regular route. The driver, or anyone else on the bus in that moment, did not do anything to stop this brutal act of violence. The attack was initiated at a Serbian National Assembly bus stop and was ended at Ada Ciganlija bus stop when two members of the police department Cukarica boarded the bus. The very concerning fact would be the reaction of the Serbian police department in both of these instances. According to the testimonies of the people who were guests of the Hrabro Srce gay club that night, the police department representatives were not acting in a professional manner, moreover, they were laughing at the terrified victims.
Furthermore, instead of arresting the attackers, the FC Crvena Zvezda supporters, the police decided to take in custody the attacked woman N.A. She was imprisoned for 12 hours under public disordelry conduct charge. After she was released, N.A. was able to seek medical attention at Klinicki Centar in Belgrade where the doctors have established and documented multiple injuries to the head, legs, stomack, as well as injuries to the thighs and a brain concussion.
August 20, 2009 – Edge Chicago
Serbia Vows to Protect Gay Pride Marchers
by Kilian Melloy, EDGE Staff Reporter
In some respects, Serbia is more progressive than the United States in terms of GLBT equality. Unlike the U.S., where no federal protections are extended to GLBT citizens, Serbia has inclusive anti-discrimination protections in place. In other respects, too, the country seems accepting, at least in theory. The Serbian constitution defines marriage as a legal status that is reserved exclusively for mixed-gender couples. However, the nation does not criminalize same-sex intimacy. Age of consent laws are the same for gays and straights.
But the social view of homosexuality is not entirely accepting; extreme-right groups such as Obraz and Stormfront have made public threats against GLBT Serbians, as a Wikipedia article on GLBT life in that country noted.
Indeed, the Serbian government found it necessary to make a statement to the effect that an upcoming Pride event will be protected by security forces. Right-wing extremists had defaced property with anti-gay graffiti and made threats against the Pride parade, scheduled to take place in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade on Sept. 20, reported an Aug. 19 article posted at the Web site for The Sofia Echo. Sofia is the capital city of The Republic of Bulgaria. Sofia saw its first Pride parade take place last year.
The article noted that in 2001, anti-gay assailants committed violent attacks on Pride parade marchers. The city and state governments are unwilling to see that violence repeated this year. The article said that assurances of the safety of those attending Pride were made by the Serbian Minister of the Interior, Ivica Dacic. Similar assurances were made by Tomo Zoric, a spokesperson for the country’s State Prosecutor.
Dragan Ðilas, the Mayor of Belgrade, also spoke against the specter of violence, though he also gave voice to a personal opinion that sexual orientation is a matter for the private, and not the public, sphere.
An Aug. 8 article at B92, a Serbian news source, carried Mayor Ðilas’ comments. "I say what I believe–maybe I was raised patriarchal–but sexual orientation is a personal thing, and I do not know why anyone would have to come out with it in public, regardless of whether they are homosexual or heterosexual," the mayor commented.
The mayor defended his comments, saying, "I did not imperil anyone, I am not prohibiting anything, I just said that such an event will cause a reaction from those that destroy the city every several dozen days, and I am expressing concern for the participators." The comments drew a response from the Pride Parade’s organizers, who pointed out that it is not uncommmon for GLBTs to be the targets of bias and violence.
B92 quoted parade organizer Majda Puaca as saying, "The organizers of the Pride Parade want to remind the mayor that minority sexual orientations are not a private thing because people of other sexual orientations are subjected to violence and discrimination." Moreover, organizers opined that it was important to bring the subject out into the open, and not leave it confined "inside four walls," in the words of Mayor Ðilas, in order to educate and inform the public, thus combating homophobia.
Puaca went on to hail the mayor’s pledge to ensure the safety of the event, saying, "We support the stance of the mayor that the Pride Parade will be adequately secured, and we remind that we submitted a request last week to the mayor regarding the Pride Parade, and we expect that he will accept us as his fellow citizens of the city."
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.
September 14, 2009 – PinkNews
Amnesty report warns of violence against gays and women in Serbia
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Serbian government is failing to protect human rights groups fighting for LGBT and women’s rights, an Amnesty International report has claimed. According to the report, published today, those fighting for equal rights in the country are putting their lives on the line in the face of physical attacks and hostility. It also claimed the media was publishing attacks on human rights defenders and in some cases, publishing their personal information and home addresses.
Women working for equal rights and to expose war crimes have been denounced as witches and anti-Serb traitors, while some have been threatened with lynching. Those working for LGBT rights frequently face threats of violence from right-wing and religious organisations, the report said. Research by international and local NGOs suggests that the perpetrators of more than 70 per cent of assaults on human rights defenders are never identified. Studies have also found that investigations into alleged police mistreatment or assaults on human rights defenders in which perpetrators have been identified are rarely resolved.
Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert, said:""Over the past year women human rights defenders have been attacked in the media including being threatened with lynching. Such attacks are made by parliamentarians, members of ultra-right organisations and members of the security services indicted for war crimes. Other defenders have had their property destroyed, their offices attacked or been beaten by members of neo-Nazi groups.
‘"Physical attacks and threats to the lives and property of human rights activists are seldom promptly and impartially investigated by the authorities. Few perpetrators are brought to justice. The lack of political will on the part of the authorities to fulfil their obligations to guarantee human rights defenders their right to freedom of expression and assembly creates a climate of impunity which stifles civil society.
"The LGBT community is marginalised even within civil society and criminal investigations into assaults on LGBT people, even where the perpetrators have been identified, are rarely resolved. The Serbian authorities are obliged to protect the rights of all people to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. They must condemn publicly all attacks on and threats to human rights activists, and provide protection and support during the forthcoming Belgrade Pride later this week."
Belgrade Pride is scheduled for September 20th but organisers have already received threats from far-right groups. Since 2001, similar efforts to hold Pride parades have resulted in threats and violence. Serbia is not a member of the EU but the government has declared European integration to be one of the strategic priorities for the Republic and it has been a potential candidate country for the EU accession since 2003. A 2008 progress report from the European Commission on candidate countries said that in Serbia violent attacks, hate speech and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is prevalent.
September 17, 2009 – UK Gay News
European Union Presidency Expresses Support for Belgrade Gay Pride
Belgrade – Sweden, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, has today expressed its support for Belgrade’s Gay Pride, due to be held on Sunday (September 20). In a statement, issued through the Swedish Embassy in Belgrade, the EU Presidency welcomed the commitment of the Serbian government to the necessary protection of the Belgrade Pride march. And British Ambassador to Serbia Stephen Wordsworth was quick to endorse the Swedish statement.
“The British Embassy in Belgrade is pleased to support the joint Swedish Presidency statement,” an Embassy spokesperson said this afternoon. In its statement, the EU Presidency noted that the Parliament of Serbia this year adopted an anti-discrimination law providing protection against discrimination on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Presidency also welcomes the clear commitment of the Serbian Government to ensure the LGBT people’s right to freedom of assembly and expression and in particular its intent to secure the necessary protection of 2009 Belgrade Pride. The Presidency underlines the importance of the continued support for – and solidarity with – the LGBT people in Serbia. All over the world, many individuals are continuously discriminated against, overtly and systematically, based on their sexual orientation and gender identity often with impunity. Any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity must be condemned and rejected as being incompatible with the basic principles and values on which the EU is founded: equal opportunities and human rights.
“Every individual is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without distinction of any kind. It is the very essence of European values, the statement concluded.
In Moscow. GayRussia.ru announced this afternoon that Nikolai Alekseev and Nikolai Baev, the co-organisers of Moscow Gay Pride and Slavic Pride, would be Taking part in the Belgrade Pride march on Sunday. Both were among those arrested at Slavic Pride in Moscow last May on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest finals.
For Mr. Baev, it will be his first officially sanctioned Gay Pride march. “This will be my first time that I will participate in a gay march allowed by authorities openly on the streets,” he told GayRussia.ru. “And it gives me much pleasure to be at such a wonderful event of Gay Pride in Serbia. I am very happy for my Serbian colleagues that they have such an opportunity to express their identity and visibility. This is exactly what we fight for in Russia. The fact that[a Gay Pride] is happening in Serbia assures me that it will also happen in Russia,” he added.
September 21, 2009 – Jamicaica Observer
30 Serbians arrested at anti-gay rally
Belgrade, Serbia (AFP) – Serbian police turned out in force yesterday around an anti-gay rally called by nationalists after a "gay pride" parade was called off because of fears of violence. They arrested about 30 ultra-nationalists who tried to gather in various parts of the Serb capital, media reported. But the non-gay parade called by the Serb Popular Movement 1389 only drew about a dozen people, mostly members of the nationalist movement.
There was a heavy police presence around the city centre after the decision on Saturday to cancel the Gay Pride parade, which has in the past been attacked by nationalist groups. Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas praised the "clear and visible police presence". He urged authorities to work hard to improve security for citizens and visitors, in comments to B92 television. An Australian was attacked by a group yesterday as he walked in a Belgrade park accompanied by several other Australians, B92 reported. The man, who had come to the city for a wedding, was treated at a Belgrade hospital for a minor head injury.
Organisers of the Gay Pride parade called off their events march after the government said it could not prevent clashes with extremists. Organisers rejected a suggestion to shift the venue. The event would have been the first for nearly a decade since the last gay rights march in 2001 broke up amid violent clashes with right-wing extremists. Nationalists hailed the cancellation saying it was a defeat for "infidels and Satanists". Serbian President Boris Tadic warned Friday against creating an "atmosphere of chaos" and "threats and violence" in Belgrade after two French football fans were injured in a clash with fans of Partizan Belgrade during a recent match.
September 18, 2009 – Reuters
Serbia’s president promises to protect gay parade
by Aleksandar Vasovic and Gordana Filipovic
Belgrade (Reuters) – Serbia’s president promised to protect hundreds of gay and human rights activists on Sunday when they stage the first gay pride parade in the capital since a similar march in 2001 ended in violent clashes. Ultranationalist groups and hooligans have threatened to attack the march, and police are deploying around 5,000 policemen in central Belgrade and advising participants to stay with the group.
"The state will do everything to protect all its citizens regardless of their religious, sexual or political affiliation," President Boris Tadic said in a statement on Friday. It will be the first public event staged by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists since 2001, when dozens of gay activists and policemen were injured in clashes with nationalists, neo-Nazis and soccer hooligans.
Foreign non-government organisations and LGBT groups have called on Tadic and his ruling Democratic Party to lead the fight against all forms of discrimination. "Given the present context of homophobia, we would like to express the hope that the Democratic Party, the member of our European political family in your country, can become an example of the fight against discriminations," Rainbow Rose, a European gay-lesbian social-democratic organisation.
Despite strong opposition from the church, Serbia adopted a Law against Discrimination earlier this year, the final legal condition Belgrade had to meet to win visa-free travel for its citizens to the European Union in early 2010. The general population is deeply ambivalent about homosexuality. Thirty-one percent of 4,718 respondents in a 2008 survey believed violence should be used to interrupt LGBT public events. Forty-nine percent were opposed and 20 percent had no opinion.
Sunday’s march is seen by some as a test of Serbia’s readiness to become a more modern, open society after the fall of communism in the 1990s. A top church leader earlier this week called the event the "Sodom and Gomorrah on the streets of Belgrade". Ultranationalist movement "1389" on Friday made offers to local media to buy photographs of the participants in the rally and post them on a website to help parents "protect their children from sexually deviant persons." Police said that given the threats, they are treating the march as a "high-risk event".
Calls by the president and the government to refrain from violence meant little to one skinhead group in the drab, communist-era apartment blocks in the New Belgrade neighbourhood. Their leader Pavle, in his 30s, who declined to give his last name in an interview with Reuters, said they "were ready and waiting to show strength".
"This is a Christian country and we will not allow those who oppose the basics of Christianity to demonstrate their wicked and rotten values in public," Pavle said. His threats, as well as new graffiti on Belgrade walls blaring "Death to Gays", would not deter Milan and Stevan, a gay couple from Belgrade who planned to take part in the rally. "We will go to protest against discrimination not only of the gay and lesbian population but of all minority groups and we do not fear injuries or even more discrimination," Milan told Reuters.
"As if it isn’t enough for us to fight conservative values, we must also stand against freaks who want to beat us over our sexual preferences," added Stevan. Traditionally conservative and macho-dominated Balkan societies have been slow to adjust to open homosexuality.
In Bosnia, the first gay festival organised in 2008 in Sarajevo was interrupted after hooded men, some shouting Islamic slogans, attacked 250 visitors to opening night. In Slovenia, following several years of traditional pride parades, a group of masked men attacked and injured a gay activist in June. Gay visibility in Kosovo has been low and some go to live abroad in search of more open societies, and while there have no reports of violence in Croatia, the police keep a close eye on pride parades. Albania has never hosted a pride parade but earlier this year the prime minister surprised both the country’s conservatives and its gay community by promising to make same-sex marriage legal. (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
November 16, 2009 – Human Rights Watch
Letter to The President of the Republic of Serbia
Dear Mr. President,
I write to you to express concern that persistent homophobia in Serbian society has given rise to incidents of violence, and prevents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Serbians from exercising to the full enjoyment their human rights. Recently the Serbian human rights organization Gay Straight Alliance asked Human Rights Watch to visit Belgrade. On that visit, I met with Ministers Svetozar Ciplic and Snezana Samardzic Markovic, state secretary Marko Karadzic, several members of parliament from the Democratic Party, G 17, the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Liberal Democratic Party. A meeting was also organized with representatives from the Serbian police, the Ministry of Education, the deputy Ombudsman and with the Serbian association of judges.
As you are aware, Human Rights Watch is an independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. We investigate and expose human rights violations and hold abusers accountable.
Human Rights Watch was concerned by your government’s decision to prevent the Pride Parade from taking place on September 20, 2009 in Belgrade. Allegedly the decision was made because authorities could not guarantee the safety of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights defenders who would participate in the demonstration. In the weeks before the Pride Parade, graffiti in Belgrade, as well as media statements by opponents of the march, had contained threats against parade participants. This was not an isolated incident in which LGBT people’s rights of assembly and expression were curtailed.
In February 2009 the Director of the Sava Center in Belgrade, a center for conferences and cultural events, cancelled a press conference of the Gay Straight Alliance that was due to take place in the center, stating that the organization promotes and advocates gay rights and therefore was inappropriate for the center. When the press conference took place in a different venue in Kragujevac one month later the organizers who held their press conference faced homophobia again. Hooligans threw stones to the windows and doors of the venue while shouting "Faggots, we will kill you".
It appears that the extremist groups’ threats against the Pride Parade indeed merited protective action by the government. However, protection should mean ensuring that those under threat can exercise their legitimate rights-including the right to peaceable assembly. I would like to emphasize that your government needs to take appropriate measures at national, regional and local levels to ensure that the right to freedom of assembly can be effectively enjoyed. Your government should ensure that law enforcement authorities, including the police and state prosecutor, protect participants in any peaceful demonstration from unlawful disruption.
Human Rights Watch is concerned by the numerous instances of discrimination against persons because of their sexual orientation and other manifestations of homophobia that continue to take place in Serbia, and the lack of an adequate response by the Serbian authorities. Following my conversations with members and representatives of your government, members of parliament from different political parties and members of the Serbian human rights groups I would like to suggest that your government take the following measures to reduce the level of intolerance and build an open and inclusive society-a society where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can live without fear of violence or discrimination.
1. In 2009 state secretary for human and minority rights Marko Karadzic appeared on television and defended the right of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people to demonstrate. He explained that human rights are applicable to all human beings, this includes people with a different sexual orientation than the heterosexual one. After this interview the state secretary received death threats. We are deeply grateful for his public courage. However, we are concerned that neither you nor the minister for human rights and minorities nor any other government member publicly supported the state secretary. The Serbia 2009 Progress report (SEC 2009) 1339/2 dated October 14, 2009, issued by the European Union to measure Serbia’s progress in relation to accession in the EU, criticized this lack of response. Failure to protect human rights defenders creates a climate of insecurity that affects all of civil society.
We urge you, as President of the Republic of Serbia, to publicly denounce discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. December 10, international human rights day, provides an excellent opportunity to affirm that human rights are for all.
2. According to Minister Snezana Samardzic Markovic only a fraction of the cases related to aggression and violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity, that the police presented to the office of the State Prosecutor, have led to an adequate judicial response. Most cases were dismissed without any judicial follow-up. Perpetrators of crimes should be held accountable and brought to justice; this climate of impunity should end. Both victims and witnesses of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity must know that their complaints will be investigated and that they will be protected from intimidation. Your government should ensure effective, prompt investigations into crimes where the sexual orientation or gender identity of the victim is reasonably suspected to have constituted a motive for the perpetrator. Your government should ensure that relevant data are gathered and analyzed on the prevalence and nature of discrimination and violence on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in particular on hate-motivated incidents.
Your government should also take all necessary steps to ensure that law enforcement structures, including the police and the judiciary, have the knowledge and skills to identify such crimes and incidents and provide adequate assistance and support to these victims and witnesses. In this respect we suggest that the Serbian human rights groups which focus on LGBT rights, train the police, the state prosecutor and the judges periodically.
3. The anti-discrimination bill adopted in 2009 provides for a Commissioner of Equality to start his or her work in January 2010. We urge that a sufficient budget be allocated to this new official so that he or she can start his or her work immediately in a meaningful way. Several people I spoke to expressed their concern that this part of the anti-discrimination law will falter if the Commissioner of Equality’s work is not fully funded and supported.
4. In schools, there appear to be no programs teaching students about tolerance, respect and the importance of non-discrimination. Basically lesbian and gay students and teachers are left on their own. Human Rights Watch suggests that your government take appropriate measures at all levels to promote mutual tolerance and respect in schools regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This should include providing school curricula and educational materials containing objective information with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity and providing pupils and students with the necessary information, protection and support to enable them to live in accordance with their sexual orientation and gender identity. Your government must safeguard the right of pupils and students to education in a safe environment, free from violence, bullying, social exclusion or other forms of discriminatory and degrading treatment related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
5. Finally I would like to underline the importance of developing strategies and policies to combat homophobia in close cooperation with Serbian human rights organizations defending the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons. These organizations, including the Gay Straight Alliance, Labris and Queeria, are experts and know what the LGBT community needs. If the organizations decide to organize a Pride Parade in 2010, Human Rights Watch suggests that your government, the police, and local authorities create a working group together with the organizers of the Pride Parade. All relevant information about the security situation should be shared. We urge you to cooperate in developing a plan to ensure that the Pride Parade of 2010, if desired, will be held. We suggest that you as President, or one of the ministers of your government, speak at the Pride Parade to underline the state’s support for LGBT people’s right to assemble.
On behalf of Human Rights Watch I urge you as President of the Republic of Serbia to demonstrate political leadership by making visible efforts to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program
Human Rights Watch
September 7, 2010 – PinkNews
Serbia to hold first Pride Parade since 2001
by Christopher Brocklebank
Serbian gay rights groups are in the process of planning a gay Pride Parade in Belgrade next month. It will be the first such parade to take place in nearly a decade. In 2001, the Balkan nation’s first parade went ahead but was broken up by violent attacks on the participants by extremists, including football hooligans and members of far-right organisations. Another parade planned in 2009 was set to pass through a safer part of the city, but was cancelled after police said they could not guarantee protection.
However, as reported by the Associated Press, Lazar Pavlovic, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance told a press conference today that the parade, scheduled for 10 October, will begin and end in central Belgrade, with a party at the finish. The planned parade route passes in front of the Serbian government seat and several ministries in the city centre, under the slogan "Let’s Walk Together". Mr Pavlovic said: "Unlike before, now there is clear political support for the parade".
However, many of the alliance groups and organisations fighting for equal rights for LGBT people are often viewed with contempt and hostility in traditionalist Serbia.
September 27, 2010 – PinkNews
Ammnesty International warns of violence at Belgrade Pride
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Human rights organisation, Ammnesty International today warned of a risk of right wing groups threatening the safety of next week’s pride march in Belgrade.The march, which is due to take place on the 10th October will be the first in the capital of Serbia since 2001. Then, the march was broken up by violent attacks on the participants by extremists, including football hooligans and members of far-right organisations.
Amnesty International Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: "Amnesty has already learnt of several attempts to intimidate individual gay rights activists. "The threats are designed to inflame prejudice, increase hostility and encourage violence, and all with one simple aim – to destroy the gay community in Serbia. They cannot be allowed to continue. The Serbian authorities must take a tough stance.
"Under international and domestic law, the Serbian authorities must guarantee the rights to freedom to assembly, expression and association to the LGBT community and their supporters. The police must immediately investigate all threats, identify possible security risks from counter-demonstrators and guarantee the safety of participants. Political leaders should state publicly and unequivocally that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have the right to demonstrate and that anyone trying to violate these rights will be brought to justice."
He added: "Diversity and tolerance, equality before the law for all, no discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity grounds, are all messages that LGBT rights activists will take to the streets on 10 October. They must be able to do so without fear of threats and threats." Last year, after organisers met with police, they said that the event had been cancelled as a result of high security risks and a lack of co-operation from the police that meant they had no choice but to call off the event.
Serbian President Boris Tadic warned against creating an "atmosphere of chaos’" and "threats and violence". He said: "The state will do everything to protect people, whatever their national, religious, sexual or political orientation, and no group must resort to threats and violence, or take justice into its own hands and jeopardize the lives of those who think or are different."
06 October 2010 – MSM Global Forum
EU ambassador to stand up for gay pride in Serbia
by Andrew Rettman
EUOBSERVER / Brussels – The EU’s ambassador to Serbia, French diplomat Vincent Degert, has said he is willing to put his neck on the line in support of what he calls EU values by personally attending the Belgrade Pride event in the Serb capital on Sunday (10 October). Mr Degert made the offer while speaking at an event in the Hotel Continental in Belgrade on Tuesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the so-called Bulldozer Revolution, which overthrew the administration of Slobodan Milosevic. He also encouraged Serbian government officials to come along. The EU delegation will make the final decision on Mr Degert’s attendance on Thursday pending security advice.
The last Pride event in Belgrade, in 2001, ended in mass-scale street fights when football supporters’ clubs, among others, attacked the pro-gay-rights marchers. A planned event in 2009 was cancelled over security fears. This year, Serb police plan to field between 3,000 and 5,000 officers – more than three officers per Pride demonstrator expected – in order to discourage violence.
Lazar Pavlovic, one of the event organisers, told this website that other EU embassies are also planning to send senior people to observe or stand alongside the demonstrators, but the final list of EU attendees is still unclear. Representatives from the Brussels-based campaign group, the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe), are expected to come along, as well as individual protesters from nearby EU countries, such as Bulgaria.
Full text of article here
October 8, 2010 – PinkNews
Serbian Orthodox Church issues anti-Pride statement ahead of Sunday’s parade in Belgrade
by Christopher Brocklebank
The Serbian Orthodox Church said today that they strongly oppose the gay Pride march planned for this Sunday in Belgrade. In a statement, the Church said they believed such a parade "violated public morality" and was an attempt to undermine the "most sacred of Christian values". Some 500 participants are expected to attend the parade, which is being organised by several gay groups with help from non-governmental organisations. Police minister Ivica Dacic said that up to 5,000 policemen will protect the parade and urged Serbians to refrain from violence.
The planned parade last year was cancelled at the final hour owing to threats coming from far-right and nationalist groups. Some government officials have given the parade their reluctant approval, whereas opposition politicians and the general public have been far more blunt in their responses, billing it a "parade of shame". The Church’s statement went on to say that they opposed "public expression and advertising of anyone’s sexual orientation, or any other personal inclination, especially if it insults the right of citizens to privacy and family life.
"In that context, the Serbian Orthodox Church decisively opposes the organisation of the so called ‘parade of pride’ ". They added that they did not know what the organisers were proud of and that the only "natural love" was between a man and a woman. Their statement concluded that "Everything else is contrary to Christian values and morality".
October 10, 2010 – PinkNews
First Belgrade pride march since 2001 marred by violence
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
100 people, mostly police, have been injured in clashes between the police and anti-gay protesters intent on distrputing a gay pride march in Belgrade. The march, which was the first to be held in the capital of Serbia since 2001, was long predicted to be targeted by homophobic groups. Last month, Amnesty International warned that the event was likely to incite a violent reaction. More than 100 people have been arrested after the office of the ruling Democratic Party was set on fire and at least one shot was fired in clashes with the police.
Prior to the march, Vincent Degert, an EU emmisary to Serbia told a group of 1,000 activists: "We are here to celebrate the values of tolerance, freedom of expression and assembly." Groups of skinheads, Christian fundamentalists and right wing extremists threw petrol bombs at the police and gay rights activists. The country’s president, Boris Tadic condemned the attacks saying: "Serbia will guarantee human rights for all its citizens, regardless of the differences among them, and no attempts to revoke these freedoms with violence will be allowed."
The mayor of Belgrade, Dragan Djilas claims that the riots had little to do with homosexuality and rather a more generalised attack by vandals: "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. Fortunately no lives were lost – this is the most important thing."
Linda Freimane, from the Latvian LGBT organization Mozaika said: "In the beginning it was the same in the Baltic countries, too much violence and too many police to protect us. Gradually, both the police and society in general started to accept us and our demands as well. I am sure the same will happen in Serbia." On Friday, the Serbian Orthodox Church said that the parade "violated public morality" and was an attempt to undermine the "most sacred of Christian values".
The Church went on to say that they opposed "public expression and advertising of anyone’s sexual orientation, or any other personal inclination, especially if it insults the right of citizens to privacy and family life. In that context, the Serbian Orthodox Church decisively opposes the organisation of the so called ‘parade of pride’." Last year’s pride parade was cancelled after organisers met with police, claiming that as a result of high security risks and a lack of co-operation from the police that meant they had no choice but to call off the event.
11 October 2010 – Fridae
Serbia police clash with anti-gay rioters at pride march
by The Independent
Thousands of Serbian riot police clashed repeatedly with far-right extremists determined to disrupt the gay pride parade on Sunday in Belgrade – the first since 2001. Reports say more than 100 people, mostly police, were injured, with another 100 arrested.
The Independent reports:
Serbian riot police fought running battles yesterday with far-right extremists who hurled petrol bombs and stones in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a Gay Pride march from taking place through the centre of the capital, Belgrade. Thousands of police sealed the streets to allow the march of 1,000 people to go ahead. Police clashed repeatedly with the protesters, who chanted "death to homosexuals" and set fire to parts of the ruling Democratic Party’s headquarters.
The clashes failed to interrupt the parade – the first since 2001, when right-wing extremists broke up a similar march. Extremists had forced the cancellation of last year’s planned Gay Pride parade. Most of the rioters were young football fans whose groups have been infiltrated by neo-Nazi and other extremist organisations. The march was seen as a major test for Serbia’s government, which has launched pro-Western reforms and pledged to protect human rights as part of its bid to join the EU
18 November 2010 – Balkan Insight
Serbia Falls Behind As Queer Culture Champion – Once a regional pioneer in the arena of gay culture in the 1980s, Serbia is now light years behind Croatia and Slovenia.
by Andrej Klemencic
Back in the 1980s, parallel to birth of Punk and other subcultures deriving from the equal-rights movements, Belgrade saw the rise of groups championing sexual minority rights. Alongside dozens of printed brochures and amateur newspapers which flooded Belgrade clubs from 1985 onwards, a publication called DELO dealt with issues of sexual minorities.
Published several times a year by two gay men, Slobodan Blagojevic and Hamdija Demirovic, who migrated to Belgrade from Sarajevo, it was among the first attempts to make Queer culture in the Balkans visible. But in the two decades that followed, gay culture fell increasingly silent in Serbia, a casualty of the country’s steady slide into political and social decomposition. Gay culture remained silent throughout the 1990s, with first attempts of re-vitalisation only following the fall of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. Today the website www.gay-serbia.com is one of the very few media outlets in Serbia to address the cultural life of sexual minorities in the country.
Although attempts are being made to revive cultural action within this dormant, marginalised community, Serbian lesbian and gay activists are frustrated by the slow level of progress and with the reluctance of the authorities to lend official support. “There are an increasing number of individuals investing their time and resources but so far there’s nothing that we can call mainstream Queer culture in Serbia,” Ivan Stanic, art historian and gay activists says. “Since the first failed Pride Parade in 2001… almost all financing has come from foreign donors, mainly the Soros Foundation and some Dutch organisations”, Stanic adds.
Dusan Maljkovic, editor of “QT, Bulletin for Queer Theory and Culture”, volume one of which was recently published, also mentions George Soros as a key supporter. This publication joins big names from the recent past like French philosophers Jean Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida with contemporary thinkers such as Slovene philosopher Slavoj Zizek in a 330-page book of essays on sexual-minority issues. Maljkovic says the overarching aim of the book is to tackle homophobia and better inform the general public, adding that more volumes will appear in future.
But so far, the Serbian state’s only notable contributions towards the revival of gay culture have been occasional donations, like the 1,000 euro it gave to “Theatre in Action”. A project of the “Theatre of the Oppressed” organisation, it is being supervised by LABRIS, the Lesbian Human Rights Organisation, whose spokesperson, Mirela Pavlovic, said they expected further donations from other organisations before the show was ready in February. The Ministry of Culture allocates no funds specifically for organisations addressing the rights of sexual minorities, though it does occasionally fund projects that deal directly or indirectly with this area.
The Queeria Centre for Non Violent Action received about 2,500 euro in 2008, for example, for a web portal, as part of funding for projects to develop media pluralism. Queeria Centre is best known for its annual project, the Queeria Calendar, first published in 2007, which comprises photographs or collages of prominent regional cultural figures. Boban Stojanovic, of Queeria, says although projects such as this do not have the power to shape political decision-making, they do affect the public climate.
December 24, 2010 – The Washington Post
Serbia far right leader charged in attacks on gays
The Associated Press
Belgrade, Serbia – Prosecutors are charging a far right Serbian leader with orchestrating violence during a gay pride march in Belgrade in October at which more than 150 people were hurt. The Higher Court in Belgrade says Milan Obradovic, leader of extremist group Obraz, or Honor, is charged with "committing violent acts at a public gathering."
Spokeswoman Dusica Ristic said Friday that an unspecified number of other group members have been indicted, as well. They face up to 12 years in prison. Extremist groups attacked the police securing Serbia’s first gay pride gathering in years, triggering daylong street clashes. Many shop windows and cars in the Serbian capital were destroyed.
Serbia has pledged to protect human rights as it seeks EU membership.