Smoke bombs disrupt gay rights conference in Lithuania

Bryan Ochalla | October 29, 2007

A gay rights conference being held in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius was disrupted by smoke bombs last week, serving as the latest blow to what was supposed to be a week of events organized by the Brussels-based IGLA Europe.

Earlier in the week, Vilnius Mayor Juozas Imbrasas halted a rally that was to accompany the conference because of what she called "safety concerns" due to building works.

That decision didn�t sit well with the leaders of ILGA Europe, who complained to BBC News that no alternative site had been offered to them. "It is a positive duty of the city authorities to offer an alternative venue to the applicant and they did not do that,� Executive Director Patricia Prendiville said. "There is no doubt that the City of Vilnius used the construction works as a cover.�

IGLA Europe officials found themselves in a similar situation a few years ago while planning an event in Poland. That ban eventually was found to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"This ruling also applies to Lithuanian,� Juris Lavrikos, communications officer for ILGA Europe, told BBC News. �We're very sorry that the Mayor of Vilnius is apparently ignoring this. If we have to take this case to Strasbourg too, it will be a total of waste of Lithuanian tax-payers' money."

Local gay rights activists suggest the obstacles IGLA Europe officials have faced this week are further evidence of the Lithuanian administration's lack of commitment to equality.

According to Vladimir Simonko of the Lithuanian Gay League, for instance, "There is unfortunately institutional homophobia in Lithuania. A recent survey of MPs revealed the majority of them have a negative attitude towards the gay community. It's hard work for us." – Issued by Gay Link Content



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