"The violence unleashed against LGBTI people, human rights defenders and journalists in Banja Luka last Saturday is a worrying and dangerous development and violation of the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. The authorities must condemn and investigate the incident, and prosecute those responsible," said today Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
A film screening event organised by LGBTI groups had been planned for Saturday 17 March in the city. Shortly before the event, the police issued a ban due to increasing threats from violent groups.
“The threat of violence against participants to the event is not a sufficient reason to ban assemblies. On the contrary, it engages the authorities’ positive obligation to ensure that participants can hold their event and exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression without fear of violence or reprisals, whether from state or non-state actors.”
Council of Europe member states have an obligation to implement human rights without discrimination. All citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have the same human rights and must be able to exercise them equally. This means that LGBTI people, like everyone else, must be able to assemble peacefully, free from violence and hate speech.
Allegations that the police failed to intervene when participants were threatened and attacked by violent groups must be effectively investigated. If the allegations are confirmed, the authorities must hold those responsible to account. They should also issue clear instructions to the police to ensure effective protection of LGBTI and other events in the future.
“Those who oppose LGBTI rights fail to honour their commitment to human rights in general. Their actions run counter our common European values of dignity, inclusion, equality, and respect for the rule of law. It is vital that the authorities take decisive action to condemn hate speech and intolerance, and to make clear that LGBTI people are an integral part of society and that their human rights must be upheld”.
I stand in solidarity with the LGBTI community in Bosnia and Herzegovina and with Vanja Stokić and all other journalists and activists fighting for their rights. I will continue to closely follow the developments.