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Serbia condemned for banning Belgrade Pride

BELGRADE, Serbia – Condemnation is pouring in today after Serbia’s Interior Ministry banned Belgrade Pride, which was scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6.

Several members of the European Parliament and other gay-rights supporters denounced the ban and some hinted that they would attempt to block Serbia’s entry into the European Union.

Serbian authorities claimed that the weekend of Pride events posed a security risk, and they banned all the Pride events in Belgrade.

Earlier this week, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, one of the most vocal opponents of LGBT rights, warned that the government was prepared to shut down all Pride events this weekend, hoping to avoid a repeat of the violence that occurred at Pride events two years ago.

Dacic used the same rhetoric in 2011 when Belgrade Pride was banned.

Jelko Kacin MEP, European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia, said he has intended to attend the Pride celebration.

"I regret that freedom of expression and assembly, two cornerstones of all European democracies, cannot be exercised freely by all Serbian citizens. This ban is a lost opportunity for Serbia, and it gives an impression the country does not deserve," Kacin said.

"Serbian police are professional and capable of ensuring public law and order. I feel safe walking the street of Belgrade, and I am convinced state authorities could have ensured the safety of both the public and participants had they wanted to. This decision was a political one."

Marije Cornelissen and Keith Taylor, MEPs from the Greens/EFA Group, issued this joint statement:

"Unfortunately, homophobes won by threatening large-scale unrest and violence. Why does Serbia continue to allow high-risk football matches, providing police protection from hooligans but not homophobes? A decision like this should weigh heavily against Serbia in a decision on the opening of EU negotiations."

ILGA-Europe strongly condemned the decision of the Serbian authorities to ban Belgrade Pride events and Pride March.

Gabi Calleja, co-chair of the Executive Board ILGA-Europe, was blunt.

"We are deeply disappointed at this decision. No one argues that this event unfortunately attracts violent protesters. However, it is a State duty to provide protection to everyone who wants to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful demonstration,” Calleja said. “This is not the first time the Serbian authorities have used 'security threats' as an argument to cancel Pride March. Frankly speaking we consider this an excuse for the lack of political will to ensure the human rights of LGBTI citizens.”

Martin K.I. Christensen, the other co-chair, put it another way.

"We call on the Serbian authorities to change their decision and to ensure that the Pride event goes ahead properly protected. We believe the Serbian state has sufficient resources to ensure the safety of the Pride participants and to prevent the hooligans whose intent is violence and disobedience of law and order from causing harm. We now want to see their political will and commitment," he said.

B92 reported that the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej pressured authorities to ban the Pride weekend and an exhibition titled “Ecce Homo,” which the patriarch claimed was insulting to Christians.

Dveri, an ultra-national political group in Serbia, also threatened to disrupt the Pride march along with other right-wing groups, organized hooligans and other homophobes.

On Wednesday, Belgrade police dressed in riot gear were deployed at the site of the exhibition and shut down several streets surrounding the Center for Cultural Decontamination, B92 reported.