Baltic Pride march gets green light reprieve in final hour

Amnesty International has welcomed a Lithuanian court’s u-turn decision to allow Saturday's 2010 Baltic Pride march in Vilnius to go ahead.

The Supreme Administrative Court decided today that the event could take place, two days after an earlier ruling by a lower court, that suspended it. The march is Lithuania's first in support of LGBTI (LGBT) people.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's expert on discrimination, said:
"This decision is the only right one and the only one that respects freedom of assembly and expression.

"We regret the difficulties the organisers of Baltic Pride have faced, but the important thing now is that people are able to march, in dignity and in safety, in defence and celebration of their rights."

The organisers of the event; the Lithuanian Gay League, Tolerant Youth Organisation, the Latvian group Mozaika, and the Estonian group Gay Youth, have had to overcome a series of obstacles to the march.

The latest came this week, when Lithuania's interim Attorney General asked the court to ban the march on the grounds that expected counter-demonstrators posed a risk to public order. This was despite a pledge from the police and the mayor of Vilnius to guarantee the safety of participants at the event.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said groups or organisations, unless banned by law, had the right to express their opinion as guaranteed by the Constitution of the country.

LGBT people in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia face strong opposition. A recent poll in Lithuania stated that three quarters of the population are opposed to the Baltic Pride march, which forms part of a five-day festival and conference on equal rights for sexual minorities.

Linda Freimane from the Latvian organisation Mozaika, said:
"There are too many people who live half-lives because they don't dare to say who they are. We are marching together, LGBT people from the three Baltic states, because we have common difficulties and because we want to tell people that we exist - that we share the same problems and have the same rights."

Amnesty International activists from over 20 countries, including Kate Allen the Director of Amnesty International UK, together with LGBT activists from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, will take part in the march from 12.00-14.30 on Saturday in Central Vilnius.

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