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LGL interprets the decision by the administration of the Vilnius City Municipality as an actual ban on the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality

Association “Lithuanian Gay League” (LGL) is of a position that the refusal by the Vilnius City Municipality not to allow for the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality to proceed on the Gediminas Avenue constitutes disproportionate limitation on the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly by the local LGBT* community, thus constituting the actual ban of the event and establishing discrimination against this social group.

According to the judgments by the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the Vilnius City Municipality was obliged to reconsider the initial notification on the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality with regards to the location of the event. Therefore the decision by the municipality to reject not only the proposed location of the event, but also its time and form constitutes an actual ban to the event, organized by the LGL. It has to be noted that the initial ‘authorization’ of the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality by the Vilnius City Municipality was judicially admitted to be illegal only with regards to the unilateral relocation of the event. Therefore the current decision of the Municipality to ban the event all together contradicts not only the judgments by the national courts, but also the previous position by the Municipality itself.

The Courts have noted that in this particular instance neither the Municipality, nor the Police Department has submitted actual evidence, allowing the public authorities to limit the right to the freedom of peaceful assembly for the local LGBT* community in the context of the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality. Therefore the argumentation by the administration of the Vilnius City Municipality that “public order, morals and public security might be threatened” is of a declaratory nature and does not correspond with the facts, established by the Courts. It has to be emphasized that the police force is ready to secure the public order and the security of the participants irrespective of the location of the event.

In relation to the argumentation by the administration of the Vilnius City Municipality that the Law on Public Meetings bans rallies and picket actions closer than 25 meters from state institutions and closer than 75 meters from court buildings, LGL notes that the blanket application of this rule equally to all social groups would result in a situation, where no public events could be organized on Gediminas Avenue all together. In addition to this, there can be no absolute limitation to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in a democratic society – every limitation has to pursue the legitimate aim and it has to be proportionate to the aim sought. It has to be emphasized that the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality will be organized on Saturday, i.e. non-working day, therefore the legal basis for limitation, formally applied by the administration of the Vilnius City Municipality, is clearly of disproportionate and discriminatory nature.

The LGL regrets that, with exactly one month remaining to Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality, and only several days away from the start of Lithuania’s EU Presidency, the effective right to peaceful assembly is not being guaranteed in the Republic of Lithuania. The organizers of the event believe that the decision by the administration of the Vilnius City Municipality constitutes a disproportionate and discriminatory limitation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly by the local LGBT* community and are planning to appeal against this decision before the national courts. Irrespective of these negative developments, LGL continues to plan the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality on Gerdminas Avenue and it will put all the efforts to defend the right to freedom of peaceful assembly by the local LGBT* community through the legal means in smooth, rapid and effective manner.