Following violence at last year’s Belgrade Pride, which saw groups of mostly young men fighting pitched battles with police in streets surrounding the event, ILGA Europe has released a statement noting its concern over recent comments made by high ranking Serbian policy makers that the Pride event should be cancelled because of security issues.
ILGA-Europe firstly praised positive statements made by Serbian President Boris Tadic who in June commented that he supported Belgrade Pride going ahead this year.
However, ILGA-Europe expresses concern over comments made by Interior Minister Ivica Daic and other prominent politicians who have again flirted with the notion of cancelling the event due to security concerns.
As ILGA-Europe notes, this has been used as an excuse for cancelling Pride events in the past.
Before 2010 Belgrade Pride had a history of violence and lack of support from police and authorities. In 2001 the pride event ended in heavy violence. Only in 2009 the LGBTI community in Serbia attempted to organise another pride event. The planned pride event in 2009 was cancelled as the authorities could not promise to protect the participants.
In 2010, for the first time ever, a successful pride event took place with heavy police protection. However, counter demonstrations were organised by around 6000 hooligans and members of right wing organisations. They clashed with the police, injured about 150 policemen and caused several thousands of euros damage.
ILGA-Europe is urging the Serbian authorities and police to be consistent in their commitment to human rights and provide the necessary protection and support to Belgrade Pride 2011.
Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board said: “I was in Belgrade in 2010, and was happy to acknowledge that the Serbian police did their job very well and protected the participants from the violent counter demonstrators. I can only hope that the late statements from Serbian politicians do not change this, so participants can feel secure when they are marching on 2 October.”
Martin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, continues: “The Serbian authorities should prove that they are genuinely committed to human rights of LGBTI people. They can do this by making sure that Belgrade Pride 2011 is fully protected and have their support.”
Around 1,000 people marched as part of Belgrade Pride in 2010, among them several EU diplomats and one MP. Although over 100 police officers were said to have been injured during the event, three seriously, the police were able to keep Pride attendees safe in a cordoned off area of the city.
It should be noted that it was “general hooliganism” and not strictly homophobia that was blamed for the violence surrounding 2010′s Belgrade Pride, though campaigners in the country say that a strong conservative Roman Catholic influence and homophobia among some of Serbia’s politicians has created a climate of hostility toward LGBTs in the country.