No Room at the Table for Gay Rights Group

Lithuanian Gay League barred from round table discussion on human rights in Belarus

VILNUS, February 26, 2011 (LGL) – National non-governmental organization Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) was barred from participating in the round table discussion on Belarusian democratic opposition and human rights issues held by Lithuanian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee.

After answering the invitation for NGOs to take part in the discussion, which was held today, LGL was informed that there was “no space for an LGBT organisation” to participate.

This action from Ramunas Misulis, the Head of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs Committee of Lithuanian Parliament, directly contradicts with the mission of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) and their official positions of inclusion and welcoming “constructive, focused and consolidated civil society recommendations on all issues concerning the OSCE human dimension.”

OSCE, which has declared support for the Belarusian democratic opposition, is led by chairperson-in-office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis.

On January 20, 2011, Mr. Azubalis issued a statement saying that the “OSCE is unique as we bring non-governmental organizations into the heart of our decision-making”.

“Civil society’s participation in the work of the OSCE is greatly valued. Co-operation and a mutual exchange of views are very important, and Lithuania is ready to continue a lively and very open dialogue within civil society,” the Foreign Minister added.

LGL said today that it is already connected with several Belarusian human rights organisations, and believes it can be a strong contributing force as Lithuania moves ahead in defining how the country will support the Belarusian opposition.

“LGL is eager to be involved with what was described in the call for NGO participants at this meeting – namely, ‘opportunities for involvement with activities in Lithuania regarding the Belarusian democratic opposition’, Em Saras, communications officer at LGL said.

“We want to participate in dialogues concerning human rights, inclusion, tolerance, and equality – the very issues specified on the invitation issued by the Foreign Affairs Committee of Lithuanian Parliament for NGOs to participate in this discussion.”

Vladimir Simonko, chair of LGL, questioned the decision. “If LGL is not invited to participate in this round table discussion, despite our NGO status and focus on equality of human rights, how can we expect that LGL will be considered an equal partner in supporting the democratic opposition in Belarus?

“Lithuanian politicians – including Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis – have to be brave and send a strong message of inclusion and equality for all within this democratization process,” he pointed out.

¦ LGL is a Lithuanian NGO that advocates for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals in Lithuania. Founded in 1995, this organisation has worked for over a decade on human rights issues, with a focus on fighting homophobia, exclusion, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.


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