Belgrade – attackers on the offices of the House of Human Rights and Democracy, who have in the night between January 21st and January 22nd broken the windows of the NGO’s offices are still at large, despite the promise of Nebojsa Stefanovic, Minister of internal affairs, that the police is intensively working on the apprehension of the culprits of this “act of vandalism”.
As Milan Antonijevic, director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – one of the NGOs comprising the House of Human Rights has confirmed for “Danas” the asked them for information but they still haven’t identified the attackers.
The hooligans who attacked the headquarters of the Social Center “October”, an organization devoted and built on the principles of equality, freedom and solidarity, haven’t been apprehended either. Based on the reports of five witnesses seven men, Nazis, armed with bats charged into “October” with four members of the collective present. One person got a broken nose and two of them sustained arm injuries. Several windows were broken and the office was ransacked.
We tried to contact the Ministry of Internal Affairs and inquire about the progress of these two cases, but unfortunately we haven’t received any reply.
Goran Miletic from Civil Rights Defenders says for “Danas” that the atmosphere of impunity has been a big problem in Serbia for some time now.
– It seems we never got to the point where there is public pressure to sanction anyone who has committed war crimes or any other acts of violence. In such an environment it didn’t take long for attacks, threats and pressures aimed at human rights activists to come to the fore – says Miletic. In his view, the combination of impunity and the prohibition of NGO organized assemblies, such as “Seven thousand” and “Belgrade Pride”, sends a message the citizens are safe only when the authorities want them to be safe and that citizen protection is selective.
The “Seven thousand” commemoration meeting, dedicated to the genocide in Srebrenica, that was supposed to take place last July was banned, due to police field reports which state that “physical assaults on the participants of the meeting organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights is highly probable”. As form of protest against the ban, but mostly out of respect towards the victims of the genocide in Srebrenica, citizens have gathered regardless on July 10th in front of the Presidency and lit candles there. In an attempt to break up the meeting, members of the groups Oath Keepers and the Serbian Radical Party hastily gathered to insult and attack the participants in an attempt to break up the assembly. Furthermore, instead of arresting them, the police initiated misdemeanor proceedings against the director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, while the Oath Keepers and the SRP went unpunished.
Attacks against LGBT activists are also on the rise and the police still haven’t solved any of those cases. In early January Belgrade Pride representatives, “Dea Dia” association members and other LGBT individuals were verbally assaulted in Kovacica by a group of locals. We would also like to remind of the assault that took place in “SFRJ”, a pub in Belgrade that the public only found out about because one of the four victims of the assault, all of which were members of the LGBT community, Dragoslava Barzut, was an activist of the Organization for Lesbian Human Rights – Labris The police hasn’t solved this case either.
In early September Predrag Azdejkovic, editor of the gay magazine “Optimist”, was assaulted near Sava Center. Two individuals were threatening him as they were exiting the public bus, saying that “gays will not walk the streets” as they kicked him in the stomach. The police still haven’t found the attackers despite the fact that the new busses have cameras installed.
The apartment of Boban Stojanovic, a gay activist from Belgrade Pride, was assaulted on two occasions – once in 2014 and once in 2014. The police haven’t found the perpetrators of either of these attacks.
Police escort instead of the apprehension of attackers
Due to the inability of the police to arrest the hooligans that threaten her, Brankica Stankovic, a reporter for Insider, has been under police protection for years, as is now most recently Jelena Milic, director of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies. In this instance police protection was awarded only after the public’s outcry against the mounting death threats and verbal assaults over social networks made against her and her children.