Press release from NGOs regarding the attack in Novi Sad

Belgrade, 10.09.2013.

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA; Alliance) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) strongly condemn the attack that took place last weekend in Novi Sad.

yucom-gsaAccording to media, on Sunday 8th September 2013 in the evening, a group of several elementary-school boys between 12 and 15 years old physically attacked professor Ivan Janeš while he was waiting for his wife and child in the park near the train station in Novi Sad and brutally beat him. During the attack, they yelled at him “You’re a fag! You’re a faggot!“, they knocked him off his bicycle and proceeded to kick him in the head and punch him with their fists. The attack was reported to the police and according to professor Janeš’ statements for the media, to the PR of the Novi Sad Clinical Centre and to the photographs which have been published, he has suffered several physical injuries, a broken nose and numerous contusions.

This is not the first time that people have suffered because of assumed sexual orientation and because of incorrect but deep-set prejudices which reign in our society regarding the supposed appearance and behaviour of LGBT people. GSA and YUCOM have been warning for years that there is a high level of violence in society which threatens not only LGBT people but other Serbian citizens as well.

It is worrying that the perpetrators are getting younger and younger, while neither parents nor the education system and other relevant institutions have no solution for this problem. Even though Alliance and YUCOM have been cooperating for a long time with various instutions on issues of reducing violence and discrimination, the worst kind of relationship GSA for example has achieved is with the Ministry of Education, who have been negating the existence of peer violence and violence in general, as well as the hatred towards certain minority groups among school pupils.

What is particularly worrying is the fact that Novi Sad police qualified this act as robbery, while it was in addition to robbery also a committing serious physical injuries by the group of people and undoubtedly a hate crime based on assumed sexual orientation.

Experiences of GSA and YUCOM through the work of litigation services and in working with victims of violence and discrimination say that one of the most problematic parts in the process of punishing violence and discrimination is precisely poor qualification of committed acts by the police, the prosecutor and other relevant institutions. Incorrectly qualified acts usually lead to light or no punishment for the perpetrators, whereby their added purpose of general and special prevention is completely lost – to discourage the perpetrator from repeating the crime, and to have preventive influence on others not to commit similar crimes.

GSA and YUCOM would like to remind the Ministry of Interior, the Republic Prosecutor’s Office and the judiciary that at the end of 2012 there was a change in the Criminal Code, when Article 54a was added – the article which states that, if a criminal act was committed out of hatred based on race and religion, national or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, this circumstance will be taken into account as an aggravating cicrumstance, unless it is not stipulated as a feature of a criminal act.

GSA and YUCOM demand from relevant institutions that this act be qualified adequately as a hate crime and to stop the practice of light punishments for such and similar criminal acts.

On the occasion of this attack GSA will offer services of its Litigation service to professor Janeš and legal aid during representation in court.

Gay Straight Alliance
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM
Also supported by the regional Coalition for equality – KORAK