MEPs to Serbian Govt: EuroPride not held in line with Serbia’s obligations

Source: AFP/ Andrej Isaković

Members of the European Parliament (EP) LGBTI Intergroup wrote to ministers in the Serbian Government saying that the way EuroPride was organized was not in line with Serbia’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Over 50 MEPs expressed concern over the systemic LGBTI-phobic hate and violence that was present during EuroPride and said that this was a systemic problem that needs to be addressed by the government.

“Serbia was obliged to protect freedom of peaceful assembly by allowing this march, and to protect demonstrators throughout, ensuring everyone’s safety,” reads the letter that the European Western Balkans had access to. The developments surrounding EuroPride, the ban on the march and then the shortened march route will be recognized in the next accession report, said the MEPs.

The letter was addressed to Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin, European Integration Minister Jadranka Joksimovic and to Gordana Comic, the Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue.

In the context of EuroPride’s organization, MEPs highlighted two contradicting points:

“1) Pride organizers received a legal document from the police where law enforcement acknowledges the concert and route of the march; however 2) the march, as claimed by the government itself in the voice of the Minister of Interior, ‘never took place’,” said the MEPs.

They noted that Interior Minister Vulin said “we will not tolerate any violence in Belgrade streets, any more than illegal marches” as well as that “the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not give in to the pressures of the great powers of the West.”

“We witnessed an attempt to keep at bay two different audiences: the international one and the national one, yet human rights failed to take primacy over either,” said the European Parliament members, noting that seven Albanian activists were attacked.

“When leaving the park, the activists asked police to be escorted to their hotel nearby, but were told by law enforcement that it was safe. Roughly 100m from the police presence, they were confronted by a group of 10 hooligans who grabbed one of them and violently assaulted them with punches to the head and hitting them with bottles,” said the letter.

MEPs said that instances such as these raise pertinent questions concerning the proactive role of police. They asked for the Serbian authorities’ “thorough and swift action” in ensuring that an investigation takes place to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“In Serbia, events such as these are considered hate crimes under the law. Additionally, we would like to recommend that the Serbian Government works accordingly with the Council of Europe’s office in Serbia, as well as the EU delegation, to address the systemic problem of LGBTI-phobic hate crime and violence. We are concerned that, after the handling of EuroPride in the last weeks, these events may likely increase,” said the MEPs in their letter.