Contrary to earlier reports that Pride in Belgrade looked likely to go ahead, the government in Serbia has decided instead to ban it, citing the threat of violence.

The event has been banned by the government for the past two years because of violence from right wing extremists in 2010. But it was thought that they would allow it to go ahead this year, following pressure from the West. The country is expected to begin accession talks to join the European Union soon, and human rights would form part of the decision-making process.

One cabinet minister even said he will join the March, suggesting it would go ahead. And human rights campaigner and Pride organiser Goran Miletíc told a press conference: ‘As far as we’re concerned, it is certain [to go ahead].’

The Serbian Orthodox Church has, of course, heavily criticised the March, with the head of the church telling Belgrade magazine Nedeljnik: ‘In our tragic times, nothing is more jeopardised than marriage and family. Both are being systematically destroyed, especially by gay pride.’

Brian Sheehan, member of the Executive Board of LGBTI lobbying group ILGA-Europe and in Belgrade for the Pride, condemned the ban, saying: ‘This is a completely unacceptable move by the Serbian authorities. The Serbian police force made it clear they are fully capable of providing adequate protection for the Pride March participants. As in previous years, threats by counter protesters have been used by the Serbian authorities to ban the peaceful Pride March. Such blatant manipulation is no longer acceptable; it is a state duty to provide protection to everyone who wants to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful demonstration.

‘If Serbian authorities are serious about EU integration, they have to stop giving into threats by hooligans and show in practice that they are committed to ensuring fundamental democratic freedoms.’