Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, A/HRC/10/12/Add.1, 4 March 2009: Bosnia and Herzegovina
275. On 27 November 2008, the Special Rapporteur, together with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression sent a letter of allegations concerning participants of the “Sarajevo Queer Festival”, a festival of art and culture, organized to promote awareness of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. According to the information received, permission for the first “Sarajevo Queer Festival” was granted to the organizing NGO called ‘Udruzenje Q’ for 24-28 September 2008 in Sarajevo. This festival of art and culture included a series if exhibitions, performances, film showings and public discussions to promote the universality of human rights and an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In the month preceding the festival, several newspapers, including ‘SAFF’ and ‘Dnevni Avaz’ used derogatory language in reaction to gay and lesbian people and called for the participants of the festival to be lynched, stoned, doused with petrol or expelled from the country.
276. Death threats were issued on the internet against several individual gay rights activists, including members of the NGO ‘Udruzenje Q’; media, venues and organizers received threats on a daily basis, and appeals were made to the public to disrupt the festival. Organization Q’s forum at queer.ba website was hacked into twice. Tram stops in Sarajevo were covered with posters quoting the Qur’an and inciting hatred against homosexuals. Participants of the opening ceremony were physically attacked at the end of the first day of the festival. Eight persons were injured, including QSF international quests, several journalists and at least one policeman, when dozens of young people described as ‘Wahhabis’, ‘football fans’ and ‘skinheads’ attacked participants of the festival. Six persons sought medical assistance, but media and eyewitness claim many more attacks went unreported.
277. Although the festival was granted permission to be held until 28 September 2008, as the security situation deteriorated, the organizers decided to close the event to the public. When the death threats continued, they decided to terminate the festival. The decision was based on their assessment of the situation due to the lack of protection by the police. Death threats against the organizers continue.
278. Grave concern was expressed that the hate campaigns in the lead up to the event directly contributed to the climate of fear, hatred and intolerance which culminated in physical attacks and the harassment of the participants. It was recommended that the use of homophobic language by the media must be strongly condemned. Concern was expressed that these activities appeared to constitute a deliberate attempt to prevent participants and defenders 279. from carrying out their peaceful activities in raising awareness of the universality of human rights. Further concerns were expressed by the absence of appropriate policing which contributed to the disruption of the event and failure to provide adequate protection to participants of the festival.
279. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the substantive response provided to the urgent appeal of 30 July 2008. The Special Rapporteur appreciates that the events are investigated by the Public Security Center in Bijeljina under supervision of the District Prosecutor’s Office, and would welcome further details about the outcome of those investigations. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the decision of the Government also to provide increased security measures around the home of Mr Branko Todorovic and the premises of the Helsinki Committee in Bijeljina.
280. At the same time, the Special Rapporteur regrets that no response had been transmitted yet to the communication of 27 November 2008, regarding participants of the Sarajevo Queer Festival. In this connection, the Special Rapporteur wishes to remind the Government of the provisions of the Declaration on human rights defenders, in particular article 7 which states that “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocates their acceptance”, as well as article 12 paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Declaration which provide that the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, (…) against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration”.
Link to full text of the report: Summary of cases-SR Human Rights Defenders-2009-eng