AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL - PRESS RELEASE
Serbia: Human rights defenders under threat
14 September 2009
Human rights defenders are under attack in Serbia and
the authorities are failing to protect them, Amnesty International said
in a briefing published today.
"Physical attacks and threats to the lives and
property of human rights activists are seldom promptly and impartially
investigated by the authorities," said Sian Jones, Amnesty
International's Balkans expert. "Few perpetrators are brought to
"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 them,
including against leading women human rights activists.
"Over the past year women human rights defenders have
been attacked in the 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," Sian Jones said.
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
"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.
For more information please call Amnesty
International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1
Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK