Annual Review 2011
Labris reported a high number of calls from people enquiring about asylum abroad because of the bleak situation for LGBT people in Serbia. In a specific case, the organisation issued a certificate outlining the seriousness of the problems for LGBTIQ people to help an asylum seeker who had already left the country for fear of persecution.
Bias motivated speech
- The prevalence of hate speech reached media attention and offi cial sanction. In March, after Serbian religious leader Amfilohije Radović made comments opposing the Belgrade Pride Parade. The Equality Protection Commissioner concluded that he had violated the anti-discrimination law by engaging in hate speech, and that he had to apologise to the LGBT community.
- In September, in Novi Sad, a teacher published homophobic statements on her Facebook page, including incitement to violence against LGBT people. At the end of 2011, it was still unclear whether any disciplinary action was going to be taken by the school.
- In November, a court in Belgrade found that Dragan Marković, a Member of Parliament from United Serbia Party (part of the governing coalition), guilty of a serious act of discrimination. He was not fi ned but was ordered to pay the trial costs and not to repeat his offensive speech made during the preparations for Belgrade Pride, including the description of the Pride as “where they want to show something that is an illness as something normal.” It was the first time this type of verdict was reached against a Member of Parliament.
Bias motivated violence
- In spite of the fact that LGBT organisations reported a number of attacks, the Ministry of Interior confirmed that it does not record statistics on the number of attacks which are based on the real or perceived sexual orientation of the victim.
- In April, the leader of the organisation that led violent protests against Belgrade Pride in 2010 was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the riots. Fifteen others were sentenced to shorter custodial periods, ranging from eight to eighteen months. The 2010 violence led to the injury of nearly 150 police offi cers and 25 others, and caused thousands of Euros in damage to the city of Belgrade.
- In October, a woman wearing a t-shirt with LGBT symbols was attacked in Belgrade city centre, beaten up and stabbed. As a result, she suff ered cut ligaments to her fingers, concussion, scratches and bruising. During the attack she was screamed at and constantly asked if she was a lesbian. One of the attackers was arrested but was not held in police custody because he was a minor. The attack was the subject of a protest in front of the government building in Belgrade where LGBT human rights defenders decried the continued violence against the community.
- In December, in Belgrade, a twelve-year old boy who was consistently subjected to homophobic bullying at school (including physical and mental assaults) informed the media about the daily bullying he suff ered. His case came to media attention after his mother posted about it on her Facebook page. Although the school principal told journalists he would solve the problem, Labris suggested that the case demonstrated the need for educating staff about same-sex orientation and providing awareness raising training to teachers to address the root cause of this issue.
- A number of individuals were refused a marital status certificate, once it became clear that they needed them to travel abroad to enter a civil partnership or marriage with their same-sex partner in another country.
- In March, a woman was refused the certificate which she wanted in order to marry another woman in Spain.
- In July, a gay man complained to the Ombudsman of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina against Šid Municipality which refused him a marital status certificate. They have claimed that the issuing of the certificate was not permissible under the relevant provisions of family law. In examining the case, the Ombudsman found that there were no clear normative provisions for these situations and conducted an investigation into how the matter was dealt with throughout Vojvodina, results of which suggested that each authority acted diff erently. The Ombudsman is to issue guidelines to ensure that local authorities act in a non-discriminatory way across the region.
- In December, a Serbian national wanting to enter into registered partnerships with an Austrian citizen was refused a marital status certificate. Individuals encountering problems with their certificates were turning for advice to LGBTI organisations.
Freedom of assembly
- The preparations towards Belgrade Pride Parade involved discussions with almost all political parties in Serbia, whose reactions ranged from clear support for human rights and freedom of assembly of LGBT people, to a call that people remain non-violent. Moreover, there were meetings with organisations such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE and there was wide media coverage of the preparations. However, during this time there was also an increase in attacks on people because of their perceived or actual LGB sexual orientation. The Pride Parade organisers were intimidated. There was incitement to violence and homophobic comments were made by opponents of the Pride Parade and the media printed stories outlining the protest rallies that were being planned, including one which threatened to burn tyres in the streets. An atmosphere of intimidation and threat of violence at Pride was created through media, political and clerical rhetoric. In discussions with the Ministry of Interior, the organisers were told that parallel gatherings to Pride were being prepared but that they would not interfere with the Pride; the Ministry stated that all possible measures would be taken to protect the Pride participants and told the organisers to ignore media reports. A day after that assurance, the Council for National Security banned the Pride Parade on the grounds that it might “obstruct public transport, endanger the health, public morale or security of people and property.” A complaint against the ban was lodged with the Constitutional Court of Serbia and the European Court of Human Rights.
- At the end of the year, the Constitutional Court decided that the 2009 police decision to reroute the Pride Parade away from Belgrade centre had violated the organisers’ right to assemble and they had also been denied the right to a legal remedy.
Freedom of expression
The Gay and Lesbian Info Center (GLIC) published the first edition of Optimism, a free publication for the LGBT community available in many Serbian cities. The magazine featured a report on the legal situation of LGBT people in Serbia.