On March 18th, LGBTIQ+ activists were violently attacked by a group of hooligans in Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The attack happened after local police banned the film screening and a panel discussion about the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people, citing security concerns. Following the ban, activists held a closed meeting at the local offices of Transparency International in Banja Luka. After being told by the police that they should leave the city as they could not guarantee their safety, activists left the venue and, while on the streets, were violently attacked by groups of hooligans in what appeared to be a horrifying man-hunt. Several activists were physically injured, and many others were traumatized.
In a press conference today in Sarajevo, activists called the attack a hate crime based on SOGIESC identity. They called out on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Banja Luka’s Mayor Draško Stanivuković inflammatory language ahead of the Saturday events. This was further shown in a recent tweet by Banja Luka’s Mayor’, who offered very little consolation to the victims of the attacks or the citizens of Banja Luka, boasting about his “patriarchal values” instead. President Milorad Dodik of Republika Srpska also showed no remorse about the incident saying that “people were told not to gather.”
ERA condemns in the strongest terms this attack which was fueled by local authorities and allowed by them to escalate to such a degree. We call on the authorities to identify and prosecute the perpetrators and, equally importantly, to guarantee to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina their constitutional freedoms and rights, including freedom of speech and assembly.