International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

State Department notes human rights issues in Serbia 2021 report


 April 13, 2022
The US State Department said in its 2021 report on human rights in Serbia that there were significant human rights issues in the country with some members of the security forces committing abuses.
“Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists; numerous acts of serious government corruption; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities; and crimes, including violence, targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals,” the report said.
It said that observers believed numerous cases of corruption, social and domestic violence, attacks on civil society, and other abuses went unreported and unpunished.
It said the police routinely beat detainees and harassed suspects, usually during arrest or initial detention with a view towards obtaining a confession, notwithstanding that such evidence is not permissible in court. “Police corruption and impunity remained problems, despite some progress on holding corrupt police officials accountable,” it added.
The report noted that prison conditions were sometimes harsh due to physical abuse and overcrowding. “Despite improvements to pretrial procedures, prolonged pretrial confinement remained a problem,” the report said.
The report said that Serbian courts remained susceptible to corruption and political influence with political pressure remaining a cause for concern following reports of government pressure against people critical of the judiciary. “Government officials and members of parliament continued to comment publicly regarding ongoing investigations, court proceedings, or on the work of individual judges and prosecutors,” it said.
It said that there were reports that the government failed to respect prohibitions on interfering with correspondence and communications with the police frequently failing to respect the law in that regard. Human rights activists and NGOs reported a lack of effective parliamentary oversight of security agencies, the report said.
It noted a lack of transparency of media ownership and added that the oversized role of the state in the country’s oversaturated media sector as well as threats and attacks on journalists undermined freedom of expression and the media and limited the ability of independent media to express a wide variety of views. “Tabloids remained popular and powerful conduits of disinformation,” it said and noted that United Group’s Nova newspaper had to be printed in neighboring Croatia because no one was willing to print it in Serbia.
It said that there were reports that the government actively sought to direct media reporting on several issues with economic pressure sometimes leading media outlets to practice self-censorship, refraining from publishing content critical of the government due to a fear of government harassment or economic consequences, according to media association representatives.
“During the year several media outlets published articles that accused numerous journalists, NGO activists, and independent institution representatives of being “traitors” to the country and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. NGOs and their employees received frequent threats that often mirrored or amplified rhetoric employed by public figures on social media. They were often targeted by distributed denial of service attacks against their websites,” it added.
“Although the internet remained unrestricted, the law obliges telecommunications operators to retain certain data for one year, including the source and destination of a communication; the beginning, duration, and end of a communication; the type of communication; terminal equipment identification; and the location of the customer’s mobile terminal equipment. While intelligence agencies may access this metadata without court permission, the law requires a court order to access the contents of these communications,” the report said.
The report said that there were numerous reported cases of indictments or convictions for corruption, although rule-of-law-focused NGOs noted that convictions in high-profile cases were exceedingly rare, which they claimed led to impunity for corrupt high-ranking public officials.
According to the report the Serbian government did not enforce the law effectively in cases of rape of women and domestic violence and quoted the ombudsman who said that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk of violence against women with disabilities, older women, women in rural areas, and Romani women. :According to women’s groups in the country, sexual innuendo in everyday speech and behavior was perceived as a joke and generally accepted as a form of communication and not considered serious harassment,” it said.
The report said that Roma and ethnic Albanians were subject to discrimination with the addresses of numerous Albanians from three municipalities in southern Serbia were “passivized” (rescinded), resulting in the loss of personal documents and access to health, educational, and social services.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/state-department-notes-human-rights-issues-in-serbia-2021-report/


Islamic Community head supports investigation into Zukorlic death

April 13, 2022
The head of the Islamic Community in Serbia on Wednesday lent support to the investigation into the death of ex-mufti turned politician Muamer Zukorlic.
Zukorlic died early in November 2021 reportedly of a heart attack but the family now believes that he might have been poisoned.
A press release said that Islamic Community head Mufti Mevlud Dudic met with the Zukorlic family and lent support to the investigation. It said that Zukorlic’s son Usame told Dudic that criminal charges have been filed with the family expecting immediate steps to determine the cause of his father’s death.
Earlier, Usame Zukorlic called a news conference to say that the family has reason to suspect that his father was poisoned. He said that unnamed people took samples from his father’s body. “It took a long time for us, the family, to find the adequate laboratories abroad for the necessary tests,” he said, adding that results came from two independent laboratories one of which said that there was a high probability that Zukorlic could have been poisoned with heavy metals and the other saying that his food was poisoned.
Muamer Zukorlic was a mufti in his native city of Novi Pazar in Western Serbia near the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina before forming a party and winning a seat in the Serbian parliament.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/islamic-community-head-supports-investigation-into-zukorlic-death/

Serbian market vendors in new protest in Belgrade

April 13, 2022
Market vendors from across Serbia gathered in Belgrade on Wednesday for a day-long protest against the mandatory introduction of cash registers.
The market vendors gathered in front of the Usce shopping center in New Belgrade and marched across the bridge to the Serbian state TV (RTS) building to express their dissatisfaction with the public broadcaster’s reporting before continuing to the Presidency building to request a meeting with Vucic.
“We sent in our requests and he (Vucic) is the man who got two million votes, some from us. If these people are in danger there has to at least some level of dignity. We need 15 minutes and are prepared to get any reply – whether he does or does not want to help or can’t help. We want an answer,” Association of Market Vendors official Srdjan Prastalo told N1 before the protest march. He added that the protest was planned to last until 6:00 pm.
Prastalo warned that most of he vendors would lose their livelihoods after May 1 when cash registers become mandatory for open air market stalls under a government e-fiscalization scheme.
The market vendors protested in March in front of the Finance Ministry, calling the government to revoke its decision to force them to have cash registers. Some of them spent the night of March 30-31 in front of the Serbian Presidency building hoping to be received by President Aleksandar Vucic but left the next morning. They submitted a petition signed by 16,000 people calling for an exemption from e-fiscalization.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-market-vendors-in-new-protest-in-belgrade/

CNN’s Robertson for N1- I interviewed Dodik, the West thought him a reformist

April 12, 2022
The United Kingdom sanctioned Bosnia’s Presidency member Milorad Dodik and Zeljka Cvijanovic, the President of the Republika Srpska (RS) entity for trying to violate the legitimacy and functionality of the State. These sanctions mean that Dodik and Cvijanovic will not be able to travel to the United Kingdom or use or access any property they may own in the United Kingdom.
CNN's foreign policy editor and former war reporter in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nic Robertson spoke for N1 regarding the sanctions and recalled the time when he interviewed Dodik, whom he said the West once considered a progressive politician and reformist.
Robertson said the West believed Dodik would work in the interest of BiH. This, he said, was before the Presidency member began expressing nationalist views. In his opinion, the case of Dodik and the war in Ukraine are an example of Russia’s foreign influence on third countries.
He believes that sanctions against BiH politicians such as Dodik and Cvijanovic are a correct move in protecting Europe’s stability and legal order.
Play the video above to see the entire interview hosted by N1’s Ika Ferrer-Gotic.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/cnns-robertson-for-n1-i-interviewed-dodik-the-west-thought-him-a-reformist/

US Embassy to BiH welcomes Schmidt's decision on RS’ property law

April 12, 2022
The US Embassy to BiH welcomed High Representative Christian Schmidt’s Tuesday decision to suspend the Republika Srpska (RS) Law on Immovable Property for breaking the Constitution, saying the international community had no other choice.
“It is unfortunate that RS leaders refused to engage constructively on the issue of state property and instead chose to take anti-Dayton, unconstitutional, unilateral action. Their refusal to participate in good faith in state-level institutions and in negotiations on state property left the international community with no choice but to act,” the US Embassy tweeted.
The international community’s High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina in charge of overseeing the implementation of the civilian aspect of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country, Christian Schmidt, suspended the unconstitutional RS Law on Immovable Property that gives the RS entity the right to dispose of Bosnia’s state property, such as forests and other resources.
He also warned anyone thinking of acting contrary to this decision that they would bear legal consequences.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/us-embassy-to-bih-welcomes-schmidts-decision-on-rs-property-law/

Defiant Dodik says RS’ property belongs to entity and Bonn Powers are powerless

April 12, 2022
The property of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity belongs to the RS and no Bonn or any other powers can do anything about it, Bosnian Serb Presidency member Milorad Dodik said Tuesday commenting on High Representative in BiH’s decision to suspend the RS Law on Immovable Property.
“Republika Srpska’s best sons did not die so that the unelected German Christian Schmidt could waste what they died for,” Dodik said.
He falsely reiterated that the issue of state property was resolved in the Dayton Peace Agreement, despite all interpreters of the Constitution claiming otherwise.
He also stated that Schmidt was “forced into trash politics by those who unconstitutionally raised the issue of property.”
“I call on the partners in Federation (FBiH) entity to respect the Constitution of BiH and the Dayton Peace Agreement, and I recommend Mr Schmidt to buy a one-way ticket to Germany. His vacation expired today,” said Dodik.
The High Representative in BiH Christian Schmidt made a decision Tuesday suspending the RS Law on Immovable Property.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/defiant-dodik-says-rs-property-belongs-to-entity-and-bonn-powers-are-powerless/

BiH politicians welcome Schmidt’s decision to suspend RS property law

April 12, 2022
Bosniak and Croat Presidency members Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic as well as Bosnia’s Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic welcomed High Representative to BiH’s Tuesday decision to suspend the Republika Srpska (RS) entity law on Immovable Property.
“The RS Law on Immovable Property, as well as other unconstitutional decisions, are directed against the Dayton Peace Agreement and 27 years of its implementation. That the RS entity authorities, led by Milorad Dodik, threaten BiH's sovereignty and territorial integrity with their secessionist decisions, is clear to the international public, relevant international institutions, the majority of BiH citizens and a significant part of the RS political public who did not approve of Dodik's anti-Dayton moves,” said Dzaferovic.
The High Representative made this decision, Dzaferovic added, in accordance with his obligations and mandate, defined by the Dayton Accords, and the decisions of the Peace Implementation Council as well as the accompanying Security Council resolutions reaffirming the Bonn powers.
“Between acting or resigning, Schmidt still chose to act, but is not enough, because he must annul all anti-constitutional laws and not just the anti-constitutional law on RS property,” Zeljko Komsic noted.
“The decision of the High Representative Christian Schmidt to annul the RS Law on Immovable Property is expected, legal and necessary, bearing in mind that the mentioned law directly violated the BiH Constitution. I believe that this decision will be another clear signal and message to stop any other attempt to undermine the state, its competencies, institutions and progress through legal violence and abuse of entity institutions,” Bisera Turkovic wrote on her Facebook account.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/bih-politicians-welcome-schmidts-decision-to-suspend-rs-property-law/

Croatia logs 699 new COVID-19 cases, eight deaths

April 12, 2022
In the last 24 hours 699 coronavirus cases, out of 5,004 tests, and eight related deaths have been registered in Croatia, the national COVID-19 crisis management team said on Tuesday.
There are 5,329 active cases, including 551 hospitalised patients, 27 of whom are on ventilators, while 3,461 persons are self-isolating.
Croatia has registered 1,109,847 coronavirus cases to date and the death toll is 15,702.
To date, 59.46% of the population, that is 70.72% of adults, has been vaccinated, including 68.63% of adults fully.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/croatia-logs-699-new-covid-19-cases-eight-deaths/

Coronavirus UPDATE: 9 deaths, 1,109 new cases

April 12, 2022
The Serbian Health Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Tuesday that 9 people died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 15,899.
It said that 12,699 people had been tested over the previous 24 hours, including 1,109 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The total number of people tested to date stands at 9,326,796 with 1,991,620 confirmed cases.
The bulletin said that there are 589 hospitalized cases, including 23 patients on ventilators.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/coronavirus-update-9-deaths-1109-new-cases/

Ron Haviv: Unlike war in the Balkans, the world is paying attention to Ukraine

April 12, 2022
World-renown photographer and war photojournalist who covered 25 conflicts, reported, among other things, on the wars in the Balkans from the 1990s, Ron Haviv, told N1 that the main difference between the wars in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s and the one in Ukraine is that the world is paying attention now and that there is no arms embargo.
“Diplomatic the activity has been going on for some time. In terms of similarity, the resilience of Ukrainians is similar to that of Croats and Bosniaks who fought to protect what they thought was right. We hope that this conflict will not last that long, but we will see if the world will continue to pay attention,” Haviv told N1.
Speaking about the scenes he witnessed in Ukraine, he said: “I watched the destruction of people's lives, ethnic cleansing, documenting those situations when people leave with bags in their hands, children, pets, it's very tragic. In the last few days, I have seen what happened to people who did not leave Buca and Irpin, I have seen these war crimes and atrocities. I thought I wouldn't photograph it again.”
Haviv believes the next phase of the war will be particularly brutal and cruel to civilians.
Comparing his work on both sides – from the 1990s and now he said:
“At the beginning of the war in BiH and Croatia, it was possible to access the Serb side, but that changed when they thought we were anti-Serb. There is no access to the Russian side if you are not a Russian journalist. Six journalists have been killed so far. I don't think there is any protection for journalists or civilians,” he said.
Asked about his motive for recording war casualties, Haviv said: “I think my work has an impact, we want to document and hold people accountable. During my work in BiH, it was used at the International Criminal Tribunal to file charges and it is a great thing in the long run, and in the short term people get tired of the war and our task as journalists is to remind people and governments that the war continues and that there are promises to the Ukrainian people.”
“These people are victims, and the question is whether we work for individuals or the common good. I believe it’s for the greater good and that these photos should be shown, but not the ones that degrade people. It is up to us as documentarians to find photos that will arouse emotions so that the viewer can learn something, do something… Photography can do that, and it can also protect the dignity of the person you are photographing,” he added.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/ron-haviv-unlike-war-in-the-balkans-the-world-is-paying-attention-to-ukraine/

Average market basket in Bosnia 16% more expensive than a year ago

April 12, 2022
The average market basket of a family of four in Bosnia and Herzegovina in March 2022 was 16% more expensive than in March 2021, the SSSBiH trade union federation said on Tuesday, noting that the basket costs close to two and a half average wages.
In March 2022 the market basket cost 2,448 convertible marks (close to €1,255), or 342 marks more than a year ago.
Prices of basic foodstuffs and fuel have increased drastically since the start of the war in Ukraine.
The union said the average wage paid in the BiH Federation entity was taken as the basis to calculate the price of the market basket, that is, the minimum living costs of a family of four, with two adults and two children.
Food accounts for 51% of living costs, followed by the cost of accommodation and utilities, clothing and footwear, personal hygiene products and health care, education, culture and transportation.
The average wage in the Federation entity is around 1,045 convertible marks.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/average-market-basket-in-bosnia-16-more-expensive-than-a-year-ago/

Swedish FM urges Bosnia to follow EU's policy towards Ukraine war

April 12, 2022
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in Sarajevo on Tuesday that Russia's threats over Sweden and Finland's possible NATO accession were unacceptable, asking Bosnia and Herzegovina to follow the EU's policy with regard to the Ukraine war. She also called on the Bosnian Serb officials to stop blocking the central state institutions.
It is entirely unacceptable for Russia to threaten Sweden or Finland in any way because it is up to its citizens to decide about their security policy. There is the time before and the time after 24 February, and Sweden and Finland will make decisions about their policy on their own, Linde said during an official visit to Sarajevo, where she met with Bosnian officials.
Commenting on threats against her country coming from Moscow, including a statement by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Linde said that the security situation in Europe had changed dramatically after Russia's aggression on Ukraine caused large-scale destruction and suffering of people, making millions flee the country.
This has prompted the Swedish and Finnish governments to review their long-lasting policy of military neutrality and consider the possibility of joining NATO.
Russia's attack on Ukraine is unprovoked and illegal and cannot be justified, which is why Sweden stands with Ukraine together with the EU, Linde said, adding that the whole world should be united in opposition to the Russian aggression.
She called on BiH to align its policy towards Ukraine and Russia with the EU's policy and more actively join in the fight against disinformation.
The Swedish minister said that in light of the worsened security situation in Europe, BiH politicians should act more responsibly, and she particularly called on Bosnian Serb officials to stop blocking central state institutions.
She said her country was ready to follow the EU's sanctions policy towards Bosnian politicians who undermine the country's stability and sovereignty.
Linde expressed regret at the failure of local politicians to agree on a new election law but was explicit that it was of crucial importance for elections to be held in the autumn according to the existing law, for which the authorities are expected to secure funds from the state budget.
Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic said her country had clearly condemned Russia's aggression against Ukraine and expected it to be stopped as soon as possible.
As for disputes regarding funds for the organisation of elections, Turkovic said there were indications that this year's state budget could be adopted by 25 April, which would help solve that problem.
She also said that High Representative for BiH Christian Schmidt could soon exercise his powers and annul a law whereby the Serb entity of Republika Srpska (RS) had taken over management of the property owned by BiH.
Turkovic added that she believed sanctions would continue to be imposed on politicians undermining BiH's stability and violating the Dayton peace agreement, a comment on Great Britain having introduced sanctions against the Serb member of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik, and RS President Zeljka Cvijanovic on Monday.
Linde previously attended a meeting hosted by Head of the EU Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina Johann Sattler, which was attended by UK Ambassador Matt Field, UK Ambassador Michael Murphy, HR Schmidt, and Sweden's ambassador in Sarajevo Johanna Stromquist.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/swedish-fm-urges-bosnia-to-follow-eus-policy-towards-ukraine-war/

Serbian ministry demands corrections in books denying Croatian, Bosnian language

April 12, 2022
Acting on a request by the ombudsman, the Serbian Education Ministry has instructed publishing companies to change the content of textbooks for eighth-graders that negate the existence of the Bosnia, Croatian and Montenegrin languages.
A Serbian language textbook for eighth-grades by a group of authors says that the South Slavic group of languages consists of Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian and Bulgarian while “Croatians, Bosniaks and some Montenegrins call the Serbian language Croatian, Bosnian, Bosniak or Montenegrin”.
This definition of South Slavic languages is stated in Serbian language textbooks published by all other publishers in Serbia and it reflects the position of the Institute for Serbian Language, which holds that South Slavic languages are Bulgarian, Macedonian, Slovenian and Serbian, and that the latter should be accompanied by a note saying that Croatians, Bosniaks and some Montenegrins call it Croatian, Bosnian-Bosniak or Montenegrin.
Acting on a request by Ombudsman Zoran Pasalic, who in January this year requested the withdrawal of the said textbook over violation of ethnic minorities’ rights and negation of their languages, of which Croatian and Serbian are in official use in Serbia, the Education Ministry said it had sent instructions to publishing companies under which the classification of South Slavic languages should be accompanied by a narrative explanation, without a table or a list.
The ministry also requested the publishers to make sure the contentious textbooks that were still on the market included a page with the said correction.
Pasalic's reaction was prompted by the Croatian National Council (HNV) in Serbia, which in October 2021 found out that eighth-graders in Serbia were taught that the Croatian language did not exist.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/serbian-ministry-demands-corrections-in-books-denying-croatian-bosnian-language/

UK's Peach says Bosnian sanctioned officials are on a ‘dangerous path’

April 12, 2022
Sir Stuart Peach, the UK special envoy for the Western Balkans, commented on the sanctions that his country introduced for Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite Presidency Milorad Dodik and President of Serb-majority region Republika Srpska Zeljka Cvijanovic, saying that such decision was “important and necessary.”
According to a Facebook post with Sir Peach's message, published by the British Embassy in Sarajevo in local languages, “these persons are on a dangerous path that harms the stability and legal order in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
The sooner a turn is made on that path, the better for the citizens of BiH, the message said.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced the sanctions against Dodik and Cvijanovic on Monday, for “undermining of the legitimacy ad functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
UK Ambassador in Sarajevo Matt Field clarified that the new measures are not directed against the citizens of Republika Srpska but against individuals.
Source:  https://ba.n1info.com/english/news/uks-peach-says-bosnian-sanctioned-officials-are-on-a-dangerous-path/

Kosovo PM concerned over arming of Serbia

April 12, 2022
Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti voiced concern on Monday over the fact that the Serbian authorities are buying weapons.
“Serbia seems to be in a panic because it realizes that it can no longer be in three-four places at once and is trying to strengthen itself so that it can remain alone. The continued arming of Serbia is not harmless to the region and Kosovo but is an expression of fear that they could be left on their own,” the media in Pristina reported Kurti as saying.
He said that Kosovo is not afraid because NATO is there to help. “We are concerned and cautious but we are not afraid. We know that Serbia has 44 military bases along the border with Kosovo and 42 offensive military bases but despite that, even though we are not in NATO, the Alliance is there for us. Kosovo and NATO are part of each other’s history, present and future. By investing in cooperation with our allies, our territory and state and our citizens are safe,” he said.
His words met with condemnation from the head of the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo Petar Petkovic who said Kurti was falsely accusing Belgrade of destabilization.
Source:  https://rs.n1info.com/english/news/kosovo-pm-concerned-over-arming-of-serbia/

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