07:48 | 26th April 2019

News: World

Fri 7 May, 2010
By Sam Bristowe

Respecting fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, is an obligation imposed on member states by their own constitutional order and international obligation

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Lithuania court to rule on gay pride

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A Lithuanian court was due to rule Friday on whether a planned gay pride event will be sanctioned to take place Saturday as the European Commission (EC) expressed concern about civil rights in the EU member state.

The Supreme Administrative Court was due to decide if a ban on the Baltic Pride parade in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius would be upheld.

The Lithuanian Gay League, one of the event organizers filed an appeal after Vilnius Regional Administrative Court responded to advice from the acting prosecutor general and banned the event over fears that participants might be physically attacked.

However, both the police and the mayor of Vilnius had earlier said they were ready to guarantee the safety of attendees at the Baltic Pride event which includes participants from all three Baltic states plus supporters from other countries.

Controversy surrounding the decision attracted strong criticism from Jonathan Faull, director general of the EC's justice, freedom and security department.

In a letter addressed to Lithuania's permanent representative to the EU, Rytis Martinkonis, Faull said: "The commission is concerned about the recent developments."

"Respecting fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, is an obligation imposed on member states by their own constitutional order and international obligations," Faull said.

Police spokesman Kestutis Lancinskas told reporters Friday that the risk level surrounding the event was "high" and that 800 extra police officers would be on duty, checking suspicious people for stones, sticks, flammable liquids and other missiles.

Roads would be blocked and parking restrictions would be in place, he said.

Tensions in staunchly Roman Catholic Lithuania have been steadily rising ahead of the Baltic Pride event, which forms part of a five-day festival and conference on the subject of equal rights for sexual minorities.

A May 6 survey of more than 1,000 Vilnius residents conducted by the RAIT pollster showed that three quarters of them opposed the Baltic Pride parade.

On May 4 human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement calling on Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite to voice support for Baltic Pride and on May 6 a delegation visited her office to present a petition of containing 14,500 signatures in favour of the Baltic Pride event.

Lithuania has recently also come under attack for introducing legislation called the Law on Protection of Minors from the Detrimental Effects of Public Information, which civil rights groups claimed was explicitly anti-gay.

In 2007 an EU-sponsored "tolerance bus" promoting equality for all sexual orientations was refused permission to stop in central Vilnius. In 2009's presidential election campaign, Grybauskaite was forced to deny rumours that she was a lesbian.

The European Union's Institute for Gender Equality is based in Vilnius.

Source: EarthTimes


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