U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Yugoslavia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Yugoslavia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1920.html [accessed 9 October 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
SERBIA-MONTENEGROSerbia-Montenegro, a constitutional republic, is dominated by Slobodan Milosevic who, after two terms as President of Serbia, became Federal President in July. President Milosevic continues to control the country through his role as President of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)--a dual role arrangement proscribed by the federal Constitution--and his domination of other formal and informal institutions. Although the SPS lacks majorities in both the Federal and Serbian Parliaments, it controls governing coalitions and holds the key administrative positions. Serbia abolished the political autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina in 1990, and all significant decisionmaking since that time has been centralized under Milosevic in Belgrade. The Milosevic regime effectively controls the judiciary and has used this power to manipulate the election process, most notably to reverse opposition victories in Serbian municipal elections over the winter of 1996-97--an effort that the regime abandoned in February after sustained domestic and international pressure. During 1997 the international community continued to work intensively with the Milosevic regime to implement the Dayton Accords, a step-by-step process designed to end the war in Bosnia and secure the peace. United Nations (U.N.) sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) were formally lifted in 1996. The FRY is still not permitted to participate in the United Nations (U.N.), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or other international organizations and financial organizations. The United States and the international community do not recognize Serbia-Montenegro as the successor state to the former Yugoslavia. As a key element of his hold on power, President Milosevic effectively controls the Serbian police, a heavily armed force of over 100,000 that is responsible for internal security. After his move to the Federal presidency, Milosevic precipitated a crisis when he tried to wrest control of the Montenegrin police from Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. Serbian police committed extensive and systematic human rights abuses. Despite the suspension of U.N. sanctions, economic performance has been anemic. Unemployment and underemployment remained high as the Government was unable or unwilling to introduce necessary restructuring measures. The Government has not implemented sweeping economic reforms, including privatization, which could undermine the regime's crony system. Largely as a result of the central bank's tight monetary policy and the partial selloff of the state telecommunications entity, inflationary pressures were kept relatively in check. The Government's human rights record continued to be poor. The police committed numerous, serious abuses including extrajudicial killings, torture, brutal beatings, and arbitrary arrests. Police repression continued to be directed against ethnic minorities, and police committed the most widespread and worst abuses against Kosovo's 90-percent ethnic Albanian population. Police repression was also directed against the Muslims of Sandzak and detainees and citizens who protested against the Government. While under the Constitution citizens have a right to stage peaceful demonstrations, the police seriously beat scores of protesters throughout the country, sending many to hospitals. The Government used its continued domination of Parliament and the media to enact legislation to manipulate the electoral process. In practice citizens cannot exercise the right to change their government. The judicial system is not independent of the Government and does not ensure fair trials. The authorities infringe on citizens' right to privacy. The Government used police and economic pressure against the independent press and media and restricted freedom of assembly and association. The Government infringed on freedom to worship by minority religions and on freedom of movement. The Government continues to hinder international and local human rights groups and reject their findings. Discrimination and violence against women remained serious problems. Discrimination against ethnic Albanian, Muslim, and Romani minorities continues. The regime limits unions not affiliated with the Government in their attempts to advance worker rights. Montenegro was the only relatively bright spot, although Milosevic's influence threatens to complicate the republic's as yet unproven efforts at democratization. In July Montenegro's increasingly reformist Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic, successfully fought off an attempt by Milosevic to change the Federal Constitution and boost the powers of the Federal presidency. Djukanovic appears to be resisting attempts by Milosevic to consolidate Montenegro's security apparatus-with its relatively clean human rights record since 1995-under the Belgrade regime. The results of the October presidential election, in which Milo Djukanovic defeated the incumbent, Momir Bulatovic, were questioned by the central authorities despite being endorsed as free and fair by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As a signatory of the Dayton Accords, Serbia-Montenegro is obliged to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia by turning over to the Tribunal the five persons on its territory who were indicted for war crimes. The Government has so far been uncooperative. According to credible reports, some of those indicted live in Serbia, and others freely travel in and out of Serbia. Over the summer, suspected war criminal Ratko Mladic vacationed in Montenegro and earlier, according to press reports, attended his son's well-publicized wedding ceremony in Belgrade.