Court of Appeal gave the final verdict – Dragan Marković Palma guilty for discrimination of LGBT population

Belgrade, 11.07.2014.

Gay Straight Alliance (GSA; Alliance) announces that the Court of Appeal in Belgrade (Serbia) reversed the decision of First Basic Court in Belgrade and issued a final verdict upholding the appeal of GSA and confirms the discriminatory behavior, i.e. that Dragan Marković Palma, MP and President of the political party United Serbia (JS), committed serious form of discrimination of the LGBT population. In addition, the Court of Appeal has banned to the convicted to repeat performed discrimination and ordered him to pay court costs to plaintiff, i.e. Alliance in the amount of 57,300 dinars within 15 days of receipt of the verdict, under threat of execution.

Dragan-Markovic-Palma-pravosnazna-presudaGay Straight Alliance welcomes this final decision of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade and expresses great satisfaction that the court has accepted the appeal of its Litigation Service in judicial proceeding which runs from 2011, and which had to start two times from the beginning. Also, GSA believes that this decision from the Court of Appeal substantially restores confidence in the court system by LGBT population but all other people too, because the convicted Dragan Marković Palma is been considered a long time as one of the most homophobic politicians in Serbia, who has used the public and media space for hate speech against LGBT population without any sanction numerous times.

Explaining its decision, the Court of Appeal led by president judge Zorica Jašarević says that the First Basic Court in Belgrade in its first instance brought the decision – which was acquittal to defendant (Dragan Marković) – by erroneously applying Substantive Law, and quoting of Constitution, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as well as the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination on the basis of which an action is brought, concluding that “it is clear that the statement that the defendant gave journalists of print and electronic media represents discrimination against the LGBT population” and that “as the statement was made in media, it represents the propagation of discrimination”.

Also, the Court of Appeal points out that “the defendant as a prominent political figure, and as a president of the political party, is entitled to his own opinion, but that he also has a duty not to propagate discrimination in his public appearances. Special obligation of politicians, and therefore the defendant, is to promote the values of a democratic society such as pluralism, tolerance and the right to be different.”

“Protecting the plaintiff (GSA) does not represent a censorship or restriction of freedom of speech of a defendant, or the right to his opinion and expression of the negative comments also, but a ban of speech that spreads the ideas that incite discrimination, which may have a harmful impact on the democratic process in society and the development of society as a whole”, the Court said in verdict reasoning.

To remind, the Litigation Service of GSA filed a complaint against Dragan Marković Palma in August 2011, on the basis of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination because a different sexual orientation was presented as disease by him and as something abnormal through media, i.e. for his statement for the media on August 15th 2011 wherein he said “the position of United Serbia and my personal view is – we are against any gathering where homosexuals demonstrate on the streets of Belgrade and want to show a disease as something normal.” First Basic Court adopted a lawsuit of GSA in November that year and made the first instance verdict in which it found that Marković committed a serious form of discrimination based on sexual orientation on the basis of Articles 11, 12, 13 and 21 of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination and banned him from repeating discrimination. However the Court of Appeal revoked the first instance verdict in September 2012 by the appeal of Marković’s attorney for violation of civil proceedings, i.e. because it found that the complaint was not duly submitted by the First Basic Court to the defendand Marković and returned the process for retrial. The retrial began again in February 2013 in the First Basic Court in Belgrade, but after a delayed one and two hearings, court issued a new first instance verdict and rejected GSA’s claim as unfounded, after which GSA filed complaint to the Court of Appeal.

Dragan Marković Palma’s verdict is sixth final verdict on the basis of sexual orientation which the GSA’s lawyers managed to get on the courts since 2009 when the Litigation Service of GSA was founded, and which have a decisive role in a creation of court practice in this area in Serbia.

Info Center GSA

::: THE VERDICT ::: (pdf download)