A trial for the case of GSA press conference ban at the Sava Center began after more than four and a half years

A trial for the case of GSA press conference ban at the Sava Center began after more than four and a half years; The judge postponed the main hearing

Belgrade, 20.09.2013.

Gay straight alliance (GSA; Alliance) informs the public that today a trial began in the First Basic Court in Belgrade, for the indemnity of damage because of the ban of GSA’s press conference by the management of the Belgrade’s Congressional Center “Sava” (Sava Center; SC), that was suppose to take place in one of the conference rooms of the SC on February 26, 2009.

sava-centarAfter the conference was banned, in the beginning of April, 2009, Alliance filed criminal charges against Sava Center for the violation of equality under the Article 128 of the Criminal Code (CC), violation of freedom of speech and public appearance (Art. 148, CC) and racial and other discrimination (Art. 387, CC). In addition GSA filed a lawsuit for the indemnity of damage because of discrimination and violation of equality, honor, reputation and individual rights, and this complaint was also filed by five more of Alliance’s activists at the time, each asking compensation from Sava Center of one million and eight hundred dinars.

After more than four years since the lawsuit had been filed, attempt of the court to proclaim itself not competent and the complaints submitted by the GSA lawyers, a preparation trial for the indemnity of damage was held in May this year and the main hearing was scheduled for today.

At the courtroom of the First Basic Court all the plaintiffs were present: Boris Milicevic (GSA founder and President at the time), Mirjana Bogdanovic (GSA founder, member of the Executive board at the time and current GSA Executive Director), Lazar Pavlovic (member of the Executive board at the time and current GSA President), Milica Djordjevic (GSA activist at the time and member of the Organizational Committee of the 2009 Pride Parade), Dusan Kosanovic (GSA activist at the time and member of the Organizational Committee of the 2009 Pride Parade), as well as the GSA lawyer, Veroljub Djukic. In the courtroom were also present the defendant – Sava Center director Dragan Vucicevic with lawyers, and subpoenaed witnesses from Belgrade’s Media Center.

Although all the current GSA legal representatives were present in the courtroom, the judge established that GSA as a legal entity was not subpoenaed regularly, and ordered GSA to provide certificates from the Serbian Business Registers Agency regarding its legal representatives, thus postponing the main hearing for November 20, 2013.

GSA emphasizes that, even though the trial began after more than four years since the lawsuit for the indemnity of damage was submitted, in the case of GSA criminal charges against Sava Center judicial authorities did not undertake a single legal action after all this time and there are no signs that it will ever take place.

Alliance reminds that its press conference, where a presentation of the annual Report on human rights of LGBT people in Serbia for 2008 was planned to take place, was scheduled to be held at the Media Center, based then in the Belgrade’s Sava Center. However, GSA received information from the Media Center, just two days before the regularly scheduled conference, that it was canceled by the Sava Center’s management, as they considered the organizer of the event (GSA) and the activities that Alliance is involved as problematic.

This decision of the Sava Center’s management were accompanied by their extremely homophobic media statements, especially of their director Dragan Vucicevic, who then, among other things, declared that he can not want to see ‘faggots’, that they are not welcomed anywhere, especially not in the Sava Center, that only events organized with decent people and with decent content can be organized in Sava Center, and that the ‘faggots’ should go where they usually gather.

Following the ban of the GSA press conference a peaceful protest of LGBT individuals and activists for human rights took place in front of the Sava Center, during which it was requested to allow GSA to hold its press conference in Sava Center, and after the SC security did not allow them to distribute to the FEST visitors a press release about the GSA press conference ban, a number of GSA activists interrupted for a short moment a projection of the movie „Milk“, shouting the slogans „death to homophobia“ and expressing in that way their revolt to the attitude of the SC management. This protest was the first public gathering for LGBT rights in Serbia, after the violent interruption of the 2001 Pride Parade.

GSA press conference ban in Sava Center was a milestone for LGBT movement in Serbia, as it, for the first time after many years, brought to light problems that LGBT population in Serbia is facing, such as a level of discrimination and violation of their basic human rights. Also, this event provoked a huge media attention as well as reactions of the part of domestic and international public, which condemned the ban and stood in defense of the LGBT human rights. Considering that Sava Center is a public company under the governance of the city of Belgrade, the mayor of Belgrade Dragan Djilas apologized publicly for this event to the LGBT population.

GSA along with the support of 40 organizations of the civil society then also requested a resignation of the SC director, consequently to the decision of SC management not to change its position after everything that happened and allow Alliance to hold its press conference. However, director of the Sava Center, Dragan Vucicevic, as an appointee of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), which is a member of the governing city coalition in this and former mandate, is still on that position.

For the GSA Litigation service, which was established after the adoption of the Law against discrimination in March 2009, the case of GSA press conference ban was the first one it processed. Since then, GSA Litigation service filed more than 30 lawsuits in Serbian courts, thus creating the judicial practice regarding violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which in Serbia almost did not exist before that. Even though in the meantime GSA Litigation service won several final and first instance verdicts for discrimination, hate speech, threats and physical attacks, and completed several court cases, its first lawsuit against Sava Center is only now coming for trial and only partly, since, as mentioned, nothing has yet been done about the criminal charges.

GSA Info Center