Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Serbia

Sentencing of Ms. Natalija Lazic62

On July 7, 2006, the Belgrade District Court upheld the verdict of the Second Municipal Court that had convicted Ms. Natalija Lazic, a nurse, for "defamation" and sentenced her to pay a fine of 50,000 Serbian dinars (about 645 euros) on March 13, 2006. She was also ordered to repay the court and Prosecutor expenses (25,000 and 5,000 dinars respectively). Ms. Lazichad been sued on July 21, 2005 by Mr. Miodrag Radovanovic, also known as Deimbacher, in connection with a statement she had made during the show "Kljuc"on RTS channel on May 16, 2003, in which she had denounced the involvement of Mr. Radovanovicin sexual abuses perpetrated against a ten-year old Roma boy on November 15, 2002 in the town of Veliko Graditte.

During the first trial, Ms. Lazichad been convicted after only one hearing and the Court had refused to hear the witnesses called by her lawyer, including representatives of the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) and of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Defamation campaign against YUCOM63

On September 3, 2006, in an article entitled "Silence! The Committee is listening to you", Ms. Ljiljana Smajlovic, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Politika, questioned the financing of the Yugoslav Committee of Lawyers (YUCOM), implying that it was funded by US sponsors, and presented the organisation's activities as contravening freedom of information.

On September 8, 2006, Ms. Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco and Mr. Milan Antonijevic, YUCOM president and executive director respectively, requested that Ms. Ljiljana Smajlovic publish an official rectification to the article, which was issued by Politika on September 12, 2006. Ms. Kovacevic-Vuco was also targeted by smear campaigns in the weekly NIN in August 2006, which presented her and Ms. Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, as "children of communism".

Intimidation against Ms. Natasa Kandic, Ms. Sonja Biserko and Ms. Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco64

On September 4, 2006, Mr. Sinisa Vucinic, president of the nationalist radical party, declared in a letter published in the daily Kurir and entitled "Women in the line of fire" that Ms. Natasa Kandic, HLC executive director, Ms. Sonja Biserko and Ms. Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco's lives were in danger. He stated that "the three women [were going to] be abducted and killed by foreign special services in such a way that the international community would blame the crime on Serbian authorities, in response to their support to Mr. Martii Ahtisaari". In the letter, Mr. Vucinic also "advised" the three women "to immediately cease their activities and seek asylum in a safer place".

This followed a controversy emanating from the misinterpretation of statements made on August 8, 2006 by Mr. Martii Ahtisaari, UN Special Envoy in charge of the negotiations on the status of Kosovo. Mr. Ahtisaari had declared that "the policy implemented by Slobodan Milosevic had to be taken into account in decisions concerning Kosovo" and that "every Nation had to bear the price of the actions taken by its past leaders". The ensuing controversy resulted in an upsurge of nationalist statements, some of which directly targeted at the three women, known to be in favour of the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes.

On September 11, 2006, the Prosecutor ordered the opening of an investigation into those statements.

[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.]

62. See Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC), and Press Release, October 31, 2006.

63. See YUCOM.

64. See Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.


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