Responsible institutions have violated the freedom of assembly of the LGBTI community by failing to protect the Merlinka Festival

At the session held on December 19, The Constitutional Court of BiH adopted the appeal of the Sarajevo Open Centre and others, and made a decision on admissibility and merits confirming that the public authorities of the Sarajevo Canton have violated the right to freedom of assembly of LGBTI persons by failing to ensure the safety of the participant at 2014 Merlinka Festival. The Constitutional Court also confirmed that the public authorities failed to ensure the safety of the participants, but also to conduct a thorough investigation and sanction the perpetrators of violence, through which they violated the prohibition of being subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and therefore enabled the homophobic and transphobic violence to occur at the Festival itself. According to the decision of the Constitutional Court of BiH, the governments of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sarajevo Canton have to pay a total amount of 8,000 KM to the appellants in compensation for the violence, fear and stress the appellants experienced, within next 3 months.

At the Merlinka Festival that was held in Cinema Kriterion in Sarajevo on 1st of February of 2014, 14 masked attackers came to the event and violently stopped the discussion and attacked the participants of the Festival. Two people suffered physical injuries and were transported to the Clinical Center of the University of Sarajevo. Although Sarajevo Open Centre filed criminal charges with the Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo Canton against the attackers, as well as against the responsible police officers, by December 2018, proceedings were initiated against only one suspect. Within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a procedure was conducted to investigate the responsibility of police officers for their non-attendance at the Festival at an agreed time, and though the responsible persons were first sanctioned, they were resolved of the responsibility after their appeal. For these reasons, the Sarajevo Open Center and 10 other appellants submitted an appeal to the Constitutional Court of BiH in November 2016 asking it to determine the responsibility of the competent institutions for violating the freedom of assembly of LGBTI people, as well as for the failure to secure the participant and to process the perpetrators of violence.

Emina Bošnjak, Executive Director of the Sarajevo Open Centre, confirmed that this decision of the Constitutional Court was a great victory for the LGBTI community and was especially significant in the light of the obstruction of the freedom of assembly of LGBTI people in Canton Sarajevo over the past two years. Bošnjak stressed that freedom of assembly is one of the basic human rights and that is especially important for affirming the interests of marginalized social groups such as LGBTI people, and announced significant steps that the Sarajevo Open Center will take in this regard and in the light of this decision.

Vladana Vasić, Advocacy Manager of the Sarajevo Open Centre, emphasized that this decision is also important in the context of combating violence against LGBTI people and recognizing the unwillingness and hesitation of the competent institutions to sanction it. Vasić added that the Merlinka Festival became a symbol of resistance to the violence and repression of LGBTI people, and invited everyone to visit this year’s Merlinka, which will be held from February 7 to 9, and whose program is available on the Sarajevo Open Centre’s website and social media.

The text of the Constitutional Court’s decision can be found on the following link. For more information, please contact Emina Bošnjak at, Vladana Vasić at or via telephone number +387 (0)33 551 001. The Sarajevo Open Centre is an independent, a feminist civil society organization that advocates full respect for human rights and social inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans * and intersex (LGBTI)individuals and women.