Foreign embassies and organizations in Sarajevo strongly condemned the attack against LGBTI activists and journalists which occurred on Saturday evening in the northern city of Banja Luka, calling on authorities of Republika Srpska entity to take action.
“We strongly condemn this evening's violence in Banja Luka. Words have consequences. When civil society activists and journalists are regularly targets of verbal attack by RS politicians, it creates a climate where physical attacks can follow,” the Delegation of the European Union said in the aftermath of the attack.
The incident occurred after Banja Luka police banned the public gathering planned by the activists of the BH Pride Parade association, the organizers of the first Sarajevo pride march, due to security risks.
Banjaluka police ban gathering of LGBT activists due to security risk
A total of 13 associations condemned the announcement of this event and asked the mayor of Banja Luka and the president of Republika Srpska to ban the gatherings. RS President Milorad Dodik also said he was against the gathering.
The EU's Sarajevo office also criticized the alleged lack of the police protection.
“Allegations that police present on the scene failed to prevent the attacks are worrying, if true. We urge the RS authorities to take the necessary steps to fully investigate this evening's violence and take action to prevent future incidents,” it underlined.
Members of BiH Pride March association attacked in Banjaluka
The US Embassy joined the condemnation of the attack, stressing that the authorities “must identify and prosecute those who committed this heinous act.”
According to witnesses, a group of young men attacked the activist but also a journalist who stopped by to greet her acquaintances.
Journalist Zana Gauk told N1 that her colleague Vanja Stokic told her how everything happened.
“Stokic stopped by to greet her friends from the BH Pride Parade association, but when she came in front of the Transparency International premises two police vehicles stopped there and they were followed by some thirty hooligans, and they immediately started the attack. A part of the activists were warned by police to leave and that they could not guarantee them safety,” said Gauk.
According to her, the hooligans then approached Stokic and activist Ajdin Kamber.
“She (Stokic) tried to stand behind the citizens who gathered at the Mejdan neighbourhood, they said she was ‘theirs’, took her and threw her over the wall. Her elbow is injured, but fortunately it is a minor injury. Ajdin was beaten up, they broke a bottle against his head and they managed to run away somehow, circling around the neighbourhood, searching for other activists to help them,” said Gauk.
She noted that the activists asked the police to protect them but they refused.
“They told them the people are being beaten up but the police officer told them it was ‘none of their business’,” she stressed.
The OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina also condemned the “violent attack on journalists and activists in Banja Luka.”
“Every individual has the right to live freely and safely without fear of violence or discrimination. We call on the authorities to join in clearly condemning this outrageous attack and bring to justice those responsible as a matter of absolute priority,” the statement said.