March 27, 2019

mr. sc. Andrej Plenković
Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of Croatia
Trg svetog Marka 2
10 000 Zagreb
Hrvatska

Your excellency,

We write to urge you to provide appropriate security and protection to ensure the rights to freedom of assembly and expression are protected during the March 30, 2019 Balkans Trans and Intersex Pride March in Zagreb.

Human Rights Watch is an international non-governmental organization that monitors the human rights situation in more than 90 countries around the world, including Croatia.

The Balkans Trans and Intersex Pride March intends to promote the values of: “a society in which every person is free from oppression and marginalization.” The organizers want “a society in which no identity is the subject of judgment and exclusion, but a reason to celebrate a world full of diversity.” The event is being organized by Trans Network Balkan, Trans Aid, and Association Spektra. The march is part of a regional conference the groups are holding in Zagreb to discuss human rights issues for transgender and intersex people.

Croatia is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression. This treaty obligates the government to secure effective enjoyment of those rights, which means taking appropriate measures to safeguard peaceful gatherings and protect them from others’ attempts to prevent or disrupt them. The Croatian government should fulfill its obligation to protect demonstrators – by providing meaningful security during the upcoming march. 

In the 1988 case Plattform “Ärzte für das Leben” v. Austria, the European Court of Human Rights established that governments must not only refrain from interfering with the right to assembly (Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), but that they have to take positive measures to ensure the fulfillment of the freedom of assembly:

“Genuine, effective freedom of peaceful assembly cannot, therefore, be reduced to a mere duty on the part of the State not to interfere: a purely negative conception would not be compatible with the object and purpose of Article 11…Article 11 sometimes requires positive measures be taken.”

In a 2015 report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding pride events, the report noted that:

“Private and State agents target ‘pride’ marches, where LGBT persons and their supporters are sometimes subjected to violence and harassment. In some States, such events are denied police protection or permits, sometimes under guise of threats to public morals or safety, abrogating the State’s duty to uphold freedom of assembly and to protect LGBT persons from violence. In the absence of proper police protection, marchers have been physically attacked and harassed by State and non-State actors, including far-right ‘skinhead’ groups.”

The UN report called on governments to “protect the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, without discrimination.” The government of Croatia should uphold the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, who are entitled to equal treatment and protection of the law.

Sincerely,

Graeme Reid
Director
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program

CC:
mr. sc. Zvonimir Frka-Petešić, Head of Office, Prime Minister’s office
Tena Mišetić, Deputy Head of the Office, Prime Minister’s office
Štefica Stažnik, dipl. Iur., Office of the representative of the Republic of Croatia to the European Court of Human Rights
mr. sc. Helena Štimac Radin, Director; Željka Canjuga, Administrative Secretary, Government Office for Gender Equity