Posts Tagged ‘Serbia’

Human Rights Defender “v.” Freedom of Expression

April 19, 2017

On 4 April 2017 the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment1 in the case of Milisavljević v. Serbia (application no. 50123/06) in which it unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. What makes the case particularly interesting is that it concerns Natasa Kandic a well-known human rights defender who has won several awards including the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA) in 1999. [see also :] Nothing is simple when it comes to human rights……

A journalist, Ms Milisavljević, had published in September 2003 an article in Politika about Kandic in which this journalist quoted another journalist who said that Kandic had been called a witch and a prostitute. Natasha Kandic sued for libel and the Serbian courts held that by failing to put one particular sentence – “Ms Kandić [had] been called a witch and a prostitute” – in quotation marks the journalist had tacitly endorsed the words as her own.

The European Court found that it was evident, even without the quotation marks, that that sentence, written by another journalist and previously published in a different magazine, had not been Ms Milisavljević’s personal opinion of Ms Kandić, but that she had merely been transmitting how Ms Kandić was perceived by others. Moreover, the domestic courts, limiting their reasoning to the lack of quotation marks, had completely failed to balance Ms Kandić’s right to reputation against Ms Milisavljević’s freedom of expression and duty, as a journalist, to impart information of general interest.

 CASE OF MILISAVLJEVIĆ v. SERBIA – Application no. 50123/06)

Swiss Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders analyzed by civil society

November 2, 2014

In December 2013, the Swiss Government became one of the few countries to issue specific Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders ( As in the case of all guidelines, the real test is in the implementation and on 12 June 2014, the Centre for Peacebuilding (KOFF) at Swisspeace organized a conference on the protection of HRDs, which brought together HRDs from Guatemala, Honduras, Serbia, Russia and Sri Lanka, Swiss government officials and representatives of Swiss civil society in order to give consideration to the different challenges that exist when it comes to HRD protection and, in particular, implementation of the Swiss guidelines.

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Aida Corovic, human rights defender, threatened by extremist groups in Serbia

December 5, 2013

Aida Corovic, human rights defender from Sandzak, SerbiaCivil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the death threats directed towards Aida Corovic, a leading human rights defender in Sandzak, Serbia, and requests a quick and firm response from the authorities. “We have seen too much tolerance towards radical and extremist groups who use violence and threats”, says Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans of the Stockholm-based NGO. Aida Corovic is head of the organisation Urban–In from Novi Pazar. Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting Serbia and Kosovo, UN High Commissioner urges political will to solidify human rights and support HRDs

June 21, 2013

In June 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited former Yugoslavia. In both Serbia and Kosovo she mentioned that human rights defenders have a key role to play:

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navane...

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Serbian Nataša Kandić receives first Civil Rights Defender of the Year awar

April 7, 2013

Natasa Kandic, Photo: Markus Junghard

(Natasa Kandic, Photo: Markus Junghard)

Nataša Kandić, founder of Humanitarian Law Center in Serbia and 1999 MEA Laureate, has been awarded the 2013 “Civil Rights Defender of the Year Award” for her “persistent and fearless work on documenting war crimes and the most serious human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia, and for supporting war crimes trials by providing courts with evidence and witnesses.” Nataša’s human rights work has put her life at risk but her concern has always been with the war crime victims and not her own persona. “Those who choose to work with human rights connected to war cannot be afraid. I have never thought about risks. I am always only thinking about uncovering the truth about the crimes that have been committed and seeking the conviction of those responsible. There is no room for fear”, she stated.  Read the rest of this entry »

Anne Klein Award 2013 goes to Lepa Mlađenović, Serbian Women’s and Human Rights Activist

December 11, 2012

Lepa Mlađenović – Serbian activist, feminist, counselor – is the winner of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Anne Klein Women’s Award. The award ceremony will take place in Berlin on 1 March 2013. The prize money is 10.000 €.

Lepa Mlađenović, the second winner of the Anne Klein Women’s Award, is a courageous woman who has continuously fought against violence and militarism and for freedom, human rights, and sexual self-determination. The statement of the jury as well as a short biography and a profile of Lepa Mlađenović and a downloadable photo of the awardee are available at

Human rights defender of the month: Svetlana Lukic

February 28, 2012

For 2012 Civil Rights Defenders, a NGO based in Stockholm, has started an interesting campaign: the Human Rights Defenders of the Month. Amnesty International has long done this for the ‘prisoner of the month’ and we should welcome the effort to focus similarly on HRDs. Whether the organisation will manage to keep a good international spread in view its current strong emphasis on Eastern Europe (understandable as it is the successor of the Helsinki committee) is another matter. The case of Svetlana Lukic is certainly a very deserving one which reminds me of the work done by Natasha Kandic, the 1999 MEA laureate.

During the Balkan wars in the 1990s the Serbian journalist Svetlana Lukic was suspended twice from her post at Radio Belgrade because of the way she chose to report. Even after the fall of Milosevic’s regime in year 2000, the pressure continued. Today most media outlets in Serbia are heavily controlled by political and business elites. One exception is the radio program Pescanik (in English: The Hourglass), which has gone from 100.000 listeners per week to 475.000 in the past five years. The Pescanik web portal has around 7.000 visitors a day. Several media houses, among them the national Public Broadcasting Service, have described Pescanik as ‘anti-Serbian’ or ‘treacherous’; an opinion also shared by right wing and fascist groups.

“Whenever I feel afraid for my safety, I am ashamed because I remember all those people I saw during the wars in the 90s who suffered and had real reasons to be afraid. Some of them are not alive any more.”

Ten years after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, Serbia is still dealing with the political, economic and cultural burden inherited from the conflicts that lasted for more than 10 years in the 1990-s. The country is deeply affected by issues like dealing with the past, the inability to secure continuity in the reform processes, a deep division between pro-European and right wing blocks and a lack of awareness on basic human rights and accountability of duty holders. Governments are ultimately responsible for human rights and democratic reforms. In transitional societies, however, like Serbia, the civil society is the driving force for the observance of human rights. They play a key role by continually monitoring the machinery of power, providing independent information and space for debate, as well as working to ensure that the state and its representatives take responsibility when mistakes are made. The majority of media outlets in Serbia are heavily controlled by political and business elites. There is a tendency to support policies of the current government uncritically, and to avoid coverage of issues that could politically damage the current holders of political power.

According to Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index for 2011-2012, Serbia is ranked 80 out of 179: “In a new and regular phenomenon since national independence, journalists have been the victims of reprisals for investigating the country’s criminal underworld and its growing influence in political and financial circles.”

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