Amnesty report warns of violence against gays and women in Serbia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Serbian government is failing to protect human rights groups fighting for LGBT and women’s rights, an Amnesty International report has claimed.

According to the report, published today, those fighting for equal rights in the country are putting their lives on the line in the face of physical attacks and hostility. It also claimed the media was publishing attacks on human rights defenders and in some cases, publishing their personal information and home addresses.

Women working for equal rights and to expose war crimes have been denounced as witches and anti-Serb traitors, while some have been threatened with lynching. Those working for LGBT rights frequently face threats of violence from right-wing and religious organisations, the report said.

Research by international and local NGOs suggests that the perpetrators of more than 70 per cent of assaults on human rights defenders are never identified. Studies have also found that investigations into alleged police mistreatment or assaults on human rights defenders in which perpetrators have been identified are rarely resolved.

Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert, said:””Over the past year women human rights defenders have been attacked in the media including being threatened with lynching. Such attacks are made by parliamentarians, members of ultra-right organisations and members of the security services indicted for war crimes. Other defenders have had their property destroyed, their offices attacked or been beaten by members of neo-Nazi groups.

‘”Physical attacks and threats to the lives and property of human rights activists are seldom promptly and impartially investigated by the authorities. Few perpetrators are brought to justice.

“The lack of political will on the part of the authorities to fulfil their obligations to guarantee human rights defenders their right to freedom of expression and assembly creates a climate of impunity which stifles civil society.

“The LGBT community is marginalised even within civil society and criminal investigations into assaults on LGBT people, even where the perpetrators have been identified, are rarely resolved.

“The Serbian authorities are obliged to protect the rights of all people to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. They must condemn publicly all attacks on and threats to human rights activists, and provide protection and support during the forthcoming Belgrade Pride later this week.”

Belgrade Pride is scheduled for September 20th but organisers have already received threats from far-right groups. Since 2001, similar efforts to hold Pride parades have resulted in threats and violence.

Serbia is not a member of the EU but the government has declared European integration to be one of the strategic priorities for the Republic and it has been a potential candidate country for the EU accession since 2003.

A 2008 progress report from the European Commission on candidate countries said that in Serbia violent attacks, hate speech and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is prevalent.

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