The Great Victory of Activism and the Future of Freedom of Assembly in BiH

The decision of the institutions of the Sarajevo Canton, Municipality of Centar, and the City of Sarajevo to cover the costs of additional security measures, which were ordered by the Ministry of the Interior of Sarajevo Canton to the Organizing Committee of BH Pride Parade is a remarkable victory when it comes to the right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI people. We are happy that another progress has been made when it comes to the position of LGBTI people in BiH and we congratulate the effort and work that has been done in the past by the Organizing Committee of the BH pride parade. We also welcome the mentioned institutions of the Sarajevo Canton, the Municipality of Centar, and the City of Sarajevo, led by Edin Forto, Srđan Mandić, and Benjamina Karić, who have sent a message that they are sensitive to the problems of their LGBTI citizens.

We believe that the Pride Parade shows very well the importance of the right to free and peaceful assembly of LGBTI people, but that it is also a good indicator of all the challenges related to the inadequate legal framework and practices of institutions. Imposing an obligation on the organizers to cover the costs of ensuring a peaceful gathering and conditioning them with the big financial resources that such measures require was one of the biggest challenges of the Pride Parade itself.

What makes us happy is that we see the progress made as to the culmination of a long process in which the Sarajevo Open Center has participated in a focused manner since 2017, that is, since the first protest march of LGBTI people, which was obstructed by the competent authorities of Sarajevo Canton. Later and through continuous efforts on advocacy, cooperation, and education of competent institutions, preparation of the terrain for the First BiH Pride Parade, and direct support in its organization.

Also, sustainable changes that will not be up to the will of the people at the head of the institutions require changes in the legislative framework that will prevent the current negative practices towards the organizers of the gathering. Amendments to the Law on Public Assembly of Sarajevo Canton, which is in the process, is a field to which we pay special attention.

In the coming period, we will be dedicated to the unification of laws and institutional practices in other cantons and the Republika Srpska. Also, we are aware of, although a great victory has been achieved, it remains within the borders of the Sarajevo Canton. We have in mind that the freedom of assembly is regulated at the canton level and the entity when it comes to the RS. Many negative practices throughout BiH, starting with space constraints for holding gatherings in certain areas (for example Banja Luka and Mostar), inadequately regulated appeals procedure in case of a ban on gatherings, placing too much obligation on organizers when it comes to gathering security, excessive use force by the police and through other issues.

In the end, we believe and hope that the competent institutions will do everything to make this Pride Parade safe for all participants, as well as the first one that was held in 2019. We invite the LGBTI community as well as all those who support our work to follow the Pride Parade communication channels for all information and details related to the event itself.