A chorus of politicians from across Europe along with the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have urged the authorities in Serbia to reconsider a ban on this weekend’s gay pride march in Belgrade.
Police officials also said they feared a repeat of the violence in 2010, when right-wing groups attacked a similar Pride in Belgrade, triggering serious clashes that left more than 100 people injured.
The move has sparked condemnation from UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay who has urged Serbia to facilitate the rescheduling of the event and to protect gay rights campaigners.
“Responding to violent attacks against a vulnerable community by banning them from peacefully gathering and expressing themselves further violates their fundamental human rights. States should confront prejudice, not submit to it”
The commissioner’s remarks were supported on Wednesday by Lib Dem London MEP Sarah Ludford, who said: “I’m extremely disappointed by the totally unwarranted cancellation of Belgrade Pride. Yet again the voice of hatred and discrimination has won out over those wishing to exercise their European right to freedom of expression.”
Ms Ludford continued: “The Serbian authorities should not cave in to extremist homophobic bullies. On the contrary, they have a duty to ensure that Belgrade Pride goes ahead and that participants are protected from violence or harassment.”
The MEP also hinted that the decision could damage Serbia’s desire to join the European Union.
“Brussels, and especially MEPs, are watching this closely. Serbia’s EU accession process will get seriously derailed unless real progress on equality and human rights is visibly achieved,” Ms Ludford added.
The Guardian reports activists will now hold the event indoors: “Pride is not a circus that will leave this city. We are staying here, this is where we live,” organiser Goran Miletic is quoted as saying.