Serbian president warns against violence ahead of gay pride march
Belgrade -- Serbian President Boris Tadic warned on Friday against creating an "atmosphere of chaos" and "threats and violence" in Belgrade two days ahead of a planned gay pride parade.
"The state will do everything to protect people, whatever their national, religious, sexual or political orientation, and no group must resort to threats and violence, or take justice into its own hands and jeopardize the lives of those who they think or who are different," he said.
Tadic warned that the "state will react in accordance with its authority to any act of violence on the streets of Belgrade and it will not allow the atmosphere of chaos to be created."
Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said Thursday that thousands of police had been ordered to protect Sunday’s gay pride parade amid fears of attacks.
The parade is the first since a rally for gay and lesbian rights in 2001 ended in violence after police failed to prevent football fans, nationalists and skinheads from attacking participants.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s mission in Serbia and the UN office here welcomed cooperation between civil society and Serbian authorities in organizing the gay pride march.
"Serbia’s commitment to support equality and the freedom of its citizens to peacefully assemble is to be commended," said the acting head of the OSCE mission Tom Moore in a statement.
Moore also praised the "willingness of Serbian authorities, particularly the Interior Ministry, and organizers to work together to ensure the safety of all those who wish to participate in the march."
"The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is a basic human right and as such should be protected," he said. "It is important that all citizens in Serbia can enjoy their rights and that effective mechanisms for combating discrimination are implemented."
William Infante, the UN coordinator in Serbia, said "human rights are universal and inalienable to all, and these two principles of universality and non-discrimination must be upheld."
Serbia has signed a gay rights declaration submitted to the UN General Assembly urging members to decriminalise homosexuality, but many people remain hostile to open displays of homosexuality.
In March, Serbia’s parliament passed an anti-discrimination bill strongly opposed by nationalists and religious leaders.