The Serbian government bans the Belgrade Pride Parade for “security reasons,” but in the final analysis, President Boris Tadic is the biggest loser. By making this decision, Tadic limits his domestic political options at home while distancing himself from European supporters.
The Serbian government’s National Security Council announced Friday that it could not effectively protect LGBTI participants and their allies for Sunday’s planned Belgrade Gay Pride march and declared the march effectively banned.
Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s Minister of the Interior said that its crack police force was not capable of maintaining public order and that the Gay Pride march had been banned to avoid “major chaos” including property destruction and disturbance of public order and peace.”
“Serbia stood up to the Nazis, but they can’t stand up to the Neo-Nazis?”
The Ministry also prohibited planned protests opposing Belgrade Pride by Serbian ultra nationalist groups, including Obraz, Nasi 1389 and the Movement of 1389, all supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church and all played a major role in last year’s violence that marred 2010 Belgrade Pride.
President Boris Tadic said that the Pride parade was being prohibited to protect LGBT persons. The Belgrade Pride Committee reluctantly announced it would comply with the directive.
“We will not invite people to the streets because of the ban on holding the parade,” said Goran Miletić, an Organizing Committee member for Belgrade Pride, according to a B-92 News report.
Miletić responded to The New Civil Rights Movement request for an updated statement, offering, “We are still in shock and doing actions with our guests, but will try to give a new statement shortly.”
Dacic issued an official decision on Friday disallowing the Belgrade parade and rally permit that was posted to the official Pride Parade website without comment under the title of “Official Ban.” The police directorate stated, “it was determined that conflicting circumstances from Article 11, Paragraph 1 of the Law on Gathering of citizens of RS [Republic of Serbia] i.e. that during the meeting [Pride] there may appear obstruction of public transport, endangering health, public moral or safety of individuals and properties.”
The decision was not posted to the Government of Serbia’s websites which are maintained in the Cyrillic Serbian and Latinic alphabets and an English language website.
The Serbian government’s decision to ban Belgrade Gay Pride was not welcomed by European Union (EU) officials in Brussels, especially EU officials who have been supporting Serbia’s application to become an EU accession candidate. In fact, Ambassador Vincent Degert, Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, was reported to have urged the government to respect freedom of speech and assembly and to hold the march and rally, despite announced intentions by ultra nationalists, who marred last year’s Pride event with violence that resulted in nearly 200 police injured on Belgrade’s streets and more than 150 protesters were arrested.
Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian MEP and co-president of the European Parliament’s all-party LGBT ‘Intergroup’ and substitute member of the South Eastern Europe delegation, said the cancellation was “profoundly disturbing that Serbian citizens will not be able to march for tolerance, acceptance and equality on Sunday.”
In a press statement Lunacek said, “I deeply regret that Serbian citizens will not be able to march for tolerance, acceptance and equality on Sunday. The Serbian authorities have a duty to care for everyone’s safety, but it is profoundly disturbing that the leadership of a country seeking EU candidate status and membership – supported by a majority in the European Parliament – feel incapable of providing such safety for all citizens.”
“The government has to be much, much stricter towards extremists whipping up violence in the country. A society that cannot express itself for fear of violence is not a free, democratic society,” she added.
Serbia dramatically advanced its potential candidacy for EU accession in May when it arrested Ratko Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb Army general, an indicted war criminal and 16-year fugitive, who had been wanted since July 1995 for the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But Serbia’s latest move in canceling Belgrade Gay Pride, follows consistently unhelpful actions in Bosnia and Kosovo and calls into question its political will and actual competence to carry through on EU requirements for accession, including protecting the lives of all its citizens, especially its national minorities and LGBTI persons.
Ivo Skoric, a Balkan expert and correspondent for H-Alter.com (Croatia Alternative) said that the banning of Belgrade Gay Pride was a “sign of weakness–not strength, by the Serbian government.”
“Either they [the police] are weak and incapable of doing their jobs, or they themselves are members or sympathetic to Obraz and 1389 Nasi,” he said.
Given Serbia’s storied historical past in fighting the fascists and the Third Reich during World War II, Skoric sees the contemporary Serbian government’s inability to battle and control the ultra Neo-Nazi leaning nationalists as a curious failing.
“What happened to them since the 1940s?” Skoric asked. “They stood up to the Nazis, but they can’t stand up to the Neo-Nazis, who are a mere shadow of the past.”
Serbia’s “foreign policy” dalliances with Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity and its overt support for guerilla type insurgencies by Kosovar Serbs in Kosovo, a recently declared independent country, underscores Serbia’s absurd first rail of contemporary Serbian politics–that it will never give up Kosovo , illustrated by a special graphic on the Serbian government website that states “Kosovo is Serbia”. (Kosovo is a former autonomous province of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, dominated by a majority of Kosovar Albanians and is the geographical capital of Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and the location of Kosovo Polje, where Serbs were massacred by the Ottoman Turks in June 1389).
During the past year, violence has riddled Gay Pride events in Moscow and also in Split, Croatia. But in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, Gay Pride was held without incident in June and its organizers had a historical first face-t0-face supportive meeting with President Ivo Josipovic.
On the eve of Belgrade’s Pride weekend, EU members of Parliament expressed their deep regret in Serbia’s actions prohibiting the march and rally.
In Belgrade, Slovene Jelko Kacin MEP and the European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia’s accession and member of the LGBT Human Rights Intergroup, said, “The decision to ban Pride Parade is a sovereign decision of the Serbian Government and the National Security Council. I receive such a decision with deep regret; as a matter of fact, it deprives citizens of the constitutional and legal right to free expression and peaceful assembly. A state seeking to access the EU must guarantee the human rights of its citizens. I have come to Belgrade to give my full support the pride’s organisers.”
A press release indicated that the parliamentary members will take note of this weekend’s events in its upcoming accession report for Serbia, planned for early 2012. Those final words are an ominous ones for Tadic. In refusing to confront domestic radicals and subsequently embracing ultra nationalists, he has alienated his pro-Western Serbian voters at home and sent confusing, if not enraging signals to Europeans, who have been cheering him on from Brussels. Now, Tadic’s once thought to be golden halo has been exposed to sizzling hot air, producing a tarnished outcome.
Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.
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