LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

5 days before taking over EU Presidency, Lithuania fails to guarantee freedom of assembly for LGBTI people

Today the Vilnius City Council refused to grant permission to the organisers of the Baltic Pride March 2013 to march in the requested venue.

The organisers submitted their request to march on the city’s main avenue during the Pride March, which is scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 27 July, many months ago; the city refused the grant permission to hold the event at the requested venue without offering an alternative.

ILGA-Europe is appalled by the failure of the Vilnius City Council to guarantee the fundamental right to freedom of assembly of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people in Lithuania.

This is particularly troubling as on 1 July 2013, Lithuania takes over EU Presidency, and hence takes on a particularly visible role as promoter of EU values and principles. Lithuania takes on this role at the same time that it blatantly fails to uphold human rights and principles upon which the EU is based.

Just two days ago the Council of the European Union adopted Guidelines To Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons which formalise the EU’s official policy on how to protect the human rights of LGBTI people when dealing with third countries and at international fora. The Guidelines particularly refer to freedom of assembly and require the EU to check that this right is guaranteed “without excessive political and administrative obstacles”, that the “police protect the events if there is public hostility”.

Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said:

“Today’s event is a clear illustration of the double standards in the EU’s human rights discourse. EU institutions cannot remain silent on this failure to guarantee such a fundamental right as the right to peaceful assembly. Failure to ensure that LGBTI people in Lithuania are able to exercise their fundamental right will contribute to discrediting the EU’s human rights record, and its own capacity to instigate positive change in other parts of the world. But perhaps more importantly, failure to ensure that the Lithuanian authorities uphold their human rights obligations will send a very negative signal to everyone in the EU about the real level of commitment of EU institutions to protect human rights.”