Organisers from the Eurovision song contest have met with Serbian police officials to discuss the possibility of homophobic violence at this years event.
The meeting, organised by Serbian gay rights group Gay – Straight Alliance (GSA) sought assurances that the police will adequately protect visitors from homophobic attack.
Human rights activists have raised concerns that LGBT 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! a few weeks ago.
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.
The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) has written to the EBU, which is responsible for overseeing the hosting of the song contest.
“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.
Police representatives informed organisers that there will be increased security for the event, emphasising that there would be an increased police presence near all tourist attractions.
Eurovision Song Contest organisers stressed that the most important thing was that, “everybody has as great time.”
A record number of 43 countries will be represented at the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest.
An estimated global audience of at least 100 million people watched the contest in 2007