Posts Tagged ‘nationalist group’

Ultranationalists attack human rights defenders, including Natasa Kandic, in Belgrade

February 7, 2020

Nataša Kandić, the founder of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), an NGO documenting human rights violations across the former Yugoslavia, along with five other human rights defenders, organized a protest against Vojislav Šešelj’s book launch. Although the International Criminal Tribunal of the UN found Vojislav Šešelj guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to ten years in prison in 2018, today he is the leader of the Serb Radical Party (SRS), and a member of Serbian parliament. At the book launch on 5 February 2020, he was promoting his latest book, in which he denies the Srebrenica genocide. The protesters were physically attacked and removed from the event by force.

The human rights defenders (members of the HLC, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, and Forum ZFD) intended to hand out copies of an HLC report detailing Serbian war crimes committed against Croats, documents that had a crucial role in Šešelj’s Hague trial as well. Speaking to the Belgrade office of Radio Free Europe, Nataša Kandić said that they were pushed to the ground and kicked by SRS members following an order coming from Šešelj, the party’s leader. Ivana Žanić, executive director of HLC, shared a video showing this on her Twitter channel.

The founder of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), along with five other activists of HLC, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YiHR) and Forum ZFD, was physically assaulted by members of the far-right Serbian Radical Party at an event promoting books which deny genocide and crimes against humanity in the former Yugoslavia.

The human rights activists attempted to distribute a HLC report detailing war crimes committed against Croats in the Vojvodina province when they were confronted by supporters of the Radical party . On orders of the party’s president, convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, they proceeded to push, hit and verbally abuse the activists; violently forcing them out of the public hall.

The attack took place at the premises of the municipality Stari Grad in Belgrade, which is a public space, yet no staff or security personnel attempted to intervene to prevent the confrontation.

Natasa Kandic is the recipient of many (eight) human rights awards including the Martin Ennals Award in 1999 the first award by Civil Rights Defenders 2013. Its Director for Europe, Goran Miletic, commented “it is very concerning that time and again, every discussion on Serbia’s involvement in war crimes during the nineties is met with violent abuse and harassment. Events promoting genocide-denial are completely unacceptable in any democratic society, let alone an aspiring EU member state. Not only should public authorities not provide public spaces for such manifestations, but they should take an active position against the promotion of war criminals.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/natasa-kandic/

http://www.osaarchivum.org/press-room/announcements/ultranationalists-attacked-natasa-kandic

Attack Against Civil Rights Defender of the Year Recipient Natasa Kandic in Belgrade

 

Vito’s trial in Georgia opens – crucial to challenge raising hate crimes

April 22, 2019

Vitali Safarov – Image: Svitlana Valko

……The investigation and trial into Vitali Safarov’s murder is the first time Georgian law enforcement are dealing with an alleged hate crime murder. And proving “ethnic hatred” as a motive, and that the crime was carried out by a group, is not an easy task for the prosecution – and requires a high level of professionalism. It took more than half a year for Georgian investigators to collect evidence and witness statements, as well as to conduct several expert examinations. According to Agit Mirzoev, head of the Centre for Participation and Development, both suspects are believed to be members of a neo-Nazi group that is known for having attacked foreign citizens and homeless persons in a central Tbilisi neighbourhood. Speaking to Ekho Kavkaza on 16 April, defence counsels stated that neither Kandelakishvili, nor Sokhadze were involved in a neo-Nazi organisation.

Mirzoev says that the suspects’ social network accounts were filled with far-right images and music. Here, according to Mirzoev, Sokhadze and Kandelakishvili paid respect to Adolf Hitler, bragged about cleansing the city of homeless persons, made threats against LGBT persons, and published videos of themselves training with bladed weapons and killing stray dogs. Sokhadze, who is believed to be a leader of the group, used the nickname “Slayer” online. Sokhadze’s social media account has since been deleted after the arrest, but prosecutors and the Centre for Participation and Development have screenshots.

Human rights groups have worked hard to keep the investigation in the public spotlight and encourage Georgian law enforcement to rise to the challenge. Initially the prosecutor’s office inclined to ignore the hate motive and charged only Kandelakishvili with premeditated murder, treating Sokhadze as a passive accomplice and charging him with not reporting the crime. But public pressure has worked: on 16 April, the prosecution charged both suspects with premeditated murder, committed by a group, on the grounds of ethnic hatred. If convicted, the defendants face sentences of between 13 to 17 years in prison. Neither defendant admitted their guilt.

…….Furthermore, on 16 April, the defence lawyers asked the judge to dismiss all evidence and witness testimonies presented by the prosecution. They claimed the evidence had been manipulated “in the interest of a certain segment of the population” – clearly referring to members of civil society and others who insist that the murder was a hate crime. The judge rejected the defence’s motion, admitting all evidence and witnesses from both the prosecution and the defence. The evidence will now be presented by the parties and reviewed by the judge during further sessions of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks. The next session is scheduled for 24 April.

… And the trial’s outcome is important in Georgia, a multi-ethnic country with centuries-old traditions of diversity – and where different cultures, languages and faiths co-exist. Sadly, Georgia is also a place where today the extreme right are growing in numbers and strength. Indeed, the struggle for justice for Vitali has spurred an anti-xenophobia campaign (“Georgia: No Place for Hate”), which is organised by his colleagues in the Centre for Participation and Development and other local NGOs. Right before the beginning of the hearings, over a hundred people gathered in front of the court building for a solidarity demonstration. They held photographs of Vitali and posters calling for a Georgia without hatred and racism, demanding justice and no impunity for the perpetrators. Activists and friends of Vitali wore pins reading “Never forget”, complete with his image. As he watched the participants of the action, Leri Safarov, Vitali’s father, could not hold back tears. “Only now am I starting to really know my son and understand what he was doing. Please carry on his work.”

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/vitali-safarov-trial-georgia/

Let Ukraine not distract from ongoing repression of human rights defenders in Russia

May 18, 2014

In an excellent piece written for CNN, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, on 15 May gives an overview of the different measures that threaten human rights defenders in Russia. While attention is on Ukraine,  a vicious crackdown on civil society in Russia itself also escalated with every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal:HRW_logo

  • The authorities have blocked or essentially took editorial control over a number of independent news portals and are pushing new laws to stifle freedom of expression.
  • A week ago, President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring Russian bloggers with significant followings to register with the authorities and comply with media regulations.
  • The same law requires blogging services and social networks to store user activity for six months.
  • Another legislative proposal would introduce administrative and criminal offenses for editors who publish “false anti-Russian” information or offer media support to “anti-Russian extremist and separatist forces.”
  • Another new draft law introduces a ban on publishing negative information about the Russian government and military.
  • Also, amendments presently under review by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, would enable the authorities to throw people behind bars for up to five years for repeated participation in unauthorized public protests.

At the same time the infamous Russian law “on foreign agents”, Read the rest of this entry »

Russian NGO KHRC Memorial attacked after being labeled foreign agent

May 28, 2013

On 18 May 2013, a meeting of the Komi Human Rights Commission Memorial (KHRC Memorial) was aggressively interrupted by members of the radical nationalist group “Rubezh Severa” (Northern Border). Members of KHRC Memorial had gathered in a local cafeteria in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, Russia, to report on their work and financial situation for the period 2011-13. The meeting was public, and several journalists had been invited. As soon as the meeting began, members of the radical right group entered the room, calling the group foreign agents and waving banners, one of which read “Motherland for Sale, Reasonable Price”. Members of the human rights group managed to force the intruders out of the café and called the police, but not before two leaders, Igor Sazhin and Pavel Andreyev had ketchup thrown at their heads. The police detained the intruders and released them after administrative protocol had been completed. The incident comes just a few weeks after the KHRC Memorial received a warning from the Prosecutor’s Office on 27 April 2013, stating that some of its activities, such as its participation in protest actions were ‘political activity’. As such, the organisation is required to register as a ‘foreign agent‘ under the controversial ‘Foreign Agents’ Law, as it also receives funds from abroad. Front Line Defenders believes the attack is a possible effect of the new ‘Foreign Agents’ Law.