Jagodina Mayor Convicted of Hate Speech
On 2 November 2011, Dragan Markovic Palma, Mayor of Jagodina and President of the parlamentary party United Serbia was convicted of hate speech. In a statement to the media in August, Markovic Palma said that his personal position and the position of United Serbia is that they are “against every assembly where homosexuals demonstrate on the streets of Belgrade and wish to present something that is a disease as if it were normal”.
The First Basic Court found that Markovic Palma committed a severe form of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, according to several articles of the Law against discrimination. Markovic Palma was ordered to pay for the costs of the trial and informed about the prohibition of spreading hate speech. The case against him was filed by Gay Straight Alliance, a local LGBT organisation. In addition, criminal charges were filed for the same statement but this court procedure has still not begun.
Civil Rights Defenders welcomes the fact that a high politician has been found guilty of severe discrimination and hate speech against the LGBT-population for the first time ever in Serbia, not the least because of the prejudice about LGBT-people being ill.
“Unfortunately Dragan Markovic Palma showed a deeply worrying lack of understanding after the verdict. His reaction was new hate speech, including the sentence that he is “proud of this judgment”,” says Goran Miletic, human rights lawyer at Civil Rights Defenders in Belgrade, as he urges the judicial authorities of Serbia to react promptly in criminal cases and in cases such as the banning of Pride.
After the ban of Belgrade Pride Parade Civil Rights Defenders organised a legal team and together with our partners from Belgrade Centre for Human Rights we submitted a complaint to the Constitutional Court of Serbia. We also prepared an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
Having in mind that the case for banning Belgrade Pride in 2009 is still pending before the European Court, we will submit a third party intervention and invite other international organisations to do the same in order to speed up the procedures.