Tag Archives: amnesty international

Serbian police ban LGBT Pride parade

Serbia’s police have banned an LGBT Pride march in Belgrade, citing security concerns but also complying with a request from Serbia’s Christian Orthodox church.

Police said they were banning the march planned for Oct. 6 because they feared a repeat of the violence in 2010, when right-wing groups attacked a gay Pride event in Belgrade. That triggered day-long clashes with the police which left more than 100 people injured.

Last year’s gay Pride march also was banned by authorities.

The current ban was announced after Patriarch Irinej, the head of Serbia’s Christian Orthodox church, urged the government to prevent Saturday’s march. In a statement, he said such a “parade of shame” would cast a “moral shadow” on Serbia — a conservative Balkan country whose gay population has faced threats and harassment.

Allowing a gay Pride march this year had been regarded by some as a test of Serbia’s pledge to respect human rights as it seeks EU membership. That was clear in the reaction of European Parliament official Jelko Kacin, who called the ban a “political decision that questions the rule of law in Serbia.”

Secretary-General Thorbjoern Jagland of the Council of Europe, the continent’s main human rights body, said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Pride event has been banned again.

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

Amnesty International said the ban puts Serbia in breach of its own laws.

“Serbia’s government is effectively going against its own legal and constitutional protections for basic rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Serbia,” said John Dalhuisen, the group’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said in addition to banning the Gay Pride march, the government was barring a gathering of right-wing groups that planned to attack the event. It also canceled several national league soccer matches in Belgrade on Saturday because they often are attended by hooligans aligned with the extremists.

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

Opposition politicians said the ban showed that authorities are unable to protect freedom and human rights in Serbia.

“No democratic society has the right to retreat from the threats of violence against basic rights,” said Liberal Party leader Cedomir Jovanovic.

Authorities urged to allow Russian gay Pride march

Amnesty International is urging authorities in St. Petersburg, Russia, to allow a gay Pride march to take place July 7.

The event had been authorized, but then authorities rescinded their agreement, according to a report from Amnesty International.

The agreement had been for Pride to take place at Poliustrov Park on the city’s outskirts, but on July 5 authorities backtracked. They said there were numerous complaints against the plan.

“It is time for St. Petersburg to portray itself as a global city where tolerance and respect for human rights are held high and where there is no place for discrimination,” said Sergei Nikitin, the director of the Moscow office of Amnesty International.

Over the last two years, a local LGBT group called NGO Ravnopravie (equality) has submitted repeated applications for Pride in St. Petersburg. And different courts in St. Petersburg have ruled against the authorities’ repeated refusal to let Pride proceed.

Nikitin said the situation “paints the St. Petersburg authorities in a very negative light, as they are flouting their international obligations to protect the basic human rights of all city residents.”

He pointed to passage this spring of a law banning “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderness among minors” in the city and the recent arrest of LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev for holding aloft a banner that read, “Homosexuality is not a perversity, perverse is hockey on grass and ballet on ice.”

Amnesty said since the adoption of the law, thousands of people all around the world, including some 30,000 Amnesty International activists, have written to St. Petersburg authorities.

Also, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has called on Russia to explain how the government can uphold its obligations under human rights law with the St. Petersburg law being enforced.

“This is a moment of truth for St. Petersburg city authorities – by allowing this weekend’s Pride to go ahead peacefully, they have a chance to show that they do respect human rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, and that they do not discriminate against any members of society,” Nikitin said.

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Groups challenge secret drafting of Southeast Asia human rights declaration

Southeast Asian nations have agreed to adopt this year a human rights declaration to strengthen protection in a region notorious for violations, but international human rights groups are challenging the process.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have said they intend to adopt the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, which is being drafted, when they meet in a summit in Cambodia in November.

Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo says the declaration will be patterned after the 1948 U.N. declaration. Although non-binding, the 10-nation ASEAN’s declaration is the latest effort by the bloc to promote human rights in a region with a long history of violations.

ASEAN includes Myanmar, which has been condemned for its dismal rights record but has embarked on democratic reforms in recent months.

In a joint statement, more than 130 human rights groups are challenging the “secret” process of drafting the declaration.

“We, the undersigned international human rights organizations, are concerned that the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights has yet to take the necessary steps to ensure that the process of drafting the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration is transparent and fully consultative with civil society organizations in the ASEAN region.”

On April 12, the intergovernmental commission announced that it would finalize the draft of the declaration by July after one consultation with organizations in late June.

The groups say that’s not enough and called on the commission:

• To immediately publicize the draft declaration so that the public can meaningfully participate in the drafting process.

• To translate the draft AHRD into national languages and other local languages of the ASEAN countries in order to encourage broader public participation in the region.

• To ensure that consultation meetings will be inclusive of all stakeholders, especially civil society organizations and national human rights institutions.

The groups involved in the joint statement include Amnesty International, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Association for the Prevention of Torture, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Civil Rights Defenders, Freedom House, Human Rights Now, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Protection International, Reporters Without Borders, World Organization Against Torture.

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Amnesty to Cameroon: Release gay prisoners of conscience

The Cameroonian government must repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships, Amnesty International said as it called for the release of those currently in prison for homosexuality.

“It is time to end the arrest, detention, prosecution and other forms of persecution and discrimination against people perceived or known to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s director for Africa.

Since March 2011, 13 people in Cameroon have been arrested on the suspicion that they are gay and have engaged in same-sex sexual activity.

Most have been targeted on the grounds of their perceived sexual orientation, rather than on any alleged participation in prohibited consensual acts. In no cases have the police or other eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the alleged same-sex sex acts.

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to three years in prison for homosexuality in April 2011. The hearing of his appeal was due to take place last wee but was delayed until March 19. Two other men, were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in July 2011.

“Jean-Claude Mbede is a prisoner of conscience held solely because of his perceived sexual orientation. All charges against him should be dropped and he should be released immediately,” said van der Borght. “Others who are being held because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity must also be freed unconditionally.”

Mbede was arrested on March 2, 2011 by members of the Secretary of State for Defense security service while meeting a male acquaintance.

On April 28, 2011, a court in the capital Yaoundé found him guilty of homosexuality and attempted homosexuality, sentencing him to three years’ imprisonment.

He has appealed the verdict on the grounds that the law requires that the defendants be caught in the act, which he was not. He is currently held at Yaoundé’s Kondengui central prison.

More recently, in February, three women were arrested in Ambam in southwestern Cameroon on suspicion of engaging in same-sex conduct.

Two of the women who reportedly did not deny having same-sex relations were charged with practicing homosexuality.

They were also charged with defaming a third woman whose husband reported their relations to the authorities. They have been granted provisional release and the court in Ambam has set the hearing of their case for March 15.

The arrests occurred under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code, which states, “Whoever has sexual relations with a person of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to five years and with a fine ranging from 20,000 Francs CFA to 200,000 Francs CFA” (about 35 to 350 U.S. dollars).

“Laws criminalizing same-sex sexual conduct violate a raft of regional and international human rights laws,” van der Borght said. “This law has created a climate of fear and allows police to arbitrarily detain and imprison suspected lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals where they are at times subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment with impunity.”

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