Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Serbia – Members of Women in Black attacked while commemorating massacre of Srebrenica

9 July 2014

On 8 July 2014, members of Women in Black were attacked in Valjevo by a group of young people wearing t-shirts bearing the image of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić, during a commemoration of the genocide in Srebrenica. Women in Black is a world-wide network of women committed to peaceful advocacy, which opposes injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence.

During the commemoration on 8 July 2014, a group of young people verbally assaulted members of Women in Black in the centre of Valjevo before throwing eggs and other heavy objects at them. In the attack, Ms Stasa Zajovic, co-founder of Women in Black, and members Ms Lilyana Radovanovic, Ms Deyan Gasic, and Mr Milos Uroshevic suffered injuries. The attackers reportedly wore t-shirts bearing the image of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić, who is currently on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The bodies of 175 victims of the Srebrenica massacre were recently found in mass graves and are due to be buried on 11 July 2014, which is the 19th anniversary of the event. To date, 6,066 victims of the massacre, which is thought to have taken the lives of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the village of Srebrenica, have been identified. As part of the commemoration, Woman in Black and other groups will present in front of the Serbian parliament and President. The commemoration is due to end in Belgrade on 10 July 2014.

After the attack, the police escorted the injured members of Women in Black who had been attacked out of Valjevo.

The attack comes three months after the then spokesperson of the Anti-Terrorist Unit of the Ministry of Interior, Radomir Počuča, made a call on his facebook profile for football hooligans to “deal” with Women in Black. The post was published on 25 March 2014, the day before a silent vigil by Women in Black to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the start of the armed conflict in Serbia and Kosovo.

Front Line Defenders expresses concern that members of Women in Black were attacked as a direct result of their peaceful human rights advocacy in Serbia.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Serbia to:

Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack on members of Women in Black with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of members of Women in Black and any human rights defenders commemorating the Srebrenica massacre;

Take measures to ensure that government officials or other public figures refrain from making statements or declaration stigmatising the legitimate work of human rights defenders;

Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Serbia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.