Authorities made a sudden u-turn on Saturday and effectively banned Sunday’s planned Belgrade Pride – ostensibly because they were unable to guarantee participants’ safety.

The Belgrade Pride 2009 Organising Committee made the announcement in a statement following a meeting with the Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkoviæ.

They said that they were handed an official decree signed by the Head of Serbian Police, Milorad Veljoviæ, which states that the authorities “are not able to ensure the Constitutional right for a peaceful assembly on the Square in front of the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade”.

The decree recommended the event’s location be moved to the Belgrade estuary, or in front of the Palata Srbije, a government building and home of many state ministries.

“Even though the decree… is written in the form of a recommendation,” said the Pride organisers, “it is absolutely unmistakeable that the Pride March 2009 has been banned.

“Despite the declarations of support given by the highest representatives of the government, in which they exalt the freedom of any and all social groups, LGBT community included, to publicly manifest their demands, the government did not put money where its mouth is. There was no act to support the rhetoric.”

The parade organisers went on to add: “This decree is a formal admittance by the government sections of the Republic of Serbia that they are not able to adequately prevent and sanction the threats coming from the neo-fascist organisations, nor are they able to ensure the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens who publicly announced their legal assembly.”

As recently as Friday Serbia’s President Boris Tadic promised to protect participants in the parade following threats of violence from right-wing organisations.

“The state will do everything to protect all its citizens regardless of their religious, sexual or political affiliation,” Tadic said in a statement last week.

A march by the ultra-nationalist Movement 1389 to celebrate the cancellation of Pride, planned for Sunday, was also banned by police, who have temporarily prohibited all public gatherings in the city centre.

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