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Sarajevo: Attack on “Merlinka” Festival Condemned

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Two persons were injured in the attack on the participants in the debate "Trans-sexuality in Transition" on Saturday, February 1, 2014, at the Art Cinema “Kriterion” in Sarajevo. About a dozen masked assailants attacked the participants of the debate, organized under the auspices of the “Merlinka” International Festival of Queer Film.

The Police of the Canton of Sarajevo arrived at the scene after the attack to investigate. Medical assistance was provided to the injured. The organizers, the Sarajevo Open Centre cancelled the film screenings on Saturday's programme.

The Initiative for Monitoring of European Integrations in BiH noted, in the condemnation of the attack, that BiH is obligated to fully respect the human rights of LGBT persons, including the right for public expression of alternative sexual orientation and gender identity, free of discrimination, while enjoying full protection by the state.

“Naša stranka” (“Our Party”) political party strongly condemned the attack on the "Merlinka" Queer Film Festival.

"This is just the latest brutal attack on BiH citizens because of their sexual orientation, motivated by the hatred promoted daily by political figures, representatives of religious authorities and the media. The attack on the participants of "Merlinka" Festival is another proof that all levels of  government, through their disregard for the hate-speech in the public space and lenient sanctioning policies towards perpetrators of similar indicents in the past, actually encourage the violence against those who are different by extremist groups", comments "Naša stranka".

“Naša stranka” comments also that the Ministry of the Interior of the Canton of Sarajevo, based on past experiences, should have provided greater security for the event and should take full responsibility for that omission.

The Association of Film-makers of Bosnia and Herzegovina says that it was clearly an attack against human rights and notes the high levels of discrimination in BiH society. The Association offered its full support to Sarajevo Open Centre and its mission to ensure full respect for human rights and reduced discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The U.S. Embassy also condemned the attack on the LGBT community.

"We call on the competent authorities to act quickly and efficiently to sanction the persons responsible for the attack. There is no place for hatred and intolerance in modern society. LGBT rights are human rights", says the U.S. Embassy to BiH.

Yesterday, February 2, 2014, the programme of the “Merlinka” Festival continued as planned, with increased security measures.

“We expect to see our friends and supporters at the Art Cinema “Kriterion”. It is important that we stand together to demonstrate that violence will not prevent our struggle for a better society and human rights for all! Thank you for your past support”, the Sarajevo Open Centre says on its website.

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