National Minorities  |  Religious Communities  |  Torture
Vulnerable Groups  |  Legal Aid  |  Reports  |  Antisemitism

INFO   :::  Human Rights > Human Rights Defenders in the Countries of the Western Balkans


Human Rights Defenders in the Countries of the Western Balkans

Belgrade, November 16, 2015


Human Rights Defenders in Serbia are not adequately protected and hereof are often targets of attacks, was the major conclusion of the conference Human Rights Defenders in the Western Balkans Region in the Context of the OSCE/ODIHR Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

The conference was organized by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights with the assistance of the OSCE Mission in Serbia. Representatives of human rights organizations and activists from the Western Balkans countries spoke about the challenges they have been coping with and possible solutions for numerous problems standing in the way of their mission.

Welcoming addresses by the Executive Director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia Izabela Kisić, Head of the Democratization Department of the OSCE Mission in Serbia Jan Lueneburg, Head of ODIHR Human Rights Department Katarzyna Jarosiewicz Wargan, Milena Banović of the Office for Cooperation with the Civil Society of the Republic of Serbia and Attila Mraz of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union opened the conference.

Human rights defenders play a vital role in the establishment of the rule of law and regional reconciliation and normalization, said Izabela Kisić. In all the countries of the Western Balkans, with all their differences and similarities, human rights defenders are endangered, especially those whose activities are focused on dealing with the past, LGBT population, and corruption. In her view, Serbia’s acknowledgment of its moral and political responsibility for war crimes in the 1990s is “the crucial precondition for the development of the civil society."

"HRDs who raise questions of dealing with the past are facing stigmatization, brutal smear campaigns, open threats and lynch calls," she said and added that “individuals subjected to the fiercest attacks are those focusing on war crimes and countering nationalism and clericalization.”

As she assessed, extreme right-wing organizations “are only mouthpieces and the most visible perpetrators of attacks," while intellectuals, governmental officials, members of the Parliament, as well as the main religious institutions – particularly the Serbian Orthodox Church - are the masterminds.

Izabela Kisić also said that enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders does not exist in Serbia and in the Western Balkans region, and that public debates are almost extinct in Serbia. Kisić stressed out that misogyny and homophobia are growing stronger.

Speaking of the Guidelines for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Katarzyna Jarosiewicz Wargan stated that working with human rights defenders is one of the core activities of ODIHR.“ These Guidelines might help reducing the difference between theory and practice in the context of the protection of human rights defenders. However, without a substantial partnership between the state, civil society and other important actors, the protection of human rights defenders will remain a dead letter,” she said.

Cooperation of the civil society and the state indicates the level of democratization of a society, and the Government of Serbia opted for it by founding the Office for Cooperation with the Civil Society, said Milena Banović. She highlighted the importance of such cooperation and added that it is multi-sectorial. She also said that by the end of the year a strategic document about the creation of enabling environment for the work of the civil society will be adopted. “That document will be binding. Cooperation with CSOs is a political criterion for EU integration and also important for Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship. Cooperation is also significant for the overall progress of our society”, she said.

Historian Milivoj Bešlin said that human rights defenders opposed to systematic rehabilitation of quislings and fascist ideas are often targets of attacks. He provided examples of public defamation and threats to which historians Hrvoje Klasić and Dragan Markovina in Croatia, and activist Sonja Biserko and journalist Dinko Gruhonjić in Serbia are exposed. “In Serbia, individuals opposing historical revisionism are facing more difficulties than those in Croatia, to the extent to which the Croatian society is more pluralistic than the one in Serbia”, said Bešlin.

Valon Ramadani from Kosovo, Sidita Zaja from Albania and Milena Čalić-Jelić from Croatia spoke about the challenges that human rights defenders are faced with and about the particularly vulnerable groups of human rights defenders. Alma Mašić of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, historian Milivoj Bešlin from Novi Sad, Executive Director of the Human Rights Action from Montenegro Tea Gorjanc Prelević, Venera Çoçaj of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Kosovo and Milena Vasić of Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights discussed favorable environment for the work of human rights defenders, their relationship with the police and judiciary, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association, and human rights education.

One of the questions raised at the third panel was about the activities of the civil society that contribute to enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders. Panelists who offered answers to this question were Uranija Pirovska of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, Daliborka Uljarević of the Centre for Civic Education from Montenegro, Ivan Novosel of the Human Rights House in Croatia, Milan Antonijević of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights and Snježana Ivandić of the Association for Democratic Initiatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina.




















STRANA 1/5 ::: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5











Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment