Joint press release: Baltic Pride appeals temporary permit suspension

Joint press release by ILGA-Europe, the Intergroup on LGBT Rights and Amnesty International

Baltic Pride, the 8th May pride event organised by the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community and supported by international actors, saw its permit temporarily suspended yesterday following complaints to the Public Prosecutor’s office.

Baltic Pride logoThe Vilnius Region Administrative Court used special measures to ‘freeze’ the permit previously issued by the Vilnius Mayor. The court believes the public and marchers’ security cannot be assured in the face of planned violent counter-protests, although police forces previously stated they were confident security could be assured.

The organisers immediately appealed the decision in front of the Highest Administrative Court, which could overrule the suspension ordered by the regional court. Baltic Pride organisers have compiled an extensive appeal, and declared that the Highest Administrative Court now had all the necessary elements to make a final ruling.

Lithuanian MP Rokas Žilinskas said the ban was “a terrible shame”. Lithuanian MEP Leonidas Donskis affirmed Lithuania was becoming “similar to Russia” in its disrespect of minority rights and the rule of law.

Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said: “ILGA-Europe is extremely disappointed that the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court upheld the complaint by Lithuania’s Interim Attorney General and in effect, agreed to ban the Baltic Pride March for Equality. This is a serious blow to democracy and a temporary victory for prejudice and fear in Lithuania. We fully support the appeal by the organisers of the Baltic Pride to challenge yesterday’s Court decision and are hoping that justice will prevail and the March for Equality will go on as planned.”

Members of the European Parliament Ulrike Lunacek, Michael Cashman and Sophie in’t Veld continued: “As we travel to Vilnius to support the national LGBT community, all eyes are turned towards the Highest Administrative Court and we strongly support the organisers’ appeal. The judiciary must uphold the right of minorities to assemble safely, in line with Lithuania’s constitutional, European and international obligations. We will not rest as long as authorities fail to safeguard LGBT people’s freedom of assembly.”

Nicolas Beger, Director of the Amnesty International European Union Office, concluded: “The decision to suspend the permit is a triumph for prejudice and a defeat for human rights and the rule of law. The Court decided to restrict freedom of expression and assembly of the LGBT community on the ground of “security threats”, which according to the police itself do not exist. If the Court’s decision will not be overturned, are we facing  a European Union of “Equality for all” in which a Member State can select which human rights to uphold?”

The 8th May Baltic Pride, led by Lithuanian activists, will be supported by at least four Members of the European Parliament; representatives of the European Commission; high-level politicians from a number of European countries; and representatives of ILGA-Europe and Amnesty International.