BiH Ombudsman Institution confirmed – the right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI persons violated

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Ombudsman for Human Rights Institution, after consideration of Sarajevo Open Centre’s appeal, issued the recommendation by which it stated that the Canton Sarajevo Ministry of Transport (MoT) violated the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and by its passivity and silence of the administration it disabled the holding of the protest march against violence over LGBTI persons that was planned for 13 May 2017.

Namely, Sarajevo Open Centre filed a request to the Canton Sarajevo Ministry of Transport for approval of the restriction or prohibition of traffic through the route where it planned the hold the protest march against violence over LGBTI persons (on 13 May at 12 P.M.), on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

After further requests in which we urged the decision on our primary request, in order for the scheduled march to be organised and held in accordance with the Law on Public Assembly of Canton Sarajevo, and after reminding the Ministry that the Law on the Basis of Road Traffic Safety in BiH prescribes that the issuing of the approval that we requested should happen at the latest 15 days before the event takes place, the Ministry issued its decision on 11 May 2017 by which it allowed SOC the occasional modification of the traffic regime for 13 May 2017, from 12 to 1 P.M, for the Protest March.

The decision came too late and the Ministry, by slow and inadequate reaction, had put SOC as organisers in the position to cancel the gathering, in order not to breach the provisions of the BiH, entities and cantonal laws. So, in the answer to the Ministry we stated that, by the silence of administration and inadequate approach, the right to freedom of assembly was limited and violated, and organiser (SOC) wouldn’t be able to comply with deadlines and security measures stated in the MoT’s decision, because it was delivered less than two days before the scheduled gathering, so we wouldn’t be able to inform the public on the measures of restriction or prohibition of transport, which was our duty – to do it at the latest 48 hours before the gathering that was planned for 13 May 2017.

We are glad that the Ombudsman Institution recognized this (lack of) action – neglect, disrespect of deadlines and regulations, as a violation of the right to freedom of assembly, in the light of the relevant domestic legislation and international standards for the protection of human rights and basic freedoms.

In the Ombudsman’s argumentation, among others, it is emphasised that public gatherings demand finding many practical solutions, which is why, at least, minimum of the representatives of organisers and governments’ agreements are needed, related to time, location, traffic regime and other factors. These issues have to cover the safety of the participants, as well as all the possible inconveniences during the assembly.

The Ombudsman Institution stated in its recommendation the specific further steps that should be taken by the Federation BiH Parliament, Canton Sarajevo Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Interior:

  1. To the Federation BiH Parliament it sent the initiative to start amending its Law on Roads, in the way to prescribe a specific deadline for the Ministry of Transport to issue approvals for holding “sports and other manifestations on public roads”.
  2. To the Canton Sarajevo Ministry of Transport it sent the recommendation to, in all the future cases of requesting the approval to hold such manifestations, especially when the applicants are LGBTI persons and their associations, act with the due attention and right after receiving the request, and not by “silence of administration” to disable the applicants in exercising right to free assembly.
  3. To the Canton Sarajevo Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Interior it sent the recommendation to do preventive action in the context of protection of the human rights of LGBTI population; to react timely in the case of violation of any protected right of LGBTI persons; to continue taking measures directed towards strengthening sensibility in the work with LGBTI population; to take measures in their scope of jurisdiction to guarantee each person their personal safety while exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, guaranteed by the constitutions in BiH.

We hope that the institutions to which the recommendations were sent would take the necessary measures to enable that in the future there’d be no cases like or similar to this one – violation of the right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI citizens of BiH.