Human rights of the LGBT population in the European Commission progress report

Belgrade, 17.10.2013.

European Commission (EC) published yesterday progress reports about the process of European integrations for South-East Europe and Turkey. Gay Straight Alliance (GSA; Alliance) welcomes the fact that in the Serbia Progress Report, in the conclusion section and political criteria, as well as within chapter 19 (social policy and employment) and chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights), a significant space is given to human rights of the LGBT persons in Serbia, measures undertaken by the state for the improvement of their position and lacks that were identified and that need to be addressed in the coming period.

european-commissionEuropean Commission placed a noticeably strong emphasis in general, in EC progress reports for the West Balkan region and Turkey, on the position of the LGBT population and recorded both positive and negative tendencies. Positive developments were recorded in Serbia and Montenegro, where national strategies for fight against discrimination were adopted. In addition, in Serbia and Albania laws dealing with the hate crime were adopted as well. Reports indicate that LGBT individuals in West Balkans and Turkey still face discrimination, threats and violence. This is a consequence of both lack of laws on protection from discrimination and hate, as it is the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Macedonia and Kosovo*, as well as of lack of effective implementation of existing laws, which is the case in Serbia and Montenegro. Examples of intolerance against LGBT individuals, including threats and attacks, were reported in Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo*. In Serbia negative tendency were recorded due to the ban of the Pride parade and lack of political support, while Turkey became noticeable for high rates of hate crime, discriminatory practices in the military, the abuse of the Law on the Internet against LGBT websites, and for taking out references to discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity from a draft law on anti-discrimination.

In the separate EC report for Serbia (Report), regarding the period from October last year till October this year, it is stated that Roma, women, people with disabilities and sexual minorities are still groups which in Serbia are most exposed to discrimination and are often face hate speech and threats, and that there’s need to pay special attention to protection of media, human rights defenders and other vulnerable groups, including Roma and LGBT population from threats and attacks from radical groups. Also, Serbian authorities need to develop a proactive approach towards the better inclusion of the LGBTI population and a greater understanding across society.

Report notes that in past year some activities have taken place regarding the protection of the rights of the LGBT population. After the training of the police, their response on cases of attack against LGBT persons has slightly improved and there was also improved cooperation of the police with LGBT persons as witnesses in these cases. Cases of discrimination against the LGBT population are processed more actively and there was development of court practices. Report also makes note of the case initiated by the GSA Litigation Service, i.e. that the Novi Sad Appellate Court delivered Serbia’s first ruling on discrimination in the work place based on sexual orientation.

National antidiscrimination strategy, that has as its aim fight against discrimination of individuals and groups that are more exposed to discrimination and discriminatory practices, such as Roma, women, LGBT persons, persons with disabilities and children, was adopted in June this year by the Serbian Government. Changes to the Criminal Code were adopted, which now recognized motivating factors such as ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity as an aggravating circumstance of certain hate crimes.

Report also states that the freedom of assembly and association is constitutionally guaranteed and in general respected, but that the Law on public assembly is still not entirely harmonized with the Constitution. However, while a Pride festival could take place in Belgrade from 21 to 27 September, the Pride Parade itself, scheduled for 28 September, was banned by the Serbian authorities on security grounds, for the third year in a row. This decision, contradicted to the ruling of the Constitutional court from April 2011, raises a concerns regarding the lack of sufficient political support for the protection of the rights of LGBTI population, the lack of implementation of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of expression and assembly as well as the authorities’ capacity to handle threats from radical groups, i.e. extreme right groups and so-called football fans.

In the Report it is also mentioned that the extreme right wing organizations published “blacklists” of media, NGOs (among which are GSA and Queeria center) and prominent human rights defenders they described as “traitors” and incited violence against them, but also that the authorities have not taken appropriate action in this case.

Serbia has ratified all of the main international human rights instruments, and in January, Serbia presented the Report on Human Rights for the Universal Periodic Review – Second Cycle. The UN Human Rights Council made 144 recommendations to Serbia, of which 77 relate to LGBT rights.

In this Progress Report, as well as in few previous ones, it is stated that the legislative and institutional framework for the observance of international human rights law is in place in Serbia, but also that further efforts to ensure their full implementation are needed.

GSA Info Center

Sources: European Commission, European Parliament, ILGA Europe, GSA