UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday urged Serbia [press release] to protect universal freedoms and allow a banned pride parade for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The pride parade, which was scheduled to be held this Saturday in Belgrade, was canceled [Reuters report] by the Serbian Ministry of Interior [official website] for security reasons. A similar cancellation occurred last year after the Belgrade parade of 2010 [ABC News report] amounted to violent attacks, vandalism, and wounded police officers and civilians. Pillay, however, parried the security argument by reasoning that banning peaceful assembly altogether further violates human rights. "States should confront prejudice, not submit to it," said the High Commissioner, who relied on the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly to make her case to the Serbian government. Pillay also acknowledged Serbia's progress in the protection of human rights since 2008, and deemed the Belgrade parade another opportunity for the country to reaffirm its commitment to human rights. Outside of the parade, Serbia has on previous occasions celebrated gay rights [press release], most notably on International Gay Pride Day.
Serbia is one of several countries allegedly restraining freedom of expression in light of a restrictive approach to gay pride parades. In August a city court in Moscow refused to overturn [JURIST report] the municipal government's ban on gay pride marches for the next century. Specifically, the court affirmed the Moscow municipal government ruling that any public gatherings classified as gay pride marches are prohibited from March 2012 until May 2112. In June Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent a letter [JURIST report] to Bulgarian Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva urging her to denounce calls to violence by anti-gay groups in anticipation of a gay pride parade in Sofia, Bulgaria, on June 30. In May 2010 a court in Lithuania ruled [JURIST report] that the nation's first gay pride parade could proceed as scheduled, overturning a lower court's decision to ban it.