Judicial proceedings against Ms. Nataša Kandić - SER 001 / 1105 / OBS 113

16/11/2005
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that the Belgrade District Prosecution opened a preliminary criminal procedure against Ms. Nataša Kandić, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), for slander and verbal offence.

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 and Montenegro.

Brief description of the situation:

According to the information received, a preliminary criminal procedure was opened on September 9, 2005, following a criminal complaint lodged by the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) against Ms. Kandić and Mr. Veran Matić, editor-in-chief of TV channel B92. This complaint followed Ms. Kandic’s TV-broadcasted statement June 13, 2005 on the responsibility of SRS vice-president, Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, in the 1991 killing of civilians in the Croatian village of Matic (see background information). The first hearing in this preliminary procedure was held on November 7, 2005.

In accordance to the provisions of the ex-Criminal Code, Ms. Kandić, if convicted, could face up to three years of imprisonment, and, in accordance to the provisions of the new criminal code (which was adopted in October 2005 and will be implemented from January 1, 2006), up to three months of imprisonment.

The Observatory is preoccupied by these facts as they take place in a context of harassment and hostility to human rights defenders in Serbia and Montenegro, especially those who fight against impunity relating to war crimes committed under the former Yugoslavian regime.


Background information:

With claims that human rights NGOs conduct an "anti-Serb campaign", slandering campaigns and acts of violence were carried out against several defenders in Serbia and Montenegro during summer 2005 (See Observatory Open letter to the authorities, August 30, 2005).

Indeed, on July 10, 2005, the human rights NGO Women in Black carried out a protest in Belgrade to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. The protest was disrupted violently as a group of extremists threw tear gas at the protesters and insulted the human rights defenders present, including Ms. Nataša Kandić.

On July 11, 2005, a star of David was sprayed on the plaque of HLC in a similar incident to the one on March 22, 2005, when messages were written on a wall across the HLC office. The messages included: "Nataša Kandić is a Jewish pawn - a humble servant of the Jewish world order"; "Fight for Serbia until final victory"; "Say No to the Zionist occupation of the world", etc. This had already happened once in 2004 when anti-semitic graffiti were found on the door of the HLC in the night of November 4, accusing Mrs. Kandić of being a " lackey of Jewish zionism"; two swatsikas and the mention "Serbia for the Serbs" were then signed by the fascist Group "Combat 18" (see Annual Report 2004 of the Observatory).

Finally, the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) has filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Nataša Kandić and the editor-in-chief of TV channel B92 for Ms. Kandić’s TV-broadcasted statement on the responsibility of the vice-president of SRS, Mr. Tomislav Nikolić, in the 1991 killing of civilians in the Croatian village of Matić. The complaint was dismissed by the Fourth Municipal Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade. On July 23, 2005, the General Secretary of SRS and member of the Parliament, Mr. Aleksandar Vucić, announced in a press conference that Mr. Nikolić himself would file a civil complaint against Ms. Kandić. He also threatened that if by October 15 the case did not result in a condamnation, there would be "half a million people in the streets of Belgrade".


Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Serbia and Montenegro and ask them to:

i. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Serbia and Montenegro;

ii. ensure that Ms. Nataša Kandić be granted a fair and impartial trial so that the charges against her be dropped, as they are arbitrary

iii. put an immediate end to any kind of violence, act of retaliation and harassment against human rights defenders ;

iv. comply with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of United Nations on December, 9 1998; in particular its article 1 that states "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", as well as article 12.2., which states 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. conform with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international and regional instruments relative to human rights, binding Serbia and Montenegro.

Addresses:

- Mr. Svetozar Marovic, President of Serbia and Montenegro, Bulevar Mihaila Pupina 2, 11070 Novi Beograd, Fax: 381 11 3015055 / 3113944, E-mail: kabinet@predsednikscg.yu

- Mr. Vojislav Kostunica, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Nemanjina 11, 11000 Beograd, Serbia and Montenegro. Fax: +381 11 3617585; 657379; 3617698; Email: ooc@srbija.sr.gov.yu

- Mr. Zoran Stojkovic, Minister of Justice, The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia, Nemanjina 22-26, fax: +381 11 3620596, Email: kabinetmp@mpravde.sr.gov.yu

- Mr. Vuk Draskovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and Montenegro, SMIP, Kneza Milosa 26, 11000 Beograd, Serbia and Montenegro, Fax: +381 11 3618052 / 3618010, Email: smip@smip.sv.gov.yu; mfa@smip.sv.gov.yu

- Mr. Dragan Jocic, Minister of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Kneza Milosa 101, fax: +381 11 3617585 / +381 11 3617814, Email: muprs@mup.sr.gov.yu

- Ambassador Mr. Dejan Sahovic, Permanent Mission of Serbia and Montenegro to the United Nations in Geneva, 5 Chemin Thury, 1206 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 839 33 59, Email: mission.Serbia-and-montenegro@bluemail.ch

Please also write to the embassies of Serbia and Montenegro in your respective country.

***

Geneva - Paris, November 16, 2005

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: observatoire@iprolink.ch

Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 1 43 55 20 11 / + 33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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