Open Letter to Svetozar Marovic President of Serbia-Montenegro and Vojislav Kostunica Prime Minister of Serbia

28/09/2004
Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deepest concern with regard to the deteriorating situation of Mrs. Svetlana Djordjevic in Serbia.

Mrs. Svetlana Djordjevic is the author of a book titled « Testimonies about Kosovo » published by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in July 2003. In this book, Mrs. Djordjevic describes human rights violations perpetrated by the police in Kosovo in 1998 and 1999, till the end of the NATO intervention, (evictions, maltreatment and killing of Albanian civilians, torching of their property, etc) and gives the full names of police officers, commanders and citizens who took part in human rights violations in the province.

Immediately after the publication of this book, Mrs. Djordjevic began receiving anonymous phone calls at her home and threatening notes stuck on the door of her flat in Vranje.

On 27th June, 2004, Mrs. Djordjevic was the victim of a physical attack. An unidentified man burst into her apartment, grabbed her mouth and poured an unknown liquid from a bottle. Then, he injected her in left upper arm with unidentified liquid. While she was still conscious, he said: "Starting from today, you have 15 days to go out publicly on television B92, and deny all you said and wrote, and to say that your book was ordered. This is just a notice, we are not kidding. We shall be back. You mustn’t say anything to anybody."

He then left, leaving a red rose in her hand, a sign which suggests that the threats could come from members of the now disbanded Special Operation Unit, whose misdeeds are pointed out in the book. Mrs. Djordjevic was finally found an hour after by her husband and transferred to hospital. An investigation was launched, but no information has been revealed till yet.

Following this attack, Mrs. Djordjevic left her home in order to protect her family, and asked for a special protection from the police, which has been granted to her. However, according to the information received, the policemen who are supposed to ensure her protection are the ones, that she denounces in her book and many officers in Vranje consider her as a traitor. Her situation, then, even more deteriorated, since she and the people by whom she lived became subjected to repeated acts of harassment from the police. As a consequence, Mrs. Djordjevic decided in the end of August to stay hidden for a while.

The Observatory is very concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Mrs. Djordjevic, as well as for the precarious situation in which she currently lives. The Observatory urges the highest authorities to put an effective end to the threats and harassment against her, as well as to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the threats and assault she has been the victim of, in order to identify those responsibilities, bring them to trial and apply penal, civil and/or administration sanction as provided by the law.

The Observatory also urges the Serbian authorities to conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its article 6b which provides that "everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms" and its 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 o 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".

In the hope you will take these considerations and request into account, we remain,

Sidiki Kaba Eric Sottas
President of the FIDH Director of the OMCT

Un programme de la FIDH et de l’OMCT - An FIDH and OMCT venture - Un programa de la FIDH y de la OMCT

Fédération Internationale
des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
17, Passage de la Main d’Or
75 011 Paris, France

Organisation Mondiale
Contre la Torture
Case postale 21 - 8 rue du Vieux-Billard
1211 Genève 8, Suisse

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