Pride threatened in Belgrade

photo: Tatiana Sapateiro cc

Belgrade Pride begins this Friday, 20 September, with a Pride March planned for Saturday the 28th. Unfortunately, I am not able to participate in the march to show my support for the Serbian LGBT movement, due to other commitments. Instead, I have chosen to show my support to the organisers and participants through a letter (see below). The organisers fear that the Pride March will be banned once again. In another letter, to prime minister Dačić, have I expressed my worries for the safety of the participants, but also pointed to the importance of defending human rights, such as the freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

Already in 2001, the first Pride march was organised in Belgrade. The authorities gave the right to organise the march, but participants were attacked by violent hooligans and many were injured. In 2009, there was a new attempt to organise a march, but the authorities banned it. Since then, small steps forward were taken – the 2010 Pride march was allowed and police provided security against aggressors threatening the parade.

However, there were backlashes in 2011 and 2012, when the planned marches were banned by authorities due to “threats to national security”. It is worrying when authorities give in to such threats of violence. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental component of a democracy, and the task of the Government is to ensure the rights of its citizens.

I express my support, since Belgrade Pride is about the right for everyone to love the one you love, without being deprived of your rights, being discriminated against, or to risk threats and violence. I want to express my support and admiration of the organisers – do not lose faith in that society can be changed. It has been done in other European countries.

There is a need for systematic action in Europe to strengthen awareness of LGBT rights at all levels of society.  It’s not about special rights – it’s about equal rights. There is a great need to counter tendencies to discriminate LGBT people, through legislation and campaigns. That is how we take steps forward together in Europe.

Letter to organisers and participants in Belgrade Pride week:

Dear friends,

You are giving many people hope for the future by organising and participating at the Belgrade Pride. You show a great courage, and admirable personal conviction, standing up for human rights and defending the right to love.

Thank you for your invitation to take part in the Belgrade Pride events! Unfortunately, due to my previous commitments, I will not be able to join you. Nevertheless, I would like to extend my warm support to your undertakings and express my admiration for you and your battle -a battle that in other countries has led to progress we see today in Europe with equal rights for LGBT people.

As you are well aware, the European Commission is strongly attached to the values enshrined in the EU Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression and non-discrimination. It is totally unacceptable and incompatible with the fundamental values that the European Union are built upon, that citizens are subject to discrimination, violence and harassment and excluded from legislation that would protect them and their families.

It is of vital importance that Serbia, a country aspiring to become a member of the European Union fully embraces these values which are amongst the core foundations on which the Union project is built upon. I have sent a letter to Prime Minister Dačić in which I point out the necessity of his government to fulfil its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for all of its citizens, including LGBT persons – the rights enshrined in Serbia’s constitution. In my letter I stressed that the 2013 Belgrade Pride will be an important step for Serbia’s advancement in the EU path, through ensuring the core principles of equality and non-discrimination. I expressed my expectation that the Serbian authorities will take all necessary measures to facilitate a peaceful Pride march.

The European Commission will continue to monitor carefully developments in this area. It will also continue providing its strong support to the LGBT community in Serbia to enjoy their constitutional rights.

I wish you a successful and peaceful Belgrade Pride 2013!

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