Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental human rights advocacy organization, said Wednesday the Macedonia government has turned “a blind eye” to a series of anti-LGBT attacks over the past two months, and has called on Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to ensure a thorough investigation of the incidents.
In a letter delivered to Gruevski on Wednesday morning, HRW cited at least three incidents of anti-LGBT violence in recent weeks, and warned that Macedonia’s candidacy for membership in the European Union is predicated on its implementation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights that specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
HRW pointed out that Macedonia’s anti-discrimination law has no such provision.
“Anti-gay thugs are targeting people who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Macedonian government seems to be turning a blind eye,” said Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
“Not a single government official has publicly spoken out against these blatant attacks, leaving LGBTI people even more vulnerable to violence and discrimination,” he said.
In the most recent attack, arsonists set fire to the LGBTI center in Skpoje on July 5. Preliminary findings indicate that someone climbed on the roof, removed a dozen roof tiles, spilled gasoline on the roof planks, and set them on fire.
The attack was the just latest in a spate of anti-gay violence sweeping through the small former Yugoslav nation, located in the Balkans region of Europe.
Late last month, an angry mob surrounded and attacked the home of Petar Stojkovikj, a famous Macedonian openly gay TV star and Executive Board member of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee of Human Rights (MHCHR). The assailants threw stones at the house and shouted threats and homophobic slurs.
And on June 22, the LGBTI center was attacked by mob of about 30 people who gathered outside, shouting derogatory and homophobic slogans and threatening the people inside. The assailants threw stones, bottles, and bricks at the center while members of Macedonia’s LGBT community celebrated pride indoors.
A pride parade was cancelled after Macedonia’s Ministry of Interior said it could not guaranteed marchers’ safety.
Human Rights Watch alleges that most of the targets of the attacks have filed complaints with the police, but no one has been arrested and the authorities have not provided information about any investigations they may be undertaking.
“The police have a responsibility to protect all Macedonians, and to investigate all crimes,” Dittrich said, in a statement.
“The government silence after these attacks, combined with its general disregard for the basic human rights of LGBTI people, contributes to a vicious climate in which hate-filled people believe they can harass and threaten LGBTI rights defenders with impunity,” he said.
A high ranking member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the Prime Minister, told LGBTQ Nation: “The Prime Minister has already condemned the violence against the LGBT community a few days ago, we would like to be clear that we take this matter very seriously and a police investigation is already in effect.”
“We are doing all we can to find out the perpetrators of this act and will bring them to justice,” the source said.
“Macedonia’s anti-discrimination law does not mention specifically sexual orientation but does state that ‘discrimination on all other grounds’ is prohibited,” he added. “We’re not aware that a specific law is on the cards. We fully intend to carry out justice to the full extent according to the letter of the law.”