Police ban gay-pride march in Belgrade for 2d year

Belgrade, Serbia – Serbia’s police on Wednesday banned a gay-pride march in Belgrade, citing security concerns but also complying with a request from Serbia’s Christian Orthodox Church.

Police said they were banning the march planned for Saturday because they feared a repeat of the violence in 2010, when right-wing groups attacked a gay-pride event in Belgrade. That triggered daylong clashes with the police that left more than 100 people injured.

Last year’s gay-pride march also was banned by authorities.

The current ban was announced after Patriarch Irinej, the head of Serbia’s Christian Orthodox Church, urged the government to prevent Saturday’s march. In a statement, he said 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 a gay-pride march this year had been regarded by some as a test of Serbia’s pledge to respect human rights as it seeks European Union membership. That was clear in the reaction of European Parliament official Jelko Kacin of Slovenia, who called the ban a “political decision that questions the rule of law in Serbia.”

Thorbjoern Jagland of Norway, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, the continent’s main human-rights body, said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the pride event was banned again.

“Citizens should be able to exercise their rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression,” he said. “Serbia should be in a position to safeguard such an event, which is commonplace in modern democracies.”

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said that in addition to banning the gay-pride march, the government was barring a gathering of right-wing groups that planned to attack the event. It also canceled several national league soccer matches in Belgrade on Saturday because they often are attended by hooligans aligned with the extremists.

“We believe that at this moment Serbia does not need clashes and victims, and that’s why we banned the gatherings,” said Dacic, who is also the national police chief.

Opposition politicians said the ban showed that authorities were unable to protect freedom and human rights in Serbia.

By Dusan Stojanovic – AP
Source – philly.com