Baltic Pride must go ahead without hindrance
2013 02 18
Amnesty International wrote to the Mayor of Vilnius to express its deep concerns with regard to the restrictions imposed by Vilnius municipal authorities on the Baltic Pride 2013, whose march is planned to take place on 27 July on the main city avenue.
Amnesty International believes that the restrictions imposed by the Vilnius municipality authorities are in violation of Lithuania’s obligations under international human rights law and in particular Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
According to the information made available to Amnesty International, on 11 January the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), the organizer of the Baltic Pride 2013, notified the Vilnius municipality authorities of the planned date, time and location of the Pride march. On 16 January, the municipality authorities issued an order by which they objected to holding the march in Gediminas Avenue. The municipal authorities motivated their objection with the difficulty to secure the safety of the participants; the need to close cafes, bars and hotels to the public due to the security concerns, thus causing an economic loss to third parties; and the fact that the alternative location proposed by the order was the same granted to Baltic Pride organizers in 2010. Following the above mentioned concerns, the municipal authorities have provided two alternatives: either to change the nature of the event, i.e. to hold a rally in one of the city squares, or to change the location of the march to Upės Street, a rather isolated location on the bank of the river.
As a consequence, on 23 January 2013 LGL has submitted a request to the Deputy Director of Administration of Vilnius City Municipality to initiate a new approval procedure with regard to the Baltic Pride March on 27 July 2013.
Under international law, any restrictions on the right of freedom of peaceful assembly must be prescribed by law; they must be proportionate and necessary in order to address a legitimate aim. While ensuring the safety of Baltic Pride participants is a legitimate aim, to deny the permission to hold the march in the city centre is not a proportionate restriction to freedom of assembly, as Vilnius municipal authorities have failed to provide factual information about the security threats against the Pride march. In case of security threats, it is a positive obligation of the State to ensure the protection of the participants. Furthermore, the economic interests of third parties are not a legitimate aim to restrict the right to freedom of assembly.
Amnesty International urges the Vilnius municipality authorities to reverse the order of 16 January, which in contravention with Lithuania’s human rights obligations, compels the organizers to either change the nature of the event, or to relocate the march to the outskirts of the city. By doing so the order disproportionately restricts the right to peaceful assembly and association, freedom of expression and non-discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Lithuania in a manner which is not necessary in a democratic society.
Amnesty International also urges the Vilnius municipality authorities to ensure that the organizers of the Baltic Pride will be able to carry out the various events planned in July 2013, including the Pride march without obstructions or hindrances that would amount to an unlawful restriction of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. Moreover, the necessary security arrangements should be put in place to ensure the safety of Pride participants and organizers.