Freedom of Expression and Assembly for Belgrade Pride 2013

- Supporting and protecting the Belgrade Pride Parade and Pride Week 2013 is an opportunity for Serbian authorities to show its commitment for the human rights for all persons, and in particular, the human rights of those belonging to sexual and gender minorities (LGBTI), Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee says. The Pride Parade march in the streets of Belgrade is scheduled for September 28.

Pride parades were banned in Serbia in 2009, 2011 and 2012, allegedly due to security concerns. The bans demonstrated lack of will and ability to fulfil the right to freedom of association and expression for LGBTI group, organizers and would-be participants. Authorities in Serbia should make sure that the activities of the coming week can be carried out with sufficient security protection. Threats, hate speech and hate crimes must be properly investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted in accordance with the law.

Any attempt to ban Pride 2013, or evasiveness when it comes to the right to freedom of expression for all, would reward the behavior of groups that promote homophobic and transphobic attitudes and those responsible for violence against persons belonging to or supporting the LGBTI community.

Authorities should support and have a responsibility to protect the Pride Week and Belgrade Pride 2013, and to systematically prevent hate crimes and human rights violations against the LGBTI community at all times. At issue is not only a question of human rights of LGBTI persons, but also the development of a democratic Serbia. On a path towards European integration, Serbia must guarantee the human rights of all its citizens.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee fully supports the Belgrade Pride Parade and Pride Week 2013. The struggle for equality before the law and protection against hate crimes and human rights violations concerns us all. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee expresses solidarity with the organizers and wishes them and all participants a colorful and proud celebration!