Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2004 - Serbia-Montenegro

Harassment of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia83

On 26 March 2004, the offices of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (HCHR), based in Belgrade, were searched by the military police on an order issued by the magistrate M. Vuk Tufegdzic.

During the search, copies of the book Military Secret were seized. The book contains the minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Military Council from 1999 – 2000 on the activities carried out by the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against the opposition. At the end of 2004, the confiscated books had still not been returned.

The author of the book, Mr. Vladan Vlakovic, was charged with "divulging military secrets" (art. 224 §1 and §2 of the Criminal Code) and placed under temporary detention on 18 March 2004, immediately after the publication of his book. Although he was set free on 16 April 2004, the formal charges brought against him were not lifted. In late 2004, the case was part of the case brought against General Perisic, an opponent of the Government who was accused of revealing confidential information to members of the US armed forces.

Kosovo: a forbidden subject

Defamation of NGOs84

Following the resurgence of violence in Kosovo in March 2004, a defamation campaign was launched in a certain number of newspapers and television channels against some female members of human rights NGOs. Mrs. Natasha Kandic, director of the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC), Mrs. Sonja Biserko, director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Mrs. Biljana Kovacevic, director of the Committee of Jurists for the Protection of Human Rights, and Mrs. Borka Pavicecic, director of the Centre for Cultural Decontamination were all personally attacked after having accused the Government of Serbia and the police of being the instigators of the violence. They were all accused of dealing in politics and of having no compassion for the Serbs who were also victims of violence in Kosovo; they were called "unpatriotic". On 28 March 2004, Mr. Vojislav Kostunica, the Prime Minister of Serbia, declared on the television station BK TV that it was because of NGOs that Serbia had a poor image.

This hostile attitude was also directed to journalists who exposed human rights violations. On 28 March 2004, a bomb was found under a vehicle belonging to a team of television journalists working for the independent television station B92. They had just come back from Kosovska Mitrovica in Kosovo, where they had been covering the violence that had led to the death of approximately 30 people.

Assault and threats against Mrs. Svetlana Djordjevic85

On 27 June 2004, Mrs. Svetlana Djordjevic, a journalist specialised in Kosovo, was assaulted in her home in Vranje, by a masked assailant who poured a liquid substance into her mouth, injected her with an unknown substance and threatened her with death if she did not publicly state that what she had written was not true. The assailant left her unconscious with a red rose in her hand, the symbol of the former Serbian secret service. He told that she "had fifteen days to publicly state, on channel B92, that everything [she] had written or said was a lie." He added that it was a "warning", that "[they] did not play around and would be back". Mrs. Djordjevic was then taken to the hospital.

Mrs. Djordjevic is the author of a book entitled Witness Reports on Kosovo, which was published by HLC in July 2003. The book describes human rights violations committed by the Kosovo police in 1998 and 1999 (expulsions, ill-treatment, the executions of Albanian civilians and the burning down of their homes). The book lists the names of the persons who carried out these acts.

After the attack, Mrs. Djordjevic left her home in order to protect her family and requested special protection from the police. The members of the police force who were assigned to protect her were however the same people who accused her of treason. The situation continued to worsen, forcing Mrs. Djordjevic to leave her home. She was living in hiding since the latter part of 2004.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

82. See Annual Report 2003 and Letter to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, 11 May 2004.

83. See Open Letter to the authorities of Serbia-Montenegro, 5 May 2004.

84. See Open Letter to the authorities of Serbia-Montenegro, 28 September 2004.

85. Idem.


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