Brutal attack on Serbian LGBTI activist must be investigated

On Sunday 21 August LGBTI activist Boban Stojanović was brutally beaten by unknown assailants who shouted homophobic slogans in downtown Belgrade. – We urge Serbian authorities and law enforcement to ensure that the attack is properly investigated and that the perpetrators are brought to justice, says Mina Skouen, Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s (NHC) Advisor on LGBTI issues and the Western Balkans.

The attack happened shortly before the annual Belgrade Pride week and parade 12 to 18 September. Stojanović is a well-known public figure, as a human rights activist and organizer of Belgrade Pride. He has been physically assaulted several times before, and his apartment has been set on fire, attacked with stones, and swastikas painted on the walls without adequate response from the Police.

– Even though we see progress in Serbia when it comes to legislation on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans- and intersex persons (LGBTI), violence and discrimination remains widespread. Few reported cases receive proper investigation and even fewer lead to convictions, Skouen continues. “Serbian authorities must make it clear to the public that all hate crime cases will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. When cases such as this remain unresolved or not properly investigated it sends a message to hate groups that there is a de facto impunity for homophobic and transphobic acts.”

A 2015 survey by the National Democratic Institute shows that psychological and physical abuse against LGBTI persons is increasing in Serbia. Passersby and regular people on the street are the most common perpetrators, such as in Stojanović’case. The 2016 progress report on Serbia from the European Parliament states that Serbian authorities are not doing enough to counter this tendency.

Stojanović took part in Oslo Pride 2016 as part of an international delegation of LGBTI activists and Pride organizers invited by NHC, Oslo Pride and FRI. In addition to the Pride events he and fellow colleagues from Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia met with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs where the issue of impunity for hate crimes was discussed.