Participants in the 2010 Belgrade Pride march.
(Pic: UK Gay News)

As hinted at by Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic on Monday, the government has banned Saturday’s planned Belgrade Pride event, a move slammed by human rights activists.

The country’s Ministry of Interior and the National Security Council said on Wednesday that the event could not go ahead as they feared a repeat of the violence that ensued when right-wing protestors attacked Pride parade participants and police in 2010.

The ban comes on the heels of a letter by Patriarch Irinej, head of Serbia’s Christian Orthodox Church, calling on the government to disallow the march.

He called the Pride event, which was also banned last year, a “parade of shame” and said that it would cast a “moral shadow” on Serbia.

In addition to banning the parade, the government also banned a right-wing protest against Pride as well as a soccer matches set to take place in Belgrade on Saturday.

“We believe that at this moment Serbia does not need clashes and victims, and that’s why we banned the gatherings,” said Dacic.

At a press conference in Belgrade, Pride organiser Goran Miletic said that the ban “is a complete capitulation of the state. ‘Pride’ is not a circus to leave town, we will stay here and we will be here next year”.

Critics have accused the government of kowtowing to anti-gay conservatives and of not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to ensure that people can freely assemble and express themselves in safety.

“No one argues that this event unfortunately attracts violent protesters. However, it is a State duty to provide protection to everyone who wants to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful demonstration,” commented Gabi Calleja, Co-Chair of the International Lesbian and Gay Association of Europe (ILGA-Europe).

“This is not the first time the Serbian authorities have used ‘security threats’ as an argument to cancel Pride March. Frankly speaking we consider this an excuse for the lack of political will to ensure the human rights of LGBTI citizens,” said Calleja.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said that he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Belgrade Pride event has been banned again.

“Citizens should be able to exercise their rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Serbia should be in a position to safeguard such an event, which is commonplace is modern democracies,” he said.

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