Acts of harassment against the HLC office and threats against Ms. Natasa Kandic, HLC Executive Director- SER 001 / 0208 / OBS 026

26/02/2008
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) about acts of harassment against the HLC office and threats against Ms. Nataša Kandić, HLC Executive Director.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Serbia.

Brief description of the situation:

According to the information received, on February 21, 2008, around 22:00, subsequent to the protest that took place in Belgrade against the independence of Kosovo [1], unidentified persons threw a flare at the doorstep and the door of the HLC office, causing damage. The security guard of the company next door to the HLC office put out the fire after the attackers left the scene. According to eyewitnesses, police conducted an investigation into this event the same night around midnight. Even though HLC had asked the police to provide security for the HLC office in prevision of the demonstration, not a single police officer could be seen either during or after the protest and the mass held at the St. Sava Temple located in the vicinity of the HLC office.

These events occurred in a context in which, on February 19, 2008, Mr. Ivica Dačić, a member of the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), was advocating the banning of all political parties and NGOs that recognised Kosovo as independent. He specifically singled out Ms. Nataša Kandić, who attended the ceremony declaring independence at Kosovo’s Parliamentary Assembly on February 17, 2008. On the same day, the SPS would also have filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Kandić for “inciting others to compromise the territorial integrity of Serbia”.

Besides, a number of media and politicians have openly encouraged acts of violence against Ms. Nataša Kandić. On February 19, 2008, the daily Večernje Vovosti published an article entitled, “Nataša [Kandić], the woman who does not exist”, implying that as a non-person, her elimination would be without consequences. On February 24, 2008, Politika daily newspaper relayed the statement made by the Minister of Infrastructure Velimir Ilić, in which he called for the arrest of Ms. Kandić and others, saying that “there are traitors in Serbia and they have been identified”. Tabloids have called for citizens every day to take concrete measures against “traitors”. On February 24, 2008, Gazeta relayed that fashion designer V.R. ordered her retailers not to let Ms. Kandić enter her shops. A restaurant owner has also sent a message to Ms. Kandić telling her not to come to his restaurant. People have approached her on the street and threatened her using the exact words that Minister Ilić used.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about this widespread campaign of harassment against Ms. Nataša Kandić as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning her human rights activities, and urges the Serbian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances her physical and psychological integrity as well as all human rights defenders in Serbia.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Serbia, urging them to:

i.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Nataša Kandić and all human rights defenders in Serbia;

ii.Order a thorough and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned threats, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

iii.Put an end to the harassment against all human rights defenders in Serbia;

iv.Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 11 which reads that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession” and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v.Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Serbia.

Addresses:

i.Mr. Vojislav Kostunica, Prime Minister of Serbia. Office of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Belgrade, Nemanjina 11. Serbia. Tel: 3617-719; Fax: 3617-609. Email: predsednikvladesrbije@srbija.sr.gov.yu
ii.Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic, Belgrade, Nemanjina 11, Serbia. Tel: 3617-593; 3617-580; Fax: 3617-597. Email: kabinet.potpredsednika@sr.gov.yu
iii.Mr. Vuk Jeremic, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgrade, Kneza Milosa 22-26, Serbia. Tel: 3615-055; 3616-333; Fax: 3618-366; 3618-379.
iv.Mr. Dragan Jocic, Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, Belgrade, Kneza Milosa 101, Serbia. Tel: 3612-410; Fax: 3617-814; 3610-872. Email: muprs@mup.sr.gov.yu
v.Mr. Dusan Petrovic, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, Belgrade, Nemanjina 22-26, Serbia. Ttel/fax: 3616-548; 3616-549. Email: kabinet@mpravde.sr.gov.yu
vi.Mr. Velimir Ilic, Minister of Infrastructure, Ministry of Infrastructure, Belgrade, Nemanjina 22-26. Serbia. Tel: 3616-431; Fax: 3617-486.
vii.Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin Thury 5, 1206 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: + 41 22 839 33 59. Email: mission.serbia@bluewin.ch

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Serbia in your respective country.

***
Geneva-Paris, February 26, 2008

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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