Posted 2008/2/22

Serbia: Threats against human rights defenders and organisations in Serbia following independence of Kosovo

Front Line is deeply concerned following information received of threats against human rights defenders, including Natasa Kandic, the Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Centre, and human rights organisations operating in Serbia, in the context of the official declaration of Kosovo's independence.

Further Information

Posted 22/02/2008 On 20 February 2008, the opposition Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) announced that it had begun collecting signatures as part of a campaign to lodge a criminal complaint against Natasa Kandic, the Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Centre. Natasa Kandic was present in the Kosovan assembly at the time of the adoption of the declaration of Kosovo's independence on 18 February 2008. The SPS have accused her of acting against the constitutional order and threatening the “State's independence and integrity”. These accusations by the SPS have been supported by much of the media in Serbia and the tabloid press has reportedly embarked on a campaign of defamation against Natasa Kandic, accusing her of being a traitor. On 19 February 2008, the daily newspaper Novosti published a piece entitled “Natasa, the woman who does not exist“, declaring that Natasa Kandic is a “non-person” and inciting its readers to the view that nothing would be lost by her “elimination”.

According to information received there has been a recent increase in threats and restrictions against human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Serbia prior to, and in reaction to, the official declaration of Kosovo's independence. During a parliamentary session on 19 February 2008, Ivica Dacic, the leader of the SPS called for all non-governmental organisations that recognised Kosovo's independence to be banned.

Front Line believes that the call for non-governmental organisations who support Kosovo's independence to be banned, as well as the criminal complaint and smear campaign against human rights defender Natasa Kandic, form part of a campaign aimed at stigmatizing human right defenders and human rights organisations operating in Serbia, portraying them as enemies of the country. Front Line also expresses its concerns for the security and physical and psychological integrity of Natasa Kandic.

Action Update Needed. Before taking further action on this case please contact info@frontlinedefenders.org for further information