Bosnia: Human rights activists attacked following ban on LGBT event

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Human rights activists in the Serbian part of Bosnia were attacked on Saturday night, hours after police banned an LGBT event planned for the weekend, citing security concerns.

The attack took place as the activists were leaving a meeting at the offices of the Bosnian branch of the global anti-corruption group Transparency International in Banja Luka. The meeting was organized after the event they had hoped to hold in the northwestern town on Sunday to promote LGBT rights was banned by local police.

Activists said a few dozen men chased them through the streets, hurling insults and punches at them. Before the police arrived on the scene, several activists were injured, including one who required medical treatment.

Banja Luka police said law enforcement officers escorted the activists to the police station to take their statements and were still looking for the perpetrators.

The canceled LGBT event, organized and supported by several rights groups across Bosnia, was to include a film screening followed by a panel discussion. His announcement sparked a strong homophobic backlash last week, including from Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik, who said LGBT people were “stalkers” and that he hoped “official bodies would stop them from gather both indoors and outdoors”. ”

Banja Luka Mayor Drasko Stanivukovic also denounced the event saying the LGBT community should be confined to Bosnia’s multi-ethnic capital, Sarajevo, because Bosnian Serbs cherish “patriarchal and traditional families and are clear about our faith and our identity.

Bosnia remains very conservative and torn by divisions stemming from a 1992-1995 ethnic war involving Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Homophobia remains deeply rooted despite some progress over the years in reducing discrimination.

Since 2019, an annual Pride Parade has been held regularly in Sarajevo without noticeable disturbances, but with a heavy presence of law enforcement.

The violence in Banja Luka has drawn condemnation from officials of the European Union, several Western embassies and international organizations.

“Words have consequences,” tweeted the EU mission in Bosnia, adding that regular verbal attacks by Bosnian Serb politicians against civil society activists and journalists create “a climate conducive to physical attacks.”

British Ambassador to Bosnia Julian Reilly confirmed in a tweet that “the shocking attack on civic activists…showed the real impact of hate speech”.

The US Embassy in Sarajevo tweeted that Bosnian Serb authorities “must identify and prosecute those who committed this heinous act”.


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