Tuesday, 23 October 2007

European gay activists gather for annual conference in Vilnius amid controversy

ILGA-Europe [European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association] members gather for annual conference in Vilnius, but their public event is banned by Mayor

On 25-28 October 2007, almost 200 delegates from all over Europe gather in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for the 11th ILGA-Europe’s Annual Conference. While the Conference goes ahead, the Rainbow Flag public event planned by the Lithuanian hosts during the conference was banned by the Mayor of Vilnius. A legal challenge of the ban has been already initiated.

ILGA-Europe’s Annual Conference is traditionally an opportunity for ILGA –Europe members to gather together to discuss the organisational priorities, strategies and tactics on advancing equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Europe. The Annual Conference is also ILGA-Europe’s annual general meeting when new board members are elected and various organisational issues and documents are discussed and adopted. During this year’s conference the delegates will discuss ILGA-Europe’s strategic plan for 2008-2011.

During the conference’s workshops, plenary panels and sessions, a variety of subjects will be discussed: addressing the rights of LGBT people at the UN level, mental health needs of LGBT people, inclusion of trans issues in lobbying and advocacy work, reacting to religious right, making trade unions LGBT friendly, developing advocacy strategies, using video in monitoring LGBT human rights abuses, reconciling sexuality and spirituality, and many more topics.

Unfortunately, the public event to coincide with the Annual Conference and display a 30 meters long rainbow flag was once again banned by the Mayor of Vilnius. Instead the Rainbow Flag Reception inside the Conference hotel is taking place. Deborah Lambillotte, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:

“We are appalled that an EU member states repeatedly violates the right to a free and peaceful assembly. We are glad that the Lithuanian Gay League has already initiated legal proceedings against the Vilnius City Council which did not authorised the Rainbow Flag event during our conference. We hope that our conference and our presence in Vilnius will attract international attention and pressure on the Mayor of Vilnius. Our message is simple and clear – LGBT people have the same right to express their views and concerns publicly, and as any other citizen of the European Union, to enjoy the rights guaranteed in the Lithuanian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. We feel sorry that the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in a similar case does not mean much to the Mayor of Vilnius and that the court rooms will need to be used to get this message to him."

* ILGA-Europe press release

P.S. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are included within the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Main LGBT-related organisations from these countries are members of ILGA-Europe. Gay activists from all South Caucasus countries will participate in this conference.

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