State must ensure the right to freedom of expression and assembly

Coalition for equality STEP, which gathers eight NGOs from Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro, welcomes the organisation of Pride, which is announced for the 20 October in Podgorica, and calls upon Montenegrin institutions to provide the necessary support in order to make this event safe for all its participants.

Pride represents form of the struggle for the rights of LGBT persons, which are discriminated and marginalized within Montenegrin society due to the high level of homophobia. This is referring to the aspect of improving the status and quality of life of LGBT persons, as well as advancing the rights of all citizens and the overall democratic development of society. Therefore, in the context of the announced Pride, we invite relevant state authorities to devote themselves to full implementation of commitments that Montenegro undertook in the area of prevention of discrimination, which include international contractual obligations and those defined by the Montenegrin legal framework.

Relevant institutions must be consistent with the accenting of rhetorical support and must enable, in full capacity, the maintenance of peaceful Pride, which primarily means ensuring the safety of the organizers and participants of Pride. Having in mind the positive experience regarding the dedication and professional attitude of police in providing safety during Sea Side Pride, held in July this year in Budva, we expect that their actions will be the same in the case of Pride in Podgorica.

Additionally, we invite judicial bodies, primarily the prosecution, to finally begin with fast and efficient processing of cases of violence, hate speech and discrimination toward LGBT persons. This is important due to the number of unprocessed and unresolved cases in this domain in the previous period, which strongly influenced growth of distrust of LGBT persons in the work of institutions, on the one hand, and the encouragement of violence, on the other side.

We consider important the presence of the highest representatives of legislative and executive authorities amongst the Pride participants, because it sends the best message to citizens that their commitment to human rights and respect of the Constitution and the laws is not declarative, but core value which they followed in governing the society.

The organisation of Pride is of crucial importance also for the progress of Montenegro towards the European Union, because Pride defends the right to free and peaceful assembly, as fundamental rights and shows if the Montenegrin society is ready to fully accept the values contained in the founding documents of the EU.

Coalition for equality STEP is composed of: Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUCOM, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, The Network of the Committees for Human Rights CHRIS, Gay Straight Alliance (Serbia); Humanitarian Law Center and Youth Initiative for Human Rights (Kosovo); Centre for Civic Education (CCE) and LGBT Forum Progress (Montenegro).

Petar Djukanovic, Programme Coordinator (CCE)