23 September 2008
Violence surrounds Sarajevo Queer festival
(Updated 30/09/2008)

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.

Take ActionAmnesty 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.

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Protect Sarajevo's LGBT community

Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the recent physical attacks against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Bosnia and Herzegovina that took place on 24 September 2008, as well as an on-going intimidation of the LGBT community. These include death threats made to several individuals and organizations.
As you are aware, the first Sarajevo Queer Festival was canceled after eight people, policemen included, were reported to have been subjected to violence and harassment by dozens of young men.
In the run-up to the festival, some politicians and the media used derogatory language in relation to the LGBT community and misrepresenting their identity.
Appeals have been made to the public to disrupt the festival, which led to violent attacks at the end of the first day. Death threats have been continually issued on the Internet against individual LGBT rights activists whose names were made public. The names of the eight injured individuals were published by the local media putting them at risk of further attacks.
Therefore, I urge you to:

Make sure that all cases of physical attacks and direct threats to the members of the LGBT community, including those ones made through the Internet, are promptly investigated, and that the perpetrators are brought to justice;
Publicly condemn attacks, death threats, threats of attacks and other harassment of the LGBT rights activists, making clear that such violence is a criminal offence and will be prosecuted as such
Ensure that law enforcement officials act with due diligence to provide effective protection to LGBT rights activists who receive death threats to their lives and safety
Ensure the right of everyone to effectively exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly without discrimination;
Ensure that police officers are provided with specific directives and training on their duty to protect the human rights of all individuals without discrimination. 

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