Corner Press release

We demand that the violence be condemned and the hooligans punished! 24 October 2014

On 23.10.2014, the LGBT Support Center - the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia organized a celebration on the occasion of two years since the founding of the organization. The party was held in the Damar cafe in the Skopje Old Bazaar. At around 21:20-21:30, a group of about thirty young people approached the cafe from both sides of the street that it looks out to. Their faces were masked and heads hooded and they were armed with glass bottles and other hard objects.

Thunderously, in the manner of a racing stampede, the group approached from both sides and wrecked the cafe. After the attack, the group scattered in the surrounding streets. There were more than sixty people in the cafe attending the Center's celebration at the moment of the attack, two of whom (a boy and a girl) were outside, in front of the main entrance of the cafe. The group attacked the boy and girl with glass bottles and blows to the head and body thus inflicting bodily injuries. While they were hitting them, the attackers kept repeating that they should leave and that "there's no place for faggots here". Some of the people who were inside the bar got minor cuts from the flying pieces of glass. Regarding this event, MoI published information on its Daily Bulletin which is incomplete, inaccurate and does not correspond to the whole picture of the event.

In fact, no part of the Bulletin contains information that the attack took place during the celebration organized by the LGBT Center or that this is the sixth attack on the Center (and its activities) in the bazaar, which means that it already has become a criminal trend that requires different treatment. Also, the attack was not carried out by a few people, but by a big organized group. There was no mention whatsoever in the Bulletin about the messages that the attackers shouted i.e. that "(faggots) should leave this place and that there is no place for gays here". Moreover, the attack was characterized as "violence", which indicates that in case MoI presses charges it would only be for the criminal act of violence (Art. 386), as it has been before, and also there is no mention in the text that there were more than sixty people in the interior of the object, and that their lives and bodies were threatened. Therefore, this attack also concurrently assumes the characteristics of the criminal act of Causing general danger (due to the direct danger to the life and body of those present), as well as racial and other discrimination due to the persecution of organizations and individuals because of their advocacy of equality of people (considering the fact that this is an attack which took place during the Center's celebration in the cafe and since there is a history of several attacks on the organization carried out in the same manner). 

We emphasize that both the national legislation (the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia) as well as European Law and the process of harmonization of the Macedonian legislation, guarantee and protect the rights to life, security and safety, protection against discrimination and the right to freedom of expression. These freedoms and rights belong to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity! Therefore, we ask the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and the competent institutions how long will they continue to underrate the violence which is a part of the every-day life of the LGBT people? How long will we continue to pretend that these people do not exist, that they do not face real threats to their life and body every day and that there is no need of special legal protection and legal treatment for them, and finally that due to the hate speech lashed out at this community, that its members are also not seriously exposed to hate crimes? 

We would like to remind that this culture of impunity also leaves space for and encourages acts and speech related to hate, i.e. materialized violence. The groups and individuals who have a different lifestyle should not be exposed to different and unfair treatment. The freedoms and rights which are guaranteed and protected for everybody should be guaranteed and protected for us too! Therefore, the National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia* (that the Center is an active member of) addresses the following demands to the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the Ministry of Interior, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the competent courts:

We demand that the Prime Minister of the Government and the Minister of Internal Affairs publicly condemn the homophobic violence caused by hate against LGBTI people in Macedonia in the course of this day. Speedy clarification of the case, detection of the offenders and effective litigation for Violence, Causing general danger and Racial and other discrimination by persecuting organizations or individuals for their advocacy of equality of people. Clarifying, detection of the offenders and initiation of litigation against the offenders from the previous five attacks of the LGBT Support Center in the Old Skopje Bazaar. Opening criminal investigation for the hate speech that followed the attacks on social networks and for Inciting hatred, discord or intolerance on national, racial, religious and other discriminatory grounds against the media who published content containing hate speech against the LGBT population prior to the event. Finally, we warn that by the tendentiously not pursuing the offenders, not only do the institutions encourage violence, but they also practically act as accomplices. Justice for everyone. Different. Equal. Free. 

* The National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia (NMHT) of Macedonia consists of twenty non-governmental organizations and individuals who take coordinated action against the violence and discrimination towards the LGBTI people in our society.
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