The first Sarajevo Queer Festival began on 24 September 2008. It included exhibitions, performances, public discussions and films. However, the attacks at the end of the first day left eight people injured and forced the organizers, a non-governmental organization Udruzenje Q, to close the rest of the festival to the public and eventually cancel the whole event.
In the run-up to the festival, some politicians and certain parts of the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina created an atmosphere of hostility that legitimated attacks against the organizers and participants of the festival. A number of websites have called for the organizers of the festival to be lynched, stoned, doused with petrol or expelled from the country. Appeals have also been made to the public to disrupt the festival. It had been feared that this could incite violence around the event.
In a letter to the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Nikola Špiric sent before the festival began, Amnesty International expressed concerns at the increasing atmosphere of intimidation against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the country and called on him to ensure that their rights are protected.
To date, Amnesty International has not received an answer. The apparent lack of adequate measures by the authorities to guarantee an atmosphere free of intimidation and violence for the festival shows that the organization’s recommendations have not been heeded.
Amnesty International is concerned at the death threats that have been continually issued on the Internet against individual gay rights activists, including a YouTube film showing digitally manipulated images of one of the organizers to make them look as if they were beheaded. The safety of the participants has been put in danger by the local media, including Dnevni Avaz, Nezavisne Novine and Oslobodjenje, after they published the names of all individuals who were injured during the attacks.
Amnesty International calls on the authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate the attacks and bring those responsible to justice. The organization also calls on the authorities to provide adequate security for the organizers and participants of the festival even after the festival has finished.