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Euro-MP condemns homophobia in Latvia

July 24, 2006 11:05 PM

Unlike the hugely successful and inclusive EuroPride event in London two weeks ago, or the many smaller Pride festivals around the UK this summer, authorities in Riga, the capital of Latvia which since 2004 is an EU member state, refused permission for the 'Riga Pride 2006' march on Saturday.

Riga City Council claims its decision is based on police fears of being unable to guarantee security in the event of violent disruption, but Liberal Democrat European justice spokeswoman and member of the European Parliament all-party group on Gay & Lesbian rights Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP says: "This is pure homophobia and a deplorable violation of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. European human rights law obliges Latvia to respect the right to freedom of assembly and expression. Thus the Riga authorities must take active measures to protect march participants."

"This unacceptable discrimination against gay people in parts of 'new Europe' must be speedily ended. The European Commission should instigate action against Latvia for failing to respect EU laws on freedom, dignity and equal rights for all citizens. European laws must also be strengthened to include measures for combating homophobic hate crime."

In January, MEPs voted overwhelmingly to condemn discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in their resolution, 'Homophobia in Europe', in which member states and the European Commission were urged 'to ensure that freedom of demonstration - guaranteed by all human rights treaties - is respected in practice.'