LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Mayor of Vilnius does not allow EU anti-discrimination truck into the city

Juozas Imbrasas, Mayor of Vilnius, today refused to give permission for the anti-discrimination truck tour [currently touring 19 Member States as part of the 'For Diversity. Against Discrimination' information campaign] to make its planned stop in Vilnius this Friday. The objective of the Truck Tour 2007 is to raise awareness and disseminate information about the “For Diversity. Against Discrimination” campaign, as well as the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All.

Among other activities planned for the Equality Day around the truck, the Lithuanian LGBT organisation was planning to host an action “We Are for All Colours of Life” as part of the first Lithuanian LGBT Pride and display a 30 meter rainbow flag at the square next to the truck.

The Mayor’s grounds for refusal were security risks and that events around the truck might cause riots. Just days ago the Mayor of Vilnius also supported a refusal to display advertisements on Vilnius’ trolleybuses promoting sexual orientation equality in employment developed for an EU-funded project. He stated: “We disapprove of the public display of homosexualists (sic)’ ideas in the city of Vilnius”. After a Swedish ambassador made a speech at the Lithuanian Parliament defending the rights of LGBT people, a protest demonstration took place outside the Swedish embassy in Vilnius claiming that “the virtues possibly acceptable for Swedish are not acceptable for Lithuanians”.

Reacting to the ban of the EU anti-discrimination truck into Vilnius, the European Commission stated “it highly regrets the decision to cancel the planned event. This is the first time in the 4 years the truck has been on tour that a stop has been cancelled by local authorities.”

“The anti-discrimination truck brings a message of tolerance, respect and the need to combat discrimination on the grounds of racial and ethnic origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief.”

“The activities on board the truck also aim to raise awareness of anti-discrimination laws, which all Member States have signed up to.”

The decision by the city authorities shows how much still needs to be done to change behaviour and attitudes towards discriminated groups and to promote awareness of diversity, This is all the more crucial in this, the "European Year of Equal Opportunities for All."

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said:

“This is an appalling act of disrespect not only towards the right of Lithuanian LGBT people to peaceful assembly and expression; this is act of disrespect toward the entire European Union and its basic principles.

For the first time ever the EU anti-discrimination truck, which carries a message that discrimination on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation, is illegal in the European Union, has been banned by a city.

We call upon the Vilnius authorities to immediately overturn this ban and ensure that all planned activities are taking place. Moreover as already confirmed on a number of occasions by the European Court of Human Rights, security risks cannot be used as a justification for not allowing public activities and it is a positive duty of local authorities to ensure security of the event“

For more information please contact
Juris Lavrikovs at + 32 2 609 54 16 / + 32 496 708 375

Notes for editors:

(1) ILGA-Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association and works for equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Europe.