An official at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has revealed that they have been given “a guarantee for the safety of delegations, press and fans issued by the President of Serbia,” covering this year’s Eurovision contest in Belgrade.
Human rights activists have raised concerns that Western fans visiting Serbia will be targeted by fascist elements in the country.
Gay men are a particular target, according to the president of the fascist organisation Obraz, who announced his violent intentions in the pages of daily newspaper ALO! last week.
The newspaper ran a story on April 7th, calling Eurovision “gay youth day.”
The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) has written to the EBU, which is responsible for overseeing the hosting of the song contest.
Serbia won the right to host the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest after their entry to last year’s competition in Finland won.
Semi-finals will be held in Belgrade on 20th and 22nd May and the final on 24th May.
“We are sure you are aware of the poor record of human rights in Serbia in general and regarding the human rights of lesbian, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people in particular,” wrote the EPOA’s Human Rights Co-ordinator Kurt Krickler.
“In June 2001, the first gay pride march in Belgrade was brutally attacked by a huge violent crowd of nationalist extremists and hooligans.
“Dozens of people were left massively hurt and injured in the streets while the police failed to provide adequate protection.
“The Serbian LGBT movement has not recovered from these incidents.
“Many gay people will want to go to Belgrade to attend this year’s Song Contest.
“We demand from the European Broadcasting Union and the Serbian authorities to give public assurances that the safety and security not only of the foreign visitors, especially those who are LGBT, but also of the local LGBT people AFTER the event (when the foreign guests will have left) will be guaranteed.
“If such assurances cannot be given, we expect the EBU to issue an official warning to LGBT people against travelling to Belgrade.”
Click here to watch footage of the 2001 attacks on gay Pride.
Several Serbian media outlets have reported that “thousands” of gay and lesbian people are coming to Belgrade for the contest.
Serbia, which is not in the EU, is one of the least accepting countries for gay people in Europe.
The reaction of the Serbian authorities in charge of the event to the fascist threats has alarmed lesbian and gay activists in the country.
“We are not organising their arrival, therefore we can not take care of their security,” Aleksandar Rados, the Eurovision organiser’s PR, said of gay visitors.
Queeria, Belgrade’s centre for “promoting a culture of non-violence and equality,” has requested the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office respond to the threats of homophobic violence.
“We are asking you to pressure the organisers of the Eurovision in Belgrade to pay more attention to security of the participants and the guests from other countries,” said spokesperson Predrag M. Azdejkovic.
Svante Stockselius, The Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), wrote in response to EPOA:
“The EBU does not separate our fans into groups based on their religion, colour, sexual preferences or others.
“We have a guarantee for the safety of delegations, press and fans issued by the President of Serbia, This guarantee includes all.”
People from the UK, US and other countries that supported Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this year at already at risk.
The US embassy in Belgrade remains evacuated after rioting Serbs attacked the building and tried to set it alight.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice to British travellers to the country states:
“The overall security situation in Serbia remains calm, but you are advised to exercise extreme caution when travelling around.
“You should keep a low profile and stay alert at all times and take particular care to avoid public gatherings, political rallies, protests and polling stations, and pay close attention to local media reports at the present time.”