Three Years After the Attack on Melinka Festival 2014, no one has been Prosecuted

Three years ago, on Saturday, 1st February 2014, at 3:15 in the afternoon, at the beginning of a discussion on the topic “Transsexuality in Transition” a group of 14 masked men forced their way into the Art Kriterion Cinema in Sarajevo, with the aim of attacking those present. Most of the visitors managed to hide in the emergency exit passage, where they remained for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, the organizer of the festival from Belgrade, the moderator of the discussion and another person were attacked. The attack lasted for less than a minute, resulting in minor physical injuries, but it left significant psychological consequences. The attackers escaped without a scratch.

Sarajevo Open Centre had announced the event to the police 20 days prior, emphasizing the need for protection, and the police were informed of dates and times for each Festival event. The police were present on Friday evening, during the opening of the Festival. However, on Saturday, the police were not present at the agreed time and for that reason they failed to prevent and stop the attack. The police arrived only after the fact and after the perpetrators had escaped.

While the police investigation was ongoing Sarajevo Open Centre submitted two reports to the Prosecutor of Canton Sarajevo: one for compromising the safety of all present, causing bodily harm, preventing public gatherings and conspiracy to commit a criminal offense, and a second report for violating the principle of equality of men and citizens. The police failure to come at the agreed time has also been reported to the Internal Control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Canton Sarajevo and as a consequence of the investigation two police officers had been reprimanded, although their responsibility for the breach was overturned after they lodged an appeal.

Three years after the attack, no one has been indicted and the Police investigation had focused only on one suspect out of the 14 people who came into the Art Kriterion Cinema. The crime itself has been characterized as violent behavior, which is only a misdemeanor, according to the Criminal Code of the Federation of BiH. The homophobic intent behind the attack and the fact that the crime was pre-determined have been ignored. Despite these facts Sarajevo Open centre will continue its work on resolving this issue. At the end of the last year Sarajevo Open Centre has filed the appellation to the Constitutional Court of BiH because the state has failed to ensure the right on the free gathering of LGBTI people.

It is clear that the pattern of inadequate and reckless investigation and processing of the attacks on the Sarajevo Queer Festival in 2008 and the Merlinka Festival in 2014, as well as a number of attacks inciting violence and hate against LGBTI individuals have created an atmosphere in which homophobic and transphobic attacks in BiH are being tolerated. This culminated in another homophobic attack on the staff and guests of the Art Kriterion Cinema, on March 4th 2016.