Human rights activists under threat in Serbia

Journalist Dinko Druhonic has been targeted for criticising neo-fascists

Journalist Dinko Druhonic has been targeted for criticising neo-fascists

© Front Line/Mark Condren

14 September 2009

Human rights defenders are under attack in Serbia and the authorities are failing to protect them, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Over the past year women human rights activists have faced repeated attacks in the Serbian media including being threatened with lynching.

Such attacks are made by parliamentarians, members of ultra-right organizations and members of the security services indicted for war crimes. Other defenders have had their property destroyed, their offices attacked or been beaten by members of neo-Nazi groups.

"Physical attacks and threats to the lives and property of human rights activists are seldom promptly and impartially investigated by the authorities and few perpetrators are brought to justice," said Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert.

"The lack of political will on the part of the authorities to fulfil their obligations to guarantee human rights defenders their right to freedom of expression and assembly creates a climate of impunity which stifles civil society."

In the briefing Serbia: Human rights defenders at risk Amnesty International reviews the latest attacks against human rights activists, including those against leading women human rights activists.

These defenders include Nataša Kandić, director of the Humanitarian Law Centre, Sonja Biserko of the Serbian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, and Biljana Kovačević-Vučo of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), as well as the women’s NGO Women in Black.

They have been portrayed in the media as anti-Serb for favouring the independence of Kosovo, and for demanding accountability for war crimes committed in the 1990s in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

The briefing also focuses on those who defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT). Since 2001 the LGBT community in Serbia has been unable to hold a Pride Day parade due to serious threats by right-wing and religious organizations. Such organizations have already made unveiled threats against the organizers of this year’s parade, scheduled for 20 September.

"The LGBT community is marginalized even within civil society and criminal investigations into assaults on LGBT people, even where the perpetrators have been identified, are rarely resolved," Sian Jones said.

"The Serbian authorities are obliged to protect the rights of all people to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. They must condemn publicly all attacks on and threats to human rights activists, and provide protection and support during the forthcoming Belgrade Pride later this week."

Amnesty International calls on the Serbian government to implement in law and in practice the principles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders, which provides a framework for the protection and support of human rights defenders. The organization also calls on the embassies of EU member states to provide protection and support to defenders in Serbia.

Serbia: Human rights defenders at risk

Index Number: EUR 70/014/2009
Date Published: 14 September 2009
Categories: Serbia

Human rights defenders (HRDs) In Serbia continue to be at risk from attack by both state and non-state actors, including the media. The Serbian authorities are failing to protect them from physical attacks and threats to their lives and property. Amnesty International is extremely concerned at the impact of these attacks on the rights of HRDs and the rights to freedom of expression and assembly in Serbia.

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