The Verdict Against the Attackers at the Merlinka Queer Festival

Three years after the attack on the Merlinka festival which was held in 2014, an indictment was made against two identified attackers. The court confirmed the indictment on May 12, 2017, and in February 2018, a conviction was issued against one of the attackers by which the attacker is convicted for six months sentence in prison, and the sentence will not be executed if the accused does not commit a new criminal offense within two years work.

To recall, 2013 was marked with the first Sarajevo Queer Festival Merlinka but for the visitors of the festival and the members of the LGBTI community, the most memorable festival was the one in 2014. Unfortunately, the reason why this year will be remembered is neither for the film titles, discussions or good entertainment, but the fact that some citizens of Sarajevo have showed their true faces by showing intolerance to the those who are different from others . Namely, the Sarajevo Open Centre, as the organizer of the festival, reported the attack on the festival to the institutions.

Due to the threats that followed the announcement of the festival, the Sarajevo Open Centre held meetings with representatives of the Police who confirmed the presence of policemen who will ensure order and peace at the event. However, on the first day of the festival, police officers did not appear at the scheduled time, leaving enough time for a group of 14 masked men to enter the Art Cinema Kriterion and physically attack the attendees. During the attack, individuals were being physicaly attacked and the attackers insulted the attendees, warning them not to call the police. The next two days of the festival took place in peace. In 2016, the Sarajevo Open Centre filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court, which resulted in a decision ordering the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Government of the Canton of Sarajevo to make payment of a monetary amount in the name of compensation for non-pecuniary damage due to the established violation of constitutional rights.

In this way, the Constitutional Court found that the competent institutions, by failing to ensure the safety of the participants of the festival, violated the right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI people and the prohibition of being subjected to torture and degrading treatment. However, when it comes to criminal charges filed against the attackers, two attackers were indicted in May 2017. One of the attackers died during the course of the proceedings, while the other attacker changed his testimony during the course of the proceedings from I am not guilty to I am guilty. Despite the testimonies of witnesses who stated that they had sustained physical injuries and had been subjected to an offense based on their sexual orientation, the court found that the injured persons were not aware of the reasons for which the accused attacked them, together with the group of unidentified young men. The Court found no aggravating circumstances on the side of the accused, or did not find that the attack was committed with the aim of intimidating and injuring a group of people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The passing of this verdict certainly constitutes a small victory for the LGBTI community, but at the same time calls into question the work of the court, since it failed to take into account the fact that the commission of this crime was motivated by hatred towards persons of a different sexual orientation or gender identity, which is regulated by the Criminal Law of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although we cannot say that this is a satisfactory judgment, it nevertheless represents a kind of progress and motive for further fight against discrimination and fight against violence against LGBTI people.