Report on the presentation of the GSA annual report on Serbia’s GLBT Human Rights for 2009 “No Retreat, No Surrender”

The Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) presented today at the Palace of Serbia its annual report on the state of human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) persons in Serbia for 2009.

Speakers on the report on Serbia’s GLBT human rights in 2009 included:

  • Boris Milićević – President of Gay Straight Alliance
  • Dr Svetozar Čiplić – Serbian Minister for Human and Minority Rights
  • Bill Longhurst – Deputy Ambassador, British Embassy in Belgrade
  • Eric Collings – Political Advisor for Human Rights, U.S. Embassy in Belgrade
  • Goran Miletić – Human Rights Lawyer, Civil Rights Defenders
  • Veroljub Đukić – Head of the GSA Legal Services, GSA legal representative in cases of violence and discrimination.

Participants and guests included representatives from the embassies of Netherlands, Germany, Canada and Sweden, as well as the OSCE Mission in Serbia, the U.N., Council of Europe, Serbian Ombudsman’s Office, Serbian Interior Ministry, Justice Ministry, Agency for Cooperation with the NGO sector and European Integration of the City of Belgrade, various political parties, GLBT organisations, NGOs and members of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Violence increased over GLBT persons last year, but in spite of great challenges, good foundation was created for resolving key problems of the GLBT community, both speakers and participants assessed today.

Human and Minority Rights Minister Svetozar Čiplić said the idea of the Serbian Government is to do all it can to help all of the endangered groups, including the GLBT community, while the goal of all citizens is to live in a respectful state. He said the protection of all endangered, minority groups is of crucial importance for having freedom in a country, adding that “changes are needed within both the state system and individuals” when it comes to relations with the GLBT community. “We must work on putting discrimination in the past and defeat those who publicize violence”, the Minister said.

GSA President Boris Milićević said the pro-European parties did not gather enough courage in 2009 to show political will to stop violence against the GLBT persons.

“Because of that drawback, violence over GLBT persons grew last year while at the same time with organising of the Pride Parade, we reached the point when violence overflowed the entire society and became one of its greatest problems”, he said.

“Even though the police in Serbia made a step forward in respecting the professional standards when working with GLBT people, most police officers are still unwilling and not ready to work with this part of the society”, Milićević said. He added that to solve the problem, it is also necessary for the prosecutors and the courts to start to execute their obligation defined by the Serbian Constitution and international legal standards. Prosecutors and courts are slow and inefficient when working on cases of violence and discrimination on GLBT persons, Milićević emphasised.

“There was so much hate speech and wrong messages. Yet now, no one can deny the existence of gays and lesbians as it was the case before 2009, and no one can avoid giving their stand on this issue”, Milićević said.

“What remains is to force the state to start to behave more responsibly” , he said.

Human Rights Lawyer Goran Miletić stressed that each state must protect person’s identity, regardless if it is sexual, ethnic, “no matter how unpopular” and that when it is disrespected, it is the violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. In this respect, Serbia’s state bodies have “changed (their stand) for the better, which is also shown by holding the presentation of this report in the government’s building” he said adding that now they should prove their further progress by electing the Equality Ombudsman.

Political Advisor for Human Rights at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade Eric Collings assessed that extremely negative social perception still prevails in the Serbian society about the GLBT population, which is exposed to threats, attacks and hate speech. Certain media also contributed to this negative picture about this community, because “they advertised hate speech’ and treated problems of gay and lesbian community with disrespect, he said.

British Deputy Ambassador in Belgrade Bill Longhurst agreed with his American colleague and emphasised that the state protection and safety of all citizens, especially those from the most endangered minority groups is the “most obvious expression of freedom” in a country, while in Serbia it is “one of the conditions for integration into the European family”.

Head of the GSA Legal Services lawyer Veroljub Đukić presented ten cases which the GSA started before the courts in 2009 and which deal with violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation. “Not a single trial was held last year for cases where victims were GLBT persons”, he stressed.

Since it was established, the Gay Straight Alliance prepares and edits annual reports, which include topics such are cases of violence and discrimination against GLBT persons, the attitudes and stands of state institutions and political parties towards the GLBT population, media analysis, freedom of assembly, as well as many other issues related to the rights of GLBT persons in Serbia.

Foreword for the 2009 GSA Report was written by Boris Dittrich, GLBT Programme Advocacy Director of the Human Rights Watch, while Ulrike Lunacek, Member of the European Parliament, gave the introductory remarks.

Compared to previous reports, this one makes a steps further as it includes the analysis of cases which were brought before the courts and which deal with violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation. During 2009, the GSA established the Service for Legal Support for GLBT persons in cases of violence and discrimination. Legal service documents cases, offers legal advice, and if victims agree, starts the cases before Serbia’s judiciary bodies as well as represent the victims. This is the first time in Serbia that organised and systematic cases were brought to courts, prosecutors and the police in order to protect GLBT persons.

::: ANNUAL REPORT (2009) “NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER” ::: (pdf download)

::: GAY BASHING MAP ::: (pdf download)

Annual report is supported by:
Fund for an Open Society and Civil Rights Defenders