(London) – The Albanian government should publicly reprimand Deputy Defense Minister Ekrem Spahiu for homophobic remarks and endorsing violence against people participating in a Gay Pride parade, Human Rights Watch said today. Asked what he thinks of plans to hold a Gay Pride parade in the capital, Tirana, Spahiu said the participants should be beaten.
“I am shocked that a high ranking government official is calling for violence against peaceful LGBT demonstrators,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Government officials should be supporting plans to hold a Gay Pride parade, not making threats against the participants.”
On March 22, 2012, Spahiu told the Albanian newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare in response to a question about plans of the Albanian LGBT community to hold a Gay Pride parade on May 17, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia:
“What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick. If you don’t understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick.”
Albania’s Ombudsman, Igli Totzani, swiftly condemned Spahiu’s homophobic remarks, saying they contradicted “the spirit of tolerance, coexistence and diversity as the traditional values ofAlbanian society.” In addition, he said, such statements “incite violence and hatred, constituting also a criminal act.”
The Albanian government has recently taken positive steps to promote tolerance and eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Two years ago the government implemented a broad anti-discrimination bill, including a provision to protect LGBT people. On March 31, 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted recommendations concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. The Albanian foreign affairs minister agreed to the recommendations, which are directed to governments of the council’s 47 member states.
Articles 6 and 7 in the Appendix to the Recommendations CM/Rec (2010/5) under “Hate Speech” read:
6. Member states should take appropriate measures to combat all forms of expression, including in the media and on the Internet, which may be reasonably understood as likely to produce the effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Such “hate speech” should be prohibited and publicly disavowed whenever it occurs. All measures should respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression in accordance with Article 10 of the Convention and the case law of the Court.
7. Member states should raise awareness among public authorities and public institutions at all levels of their responsibility to refrain from statements, in particular to the media, which may reasonably understood as legitimizing such hatred or discrimination.
In keeping with those recommendations, the government should take prompt and effective action to disavow Spahiu’s comments and reprimand him, Human Rights Watch said.
“Albania’s government ministers should be upholding its anti-discrimination legislation and human rights obligations, not advocating homophobic violence,” Dittrich said. “The government should distance itself publicly from the remarks of the deputy-minister, reprimand him, and take all necessary measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.”