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This weekend's staging a gay pride march will be a major test for Serbia's democracy after extremists forced the cancellation of last year's event, international human rights organisations said Thursday.
Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Amnesty International urged the Serbian government to ensure the security and rights of the gay population for the Sunday gathering and thereafter.
"The maturity of Serbian democracy will be among other things judged by the degree to which the principles of nondiscrimination, equal status and treatment by the law are enjoyed by all," said OSCE representative Daiana Serafina Falloni.
"We hope that the pride will be a turning point for the government to really start working to provide equal rights" for Serbia's gay and lesbian population, added Sabine Zwiers from Amnesty International.
"This obligation is not ending with the protection of the pride (march), it's only the beginning," she added.
Right-wing extremists have threatened violence against gay activists. They argue the march is contrary to the values of predominantly conservative Serbia.
Extremists broke up Serbia's first gay pride march in 2001, beating up participants, while organizers cancelled last year's event after police said they could not provide security.
Police have promised to protect this year's gathering in central Belgrade. Serbia's Human Rights minister Svetozar Ciplic attended a news conference Thursday ahead of the event and promised to appear at the march.
"I believe Sunday will be one of those days that will be written down in Serbia's modern history," he said.
Organisers said that the gathering will be "a political protest urging an end to violence against minority groups in Serbia."
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