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Ban on gay pride parade a “dark day for human rights”

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Serbian gay rights activists and human rights organization Amnesty International have strongly condemned the Serbian government for banning the gay pride parade in Belgrade. Last year’s parade was followed by violent riots in the Serbian capital.

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AFP – Serbian gay activists warned on Saturday that the ban on this weekend’s gay pride parade was a blow to human rights in the Balkan country, but vowed to prepare a march next year next.

“This is a sad day for Serbia, and not one but a hundred steps back for human rights in this country,” said Jovanka Todorovic, one of the Pride organizers.

Serbian authorities on Friday banned the gay pride parade and a number of counter-protests over security concerns.

This is the second time in three years that a Gay Pride cannot take place in Serbia due to threats from ultranationalists. Several extremist organizations had called for anti-parade protests on Saturday and Sunday, which are now also banned.

In 2010, Serbia held its first gay pride in ten years, but violent riots followed. More than 150 people, mostly police officers, were injured in clashes between security forces and ultranationalists and hooligans, which caused widespread damage in central Belgrade.

“It’s a defeat for all citizens of Serbia: today it’s gays, tomorrow God knows which minority,” organizer Goran Miletic told the press.

But activists have pledged to continue preparations for the 2012 Pride march, while indicating they may take legal action against the state at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“This is the least we can do to protect our constitutional rights in court…And we are ready to prepare and organize Pride next year,” Miletic said.

Instead of marching, activists briefly stopped traffic on an avenue in central Belgrade by unfurling a pink banner reading “Love, normally” and pouring cans of so-called “rainbow” paint into the street.

No incidents were reported during this brief performance, while police remained on standby.

Amnesty International said Serbian authorities’ decision to ban Pride was a “dark day for human rights”.

“Serbian authorities… have given in to pressure from right-wing groups who have failed to understand and respect the rights to freedom of expression set out in the Serbian constitution and law,” the group said in a statement .

“Instead of rainbow flags in Serbia, it is a dark day for human rights,” the text adds.

Banning the Pride march “violates the Serbian government’s obligations to guarantee freedom of expression and assembly… (It) undermines the right to non-discrimination,” the group said.

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