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2011 02 23
LGBT NGO barred from round table discussion on human rights
by Em Šaras

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

VILNUS, Lithuania: National, non-governmental organization Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) has been barred from participation in the round table discussion held by Lithuanian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee regarding the Belarusian democratic opposition and human rights issues. After answering the invitation for NGOs to take part in the discussion to be held on Wednesday, February 23, LGL was informed that there was no space for an LGBT organization to participate.

This action from Ramūnas Misulis, the Head of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs Committee of Lithuanian Parliament, directly contradicts 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 Ažubalis. On January 20, 2011, Ažubalis issued a statement saying,

“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.”

LGL is already connected with several Belarusian human rights organizations, 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.’ 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,” said Em Šaras, Communications Officer at LGL.

Vladimir Simonko, Chair of LGL, said on Wednesday: “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 Ažubalis - have to be brave and send a strong message of inclusion and equality for all within this democratization process.”

LGL is a Lithuanian NGO that advocates for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans individuals in Lithuania. Founded in 1995, this organization 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.
Open Letter by LGL and GAB to Audronius Ažubalis, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Emanuelis Zingeris, Chairman of Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) is available here.
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