Upon successful completion of the fifth International queer film festival „Merlinka“ that went by peacefully, with dignity and no incidents, with high number of police officers and security, we want to remind the public of the devastating fact – the lack of prosecution of the attack perpetrators during the Festival Merlinka, on 1 February 2014.
Along with the police investigation, Sarajevo Open Centre, shortly after the attack, filed two criminal complaints directly to the Canton Sarajevo Prosecutor’s Office: one for endangering the security of the guests, causing bodily harm, preventing public gathering and agreement to commit a criminal offense, and another for violation of equality of citizens.
We want to remind the public that until today, three years after the attack, there has been no indictment against those responsible yet, the police investigation is focused on one suspect out of 14 persons that entered Art cinema Kriterion, while the offense was characterized only as violent behaviour, that, according to criminal law of Federation BiH, is considered to be a violation. The homophobic motive of the attack and the fact that the criminal offense was previously agreed were completely neglected.
We note that in November 2016 Sarajevo Open Centre filed an appeal to the BiH Constitutional Court, with the legal assistance of lawyer Adrijana Hanušić, for the omissions of public authorities to take the necessary, reasonable and adequate legal and practical measures in order to protect and preserve the rights guaranteed by the BiH Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
In the appeal we highlighted the request to identify the fact that by the lack of the Merlinka attack prosecution in 2014, there has been a violation of the right to free public gathering of the LGBTI community members, and that the violation was done by the state institutions. We also requested the determination of responsibility of the Canton Sarajevo and Federation BiH Governments for these omissions, and with the aim to draw attention to the security situation for LGBTI persons, lack of effective word by the institutions, and to initiate a more adequate work of the institutions.
In the appeal we emphasize that the rights of the organisation and the guests of the Festival were violated, due to the failure of the authorities to take the mentioned measures, in order to prevent the violence towards the members and supporters of SOC, so to conduct an effective investigation, detection and sanctioning of those who, by hate speech and physical violence, attacked the appellants and other SOC supporters.
The details of the Merlinka case show that, besides the efficient sanctioning of hate crimes, the relevant bodies: legislative, police and prosecutors, should adopt the adequate legal framework to regulate incitement to hatred, especially on the Internet, and should implement it in order to prevent violence against the groups under significant risk to be victims of hate crimes: Roma, refugees and LGBTI persons.