|Sunday, 25 February 2024
SERBIA-MONTENEGRO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995
The United States and the international community do not recognize Serbia-Montenegro as the successor state to the former Yugoslavia and have suspended the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" ("FRY") from participation in the United Nations, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and other international organizations.
Serbia-Montenegro is dominated by Slobodan Milosevic, who is serving his second 5-year term as President of Serbia. He controls the country through his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), which lacks majorities in both the "Federal" and Serbian Parliaments but holds the key administrative positions. The SPS abolished the political autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina in 1990, and all significant decisionmaking since that time has been centralized under Milosevic in Belgrade.
As a key element of his hold on power, Milosevic wields strong control over the Serbian police, a heavily armed force of perhaps 100,000 which is guilty of extensive, brutal, and systematic human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings. Another important factor in Milosevic's rise to power and almost total domination of the Government is his control and manipulation of the media. Freedom of the press is greatly circumscribed. The Government discouraged independent media and resorted to surveillance, harassment, and eventual suppression to inhibit the media from reporting its repressive and violent acts. At year's end, the Government's legal moves against a major independent newspaper threatened to still its voice. Police elements routinely monitor opposition leaders, human rights workers, and political dissidents.
In addition to the absolute power which Milosevic wields over Serbia-Montenegro, until August his Government actively fostered violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina by providing military, economic, political, and moral support to ethnic Serbs responsible for massive human rights abuses including "ethnic cleansing." The Government of Serbia-Montenegro announced at that time that it would stop the flow of all nonhumanitarian aid across its boundaries into Bosnia and Herzegovina; in September, it allowed the deployment of a mission sponsored by the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia (ICFY) to observe adherence to border controls. In return, the United Nations Security Council voted to suspend temporarily some of the sanctions previously imposed on Serbia-Montenegro so long as ICFY observers continue to verify that the border remains closed.
U.N. economic sanctions continued to impact the economy for the third successive year. An economic stabilization program introduced in January succeeded in bringing hyperinflation under control, but by year's end the program was beginning to show serious cracks. The hard currency black market had reappeared, consumers struggled under the double burden of high prices and a shortage of local currency, unemployment continued at levels in excess of 50 percent, and independent labor unions tried unsuccessfully to mobilize labor protests. The net results were the reduction of a once thriving middle class to near subsistence levels and concomitant increases in crime, including organized drug trafficking.
The Government continued to inflict egregious abuses on the one-third of the population who are not ethnic Serbs, and repressed voices of opposition in the ethnic Serb community as well. Government officials carried out sanctioned extrajudicial killings, torture, brutal beatings, arbitrary arrest, and a general campaign to keep the non-Serb populations repressed. While an atmosphere of fear and violence pervades all of Serbia-Montenegro, the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo and the Muslims of Sandzak suffer the heaviest abuses. Repressive acts against these minorities increased dramatically after the Government refused to extend the mandate of the CSCE monitoring missions in 1993.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial KillingPolitical violence in Serbia-Montenegro, including killings by police, resulted mostly from direct and indirect efforts by Serbian authorities to suppress and intimidate ethnic majority groups. Leaders of minority communities in Kosovo and Sandzak, and to a lesser extent Vojvodina, reported numerous acts of violence and intimidation aimed at repressing non-Serbs and Muslims. The level of violence was most severe in the Albanian- populated region of Kosovo, where police repressed expressions of political and community life, and in the Muslim-populated region of Sandzak, where "ethnic cleansing" continued, with homes inhabited by Muslims being turned over to Serbs.
According to the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF), a monitoring organization based in Pristina, Kosovo, 17 ethnic Albanians were killed by police during the year; 11 of them were shot by police, and the others died while in police custody, reportedly due to mistreatment or beatings. In most cases, the authorities claimed that those killed were shot while fleeing or resisting arrest. Police, however, appear to have resorted to deadly force with little or no attempt to apprehend the alleged suspects by other means. A Serbian police officer in July shot and killed a 6-year-old ethnic Albanian boy, Fidan Brestovci, while he was riding in his parents' car. The officer later claimed he had mistaken the car for one driven by a wanted felon.
In March, following an argument in a Kosovo Polje restaurant, a Serbian police officer shot and killed Faik Maloku and seriously wounded Xhevat Bejzaku. Maloku evidently failed to produce a personal identity card on demand. The officer was detained for investigation, but no formal charges were filed against him. In early August, a large Serbian police contingent killed Hasan Ramadani, a former political prisoner, while searching his house in Podujevo for illegal weapons. In September, when violence broke out in the town of Decani during a police raid on market day, Serbian police fired indiscriminately, according to eyewitnesses, and killed a young Albanian mother of two while she was watching from a window.
b. DisappearanceThe reduced level of paramilitary activity in Serbia-Montenegro led to a sharp drop in the number of kidnapings and disappearances. Human rights agencies reported no new cases of disappearance or officially sanctioned kidnaping.
In May Serbian authorities "extradited" the notorious paramilitary figure Milan Lukic to Bosnian Serb authorities in the "Serbian Republic" (RS) where he is believed to have been set free. Lukic was scheduled to stand trial for his role in the Strpci kidnapings in February 1993 when 17 ethnic Muslims and 2 Croats were taken from the Belgrade-Bar train as it crossed a narrow strip of Bosnian territory. None of those who disappeared have been heard from. Paramilitary forces are presumed to have murdered them, but their families continued to petition the Government for information on their fate.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentWhile the law prohibits torture, police in Serbia routinely beat people severely when holding them under detention or stopping them at police checkpoints, especially targeting ethnic Albanians. According to human rights agencies, police beat thousands of Kosovar Albanians and Sandzak Muslims during searches for illegal weapons, and extracted "confessions" during interrogations that routinely included beating the suspects' feet, hands, and genital areas with fists and nightsticks, use of electric shocks, and verbal intimidation. In late November, Ismail Raka, an ethnic Albanian from Kaganik in southeast Kosovo, died while in police custody. His family was told he had committed suicide by jumping from a fifth-floor window; photographs of his body show evidence of torture and severe beatings. Sabit Vllahia died in Podujevo in early December, and Hasan Cubolli, age 81, died in Podujevo on December 27 while being held by the Serbian police.
The use of excessive force in Kosovo and Sandzak was both routine and capricious. Police allegedly beat Sylejman Bytuqi when they raided his home in Malisheva and found an unregistered gun. Four days later, local police severely beat Mustafe Rukovci in Gnjilane after failing to uncover any weapons in a search of his home. Serbian police beat and harassed the family members of suspected political activists or those they believed to be in possession of illegal weapons.
Apparently confident there would be no reprisals, police often beat their victims in public view or in front of their families. On February 21, police reportedly searched the house of Ibrahim Havoli, an ethnic Albanian, and, because Havoli was not at home, beat his brother. Amnesty International reported that 2 days later, 40 police officers searched the home of Shemsi Gashi in Pristina, brutally beating him, his 2 sons, and 2 guests in front of the rest of the family. In Pec, police took an ethnic Albanian secondary student off a school bus in April, beat him, and carved Serbian nationalist symbols into his chest.
Police allegedly told one beaten man that they would drop criminal charges against him if he signed a statement saying he had not been beaten. They warned another one that he would have trouble with notorious paramilitary leaders Zeljko "Arkan" Raznjatovic and Vojislav Seselj if he talked. In May police in Kosovo stopped two men for no apparent reason as they drove their children to school and beat them so severely they were hospitalized for 3 days. When it turned out that the men were ethnic Serbs, officials at all levels demanded that proceedings be started against the police.
Prior to 1994, the Government of Montenegro had generally displayed more tolerance toward its ethnic minorities than had its Serbian counterpart. In February and March, however, Montenegrin police beat and tortured 25 Sandzak Muslims active in the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) whom they had arrested on a variety of weapons charges. According to defense lawyers, Harun Hadzic was beaten for 48 hours without a break, given electric shocks, and forced to wear a painfully hot asbestos cap. Police beat Hadzic and the other victims with truncheons, making them count the number of blows out loud, tied them to radiators, deprived them of food, water, and sleep, and threatened to kill them. Police allegedly forced a truncheon first into Avdea Ciguljin's anus and then into his mouth. Sandzak Muslim political leaders and human rights activists believed the beatings were aimed at creating a climate of fear in the Muslim community to destroy the SDA and ultimately alter the demographic balance in the region by causing Muslims to flee.
In the Sandzak region, Serbian authorities were similarly abusive. The Humanitarian Law Fund (HLF), a Belgrade-based human rights organization, documented numerous instances in which local authorities used torture and physical abuse during a series of massive house-to-house searches carried out in Prijepolje between January 27 and February 17. Many of those beaten singled out district chief Mileta Novakovic as having been particularly brutal. Some beatings were clearly politically motivated. One victim told an HLF representative that his interrogation began with a berating for his political activities followed by a severe beating. Fadil Osmanovic, a teacher and vice president of the SDA in Berane, committed suicide after being tortured at a police station and ordered to report to the police again. In May police beat Mustafa Dzigal in a Novi Pazar prison after questioning him about his contacts with CSCE representatives.
Nearly 100 Kosovar Albanians and Sandzak Muslims have been convicted over the past 2 years and are serving prison terms on the unsubstantiated grounds of conspiring to undermine the integrity of the State. Insofar as the real grounds for these charges appear to have been that these persons were active in ethnic Albanian and Sandzak Muslim political parties, they may be said to have been prosecuted for their political associations rather than for criminal activity.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or ExileFederal law permits police to detain suspects without a warrant and hold them incommunicado for up to 3 days without charging them or granting them access to an attorney. After this period, police must turn a suspect over to an investigative judge, who may order a 30-day extension and, under certain legal procedures, subsequent extensions of investigative detention up to 6 months. Police routinely held suspects well beyond the 3-day statutory period. It is generally during this initial period that detainees experience the worst treatment and abuse. During investigative detention, detainees theoretically have access to legal counsel, although in practice access is only occasionally granted.
Defense lawyers in Kosovo and Sandzak have filed numerous complaints about flagrant breaches of standard procedure which they believed undermined their clients' rights. The courts ignored those complaints. In November and December, police began a massive roundup of some 200 ethnic Albanian former members of police and security forces in Kosovo. Lawyers reported that most of those detained were subjected to harsh beatings and electric shock torture, held longer than the law permits before charges were brought, and subjected to more beatings after appearing in court.
A group of 25 Montenegrin Sandzak Muslims arrested between January 26 and March 20, most of them active in the SDA, were held without charge for longer than the law allows. They were not allowed to contact defense lawyers until February 8, when the high court in Bijelo Polje, Montenegro, overturned a ruling by the investigative judge that suspended their right to counsel. In the interim, police interrogated the defendants in the absence of their lawyers and, after subjecting them to brutal physical torture including the use of cattle prods, obtained incriminating statements from them. In June the Montenegrin investigative judge widened the scope of the investigation to include another 12 suspects, further delaying the trial date. On December 28, 21 defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2 to 7 years for "attempting to undermine the territorial integrity of the State." The head of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Montenegro, Hajrun Hadzic, received the stiffest sentence of 7 years, to begin immediately rather than after the appeals process.
Defense lawyers and human rights workers have also complained of excessive delays in filing formal charges and opening investigations. The ability of the defense to challenge the legal basis of their clients' detention was further hampered by the difficulty they encountered in gaining access to copies of the official indictment and the decision to remand the defendant into custody. In some cases, prosecutors have failed to share material evidence with the defense in a timely fashion, and judges have prevented defense attorneys from reading the court file. The investigative judges, formally responsible for every aspect of the investigation, often delegate most or all responsibility to the police or state security service. Although this is allowed under law, the free hand given to the police often reduced the role of the investigative judge to one of pure formalism. Defense lawyers frequently complained of difficulty in gaining access to their clients, even during questioning by the investigative judge, a restriction rarely placed on public prosecutors.
In a country where the majority of ethnic Serbs are armed, police selectively enforce the laws regulating the possession and registration of firearms so as to harass and intimidate ethnic minorities. Serbs are rarely, if ever, charged with similar crimes although they are equally well armed, generally with illegal or unregistered weapons. An exception occurred in September when Serbian President Milosevic moved against members of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS). One SRS parliamentary deputy, Vakic, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity for illegal possession of explosives and automatic weapons.
Often, police in Sandzak and Kosovo simply order a member of an ethnic minority to turn in a certain weapon and a specified number of bullets within a set time, on threat of detention or torture. The victim, if not in possession of a weapon, is generally forced to purchase one on the black market in order to turn it in to the police. Police do not similarly harass ethnic Serbs, and despite high crime rates arrests of Serbs for possession of illegal weapons are rare.
In January Serbian police arrested Rivzat Halilovic, leader of a faction of the Macedonian Party of Democratic Action while he was in Serbia, on highly suspect charges of espionage. The "secret maps" that he was accused of handing over to Pakistani agents could be purchased at any Belgrade book store.
In Kosovo, Serbian police continued a policy of frequent, arbitrary detention of political activists. Following a concert in Urosevac commemorating the death of 5 ethnic Albanians in violent clashes with police, Serbian authorities ordered the arrest of some 40 of those present, including prominent members of several local branches of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). The police allegedly beat them in the course of interrogation. The arrests were designed strictly to intimidate and were not connected to the concert in any way.
On February 4, three unidentified men kidnaped Veljko Dzakula, a former "vice president" in the self-proclaimed "Republic of Serbian Krajina" (RSK), from a busy street in downtown Belgrade. The night before his disappearance, he gave an interview to independent television Studio B highly critical of the Yugoslav army. Five days after he disappeared, representatives of the RSK "interior ministry" admitted to holding Dzakula in Glina prison on charges of espionage. A Belgrade-based human rights lawyer claimed that Serbian police, working closely with the RSK state security service, kidnaped Dzakula and "extradited" him to the "RSK" without allowing him to defend himself. Although the territory of the "RSK" is internationally recognized as a part of Croatia, Dzakula was charged with a crime under the "FRY" Criminal Code.
Exile is neither legally permitted nor routinely practiced. No specific instances of the imposition of exile as a form of judicial punishment are known to have occurred.
e. Denial of Fair Public TrialThe authorities frequently deny this right to non-Serbs and to persons they believe oppose the regime (see below).
The court system comprises local, district, and supreme courts at the republic level, and a Federal Supreme Court to which republic Supreme Court decisions may be appealed. There is also a military court system. According to the Federal Constitution, the Federal Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of laws and regulations, relying on the republic authorities to enforce its rulings. The Federal Criminal Code of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia still applies.
Under federal law, defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to have an attorney, at public expense if needed. Both the defendant and the prosecutor may appeal the verdict.
Article 116 of the Yugoslav Criminal Code, which allows for sentences of up to 10 years for "undermining the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia," is often used selectively to convict Kosovar Albanians and Sandzak Muslims on flimsy or circumstantial evidence. In February Kosovo district courts sentenced more than 30 ethnic Albanians to terms ranging from 1 to 10 years under Article 116 for allegedly organizing "illegal defense forces" under an independent Republic of Kosovo. According to Amnesty International, defense lawyers complained that statements taken during interrogation--and subsequently used in prosecuting the Kosovar Albanians--were solicited under severe physical and psychological pressures.
Delays and seemingly arbitrary changes in the charges similarly marred the ongoing trial of another group of 25 Muslim political activists on weapons charges in Novi Pazar, Serbia. Defense lawyers did not deny that their clients were in possession of illegal arms but maintained that the laws were being selectively enforced and used as a means of intimidating the Sandzak Muslim community. The trial ended in a conviction, but the original weapons charges were suddenly changed to the more serious criminal charge of attempting to undermine the territorial integrity of the State.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or CorrespondenceFederal law gives republic ministries of the interior sole control over the decision to monitor potential criminal activities, a power routinely abused. Authorities regularly monitored opposition and dissident activity, eavesdropped on conversations, read mail, and tapped telephones. In December human rights advocates objected to an announcement by the Federal post office that it had been registering all mail from abroad, ostensibly to protect mail carriers from charges of theft.
Although the law includes restrictions on searches, officials often ignored such restrictions. In Kosovo and Sandzak, police systematically subjected ethnic Albanians to random searches of their homes, vehicles, and offices, asserting they were searching for weapons. The CDHRF reported that in the first 3 months of 1994 police searched over 1,000 Kosovar Albanian homes, often physically abusing the inhabitants.
As an example of such methods, on a typical day in Kosovo (July 22), police raided Hetmen and Nezir Makolli's Pristina home and seized a licensed hunting rifle, searched the home of Hysen Hasani and his sons in Lipljan, and raided the home of Hasan Fetaj in Suva Reka, threatening to draft him into the Yugoslav army. Similar scenes were repeated thousands of times in Kosovo and Sandzak.
In January and February, police conducted a series of massive house-to-house searches in Prijepolje (Sandzak). Police also routinely stopped private vehicles in Kosovo and Sandzak and searched them and the passengers without probable cause. Authorities often confiscated foreign currency from drivers and passengers, although it is not illegal to possess foreign currency.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal ConflictsThe Government's decision to close the border with Bosnia in August, exempting only food, clothing, and medicine, was an implicit acknowledgement of the support it has provided to the Bosnian Serbs and their policy of ethnic cleansing since the beginning of the Bosnian war. (See the report on Bosnia and Herzegovina for an account of excessive force and violations of humanitarian law which the Milosevic regime consistently aided and abetted.) There were numerous credible reports of Yugoslav army units operating in eastern Bosnia as "volunteers." Following the downing of four Galeb-type planes by NATO forces in February, an obituary of one of the pilots appeared in the major Serbian daily Politika. Although Serbian authorities officially denied any involvement in the incident, the obituary announced that the pilot, a Montenegrin citizen, died fighting for his country--"Greater Serbia."
In Serbia itself, authorities frequently subjected members of ethnic minorities to intimidation, with the goal of provoking their emigration. Ethnic Albanians and Muslims were severely punished for even the slightest violation of laws that were selectively enforced by Serbian police and judicial authorities. Harassment and intimidation of ethnic Croats in the multiethnic province of Vojvodina continued. Documented incidents of harassment and intimidation of ethnic minorities in Vojvodina were at lower levels compared with previous years, but the official statistics provided little comfort to those who still retain bitter memories of forced conscription and physical abuse from the recent past. While overt forms of harassment were down, ethnic Croats and Hungarians complained about more subtle forms of abuse, including alleged plans by the Serbian government to alter the ethnic composition of communities by forcibly resettling Bosnian and Croatian Serb refugees. In February a self-described "Chetnik" held Sinisa Vidakovic at gunpoint and threatened to kill him if he and his family did not move out of town. In Sremska Kamenica on May 7, an unknown person threw several crude, home-made bombs at the residences of local Croats. A similar bomb exploded in front of the Franciscan church in Subotica in June. Local authorities did little to investigate the incidents.
Although Serbian authorities prosecuted one former paramilitary leader for crimes committed in Bosnia and claimed to be about to charge others, many other known and suspected war criminals were never the targets of a formal investigation. Some individuals suspected of criminal activity connected to the conflict in Bosnia and the earlier war with Croatia hold prominent positions in the Serbian, Montenegrin, or "FRY" governments. Other suspected war criminals serve as members of Parliament.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and PressAlthough freedom of press and speech is provided for under law, this right is not respected in practice. Republic authorities use provisions of the Federal Criminal Code to restrict freedom of speech. For instance, the person of the President is protected by law from criticism. Federal laws are being used to overturn privatization processes and subvert independent media into state controlled media (Borba and Studio B). Federal law has also been used to set up progovernment radio and television stations run by local party heads throughout Serbia. The regime controls frequency allocations for broadcasters and has enormous influence on supplies and revenues for the print media. Although it continued to tolerate the independent but low-circulation print media of Borba and Vreme in Belgrade, both often critical of the Government, most of the population nationwide is dependent for its news on electronic media firmly under government control. The Government again blocked the attempts of independent television station Studio B and independent radio station B-92 to expand transmission of their broadcasts.
Milosevic's control of the media, particularly state television, is vital to the strength of his regime. Through Serbian Radio and Television (RTS), the Government exerts editorial control over all news programming. The regime abandoned the most blatant forms of anti-Muslim propaganda in 1994, except in the tabloid press, but news concerning non-Serb ethnic minorities continued to receive very slanted and hostile coverage. The authorities generally tolerated publication of material critical of the Government as long as dissident voices were kept off television and out of mass-market publications. They dismissed the editor of the semi-independent Television Politika from his position in August and fired him from the company after he gave prime-time coverage to one of Milosevic's most consistent critics.
Shortages of newsprint caused by the deteriorating economy enabled the Government selectively to direct supplies to favored publications and to reduce financial support of independent journals. Serbian customs authorities seized several shipments of equipment and newsprint provided by the Soros Foundation for Belgrade independent daily Borba and radio B-92 They later negotiated a reduction in the initial demand for a ransom amounting to thousands of dollars. In December, Borba was forced to reduce its circulation and number of pages because it could not obtain sufficient newsprint.
The Serbian government, a minority shareholder in the semi- independent Belgrade daily Borba, tried to use its 17-percent share to exercise full control over the newspaper. In September the Government began court proceedings against Borba claiming the means by which it had formed its stock company were illegal. In late December, federal government authorities through manipulation of the federal courts took over management of Borba, installing the head of the Federal Secretariat for Information as editor. In Vojvodina, the Hungarian-language independent newspaper Magyar Szo continued to resist attempts to merge with a Serbian publishing house, fearing financial mismanagement would force it to close. B-92 has not yet been officially licensed and must continue to operate as a "pirate" radio station.
Proposed legislation to regulate foreign investment in domestic media would make Serbian press connections with foreigners or foreign support of Serbian media illegal under most circumstances. In April the "FRY" Ministry of Information stripped a total of 13 correspondents and staff working for foreign news agencies (most of them ethnic Serbs) of their accreditations for allegedly engaging in "anti-Serbian activities." It did not explain why it had singled out these journalists. One American reporter who spoke with representatives of the Serbian independent media on the record about the revocation of credentials was given 5 days to leave the country.
Studio B continued to struggle for survival. It faced eviction from its premises in favor of a proregime firm. Although Serbian authorities finally approved repeater stations for it, they refused to vacate the allocated mountaintop areas, preventing the station from extending its range of reception beyond Belgrade. Studio B lost an important sponsor and was forced to cancel a planned folk festival when RTS threatened the singers with loss of their RTS recording contracts if they cooperated with the station.
In March federal authorities prohibited ham radio operators from transmitting messages to Bosnia. For many people in Serbia-Montenegro, the estimated 15 private radio clubs were their only link to friends and relatives still in Bosnia. Military and civilian officials, accusing the radio operators of espionage and passing militarily significant messages to the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, began confiscating radio equipment and harassing the operators.
Despite a precarious existence, the only Albanian-language newspaper, Bujku, continued to be published, and a number of new Albanian-language weeklies began publication. Bujku, which is independent of Belgrade and uncensored, clearly reflects the views of the Kosovar Albanian LDK leadership. As such, it is the main source of information for the Albanian community. Radio and Television Pristina, however, remain firmly under the control of RTS and the ruling Socialist Party. In June Belgrade student radio Indeks went on strike to protest the appointment of a new editor in chief forced on the station by the Socialist Party's youth movement. For some time, Indeks played only the MTV satellite audio signal; it is now off the air, pending "studio refurbishment."
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and AssociationAlthough the Federal Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the authorities severely restricted these freedoms, applying the laws and regulations in a capricious fashion. Kosovo was singled out for particular restrictions of assembly, and Serbian authorities targeted so-called parallel ethnic Albanian social structures for harassment. In February and March, local authorities in Pristina shut down both the independent Kosovo Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute for Albanian Studies, beating Institute director Sadri Fetiu and several staff members in the process. Local authorities, who had been threatening to close the Academy of Arts and Sciences for more than 2 years, considered it a symbol of the Kosovar separatist movement.
As of midyear, police conducted some 420 raids on schools in the parallel Albanian educational system. In February they arrested Tafil Bahimja, director of an Albanian-language primary school in Kraljane, and interrogated him about the school's curriculum, threatening him with physical harm.
The authorities also severely restricted Albanian political organizations. The then Serbian district chief for Kosovo issued two separate public calls for a ban on all LDK activity in May. Arkan and his Party of Serbian Unity (SSJ) made similar repeated, public demands. Although the district chief was subsequently dismissed, Belgrade authorities did not dispute his contention that the LDK was actively working to undermine the Serbian constitutional order. In July police raided a meeting of the Social Democratic Party in Kosovo Mitrovica, beating up the general secretary and three members of the presidency. The president, Bilim Bislimi, was subsequently arrested.
In Sandzak, Serb authorities have arrested and harassed politically active Muslims, primarily because of their membership in the Party of Democratic Action. With most of the Muslim leadership in prison or in exile, the Serbian authorities succeeded in forging an association between political involvement and police harassment that inhibited the exercise of free political expression and made political activity a visibly risky proposition.
c. Freedom of ReligionThere is no state religion, but the Government gives preferential treatment to the Serbian Orthodox Church, to which the majority of Serbs belong--including access to state-run television for religious events.
There are no legal restrictions on the practice of religion, but police condoned periodic violence against religious facilities used by ethnic minorities and their investigations into the fire-bombing attacks on Catholic churches in Vojvodina or vandalism of mosques in Sandzak were perfunctory.
One human rights organization based in Novi Pazar reported that police summoned even more people than usual for interrogation on Muslim religious holidays. The Serbian Orthodox hierarchy in 1994 adopted a more stridently nationalistic tone in regard to events in Bosnia, a development that had a chilling impact on members of other faiths and non-Serb ethnic groups.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and RepatriationThe Constitution provides for freedom of movement. The regime generally does not require exit visas except for travel to Albania, and makes passports available to most citizens, while restricting the right to travel of many Kosovar Albanians. Serbian authorities have generally allowed ethnic Albanian leaders, including LDK leader Ibrahim Rugova, to leave the country and return, even though they consider his party and other ethnic Albanian parties illegal.
Ethnic Albanians have frequently complained of harassment at border crossings, generally when entering from Hungary or at the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. There have been numerous reports of border guards confiscating foreign currency or passports from travelers, as well as occasional complaints of physical ill-treatment. Serbian border guards and customs officials harassed Kosovar Albanians returning from abroad, sometimes refusing to recognize the validity of legitimate passports held by ethnic Albanians repatriated from Western European countries.
Montenegrin authorities "deported" Serbian ultranationalist Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj to Serbia for making comments at a political rally that were deemed "offensive to the Republic of Montenegro and its leaders." It also expelled 34 other Radical Party deputies to Serbia on a government-owned airplane. Seselj's expulsion, almost certainly sanctioned at the highest political levels, was a direct violation of the constitutional guarantees on freedom of movement.
Many refugees from the Bosnian conflict who had been living in collective centers or with host families in Serbia-Montenegro returned to their homes in Bosnia (or to homes that had been "cleansed" of their previous Muslim tenants). Serbian and Montenegrin authorities encouraged this exodus by threatening to strip refugees of their status or force them to serve in the Bosnian Serb army. In violation of both international convention and Serbian law, the Yugoslav army cooperated closely with the Bosnian Serb military in a roundup of refugees in January and February. In May Serbian authorities stripped over 100,000 people of their refugee status. Although they did not forcibly expel them, they induced many to return to "liberated" eastern Bosnia. Lawyers counseling the refugees who were called up for military service believed that both the Serbian Red Cross and the Serbian Committee for Refugees were supplying the military with the names and addresses of draft-age males.
Many people succeeded in evading military service, and the authorities did not pursue draft dodgers systematically. However, the Government threatened to begin proceedings against ethnic Albanians living abroad who had avoided military service if they were repatriated to the "FRY." More typically, police who picked up young Kosovar Albanians found to be evading draft notices took them to army barracks where they were beaten and eventually released.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their GovernmentThe Constitution provides for this right, but in practice citizens are prevented from exercising it by the Milosevic Government's monopoly of mass media and of the electoral process. In the December 1993 elections, the authorities denied opposition parties equal access to the state-run media and omitted many voters from the registration lists. Observers noted numerous voting irregularities and raised serious questions as to the accuracy of the vote count.
Slobodan Milosevic dominates the political system in Serbia- Montenegro. Although formally president of Serbia, one of the two constituent republics in the so-called Yugoslav Federal Republic, Milosevic first weakened the authorities of the Federal Government through his control of the Serbian police, the army, and the state administration, and then placed his followers in key positions, including the Federal President and the Federal Prime Minister. Milosevic greatly circumscribes the Montenegrin government's sphere for independent action as he does not tolerate significant divergence from the Serbian party line.
The domestic political opposition, hamstrung by these extralegal means of political control, proved incapable of providing an effective alternative to the ruling Socialist Party (SPS). Although the SPS does not control an absolute majority of seats in the Serbian Parliament, it managed to coopt one of the opposition parties, allowing the Socialists to form the Government in January. In Montenegro, where the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) enjoys an absolute majority, opposition parliamentarians complained that the Government often railroaded legislation through Parliament without time for adequate debate. In both Serbia and Montenegro, the ruling parties have effectively blocked legislation that would loosen their control over the state-run media.
Ethnic Serbs dominate the political leadership in Serbia. Few members of other ethnic groups play any role at the top levels of government or the state-run economy. The same is true of women (see Section 5), although in both instances there are no legal restrictions preventing advancement. Ethnic Albanians, as a matter of principle, refuse to take part in the electoral process, and therefore have little representation.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsLocal human rights monitors (Serbs as well as members of ethnic minorities) worked under difficult circumstances amid public insinuations by ultranationalist leaders and sometimes government officials that they were traitors. Police routinely searched human rights offices in Kosovo, confiscated documents, and harassed their employees.
A number of independent human rights organizations exist in Serbia-Montenegro, researching and gathering information on abuses and publicizing such cases. Several operate out of Kosovo, including the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Kosovo Helsinki Committee. In the Sandzak region, a separate Council for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms monitors abuses against the local Muslim population and produces comprehensive reports.
The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Fund and the Center for Antiwar Action (CAA) have a broader scope of activities, researching human rights abuses throughout the "FRY" and, on occasion, elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. The CAA also sponsors symposia and lectures and runs a small publishing house. CAA members set up a hot line providing legal counsel to refugees who received military induction notices and formed the Committee to Free Veljko Dzakula when the Serbian security service kidnaped him in January (see Section 1.d.). Serbian authorities carefully monitor the activities of independent human rights agencies but generally do not subject them to overt harassment.
The governments of Serbia and Montenegro formally maintain that they have no objection to international organizations conducting human rights investigations on their territories. However, they hindered such activities and regularly rejected the findings of human rights groups. Serbian authorities refused to issue visas to representatives of a number of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International. "FRY" authorities soundly rebuffed numerous approaches about allowing the reintroduction of the CSCE Long-Duration Missions to Kosovo, Vojvodina and Sandzak. Officials on all levels maintained that the CSCE must first reinstate the "FRY" before it would be allowed to operate in Serbia-Montenegro.
Diplomats from various CSCE countries stationed in Belgrade and traveling in groups were frequently denied meetings with Serbian authorities who considered them de facto CSCE observers carrying out an expired mandate. In May Foreign Ministry officials made veiled threats to expel Embassy personnel who took part in CSCE-sponsored trips outside Belgrade. In October the Foreign Ministry again complained about CSCE Embassy members traveling to Kosovo, Sandzak, and Vojvodina. Repressive acts against ethnic minorities have increased significantly since the CSCE missions in Kosovo, Sandzak, and Vojvodina departed. In Kosovo, five members of the Pec ethnic Albanian communal leadership, on trial in early December for "violating the territorial integrity of the state," were questioned extensively in court about their contacts with the former CSCE observer mission, even though they pointed out that the mission had been present legally and with the permission of Serb authorities.
In a change from previous public statements that they would not cooperate with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal, Serbian officials in 1994 stated they would offer limited cooperation with the Tribunal to the extent the law allowed. Both the Serbian and Federal Constitutions forbid extradition. The Government stated it will try those who committed war crimes within the country, and has begun proceedings in the case of the Vukovic brothers who are accused of killing Muslims in Bosnia.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social StatusWhile federal and republic laws provide for equal rights to all citizens, regardless of ethnic group, religion, language, or social status and prohibits discrimination against women, in reality the system provides little protection to such groups.
WomenTraditional patriarchal ideas of gender roles, which hold that women should be subservient to the male members of their family, have long subjected women to discrimination. The hostile atmosphere of oppressive nationalism fostered by the regime's war on non-Serbs and the increasingly precarious financial situation of most families have exacerbated the traditionally high level of domestic violence. The majority of Serb refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina moved in with relatives or friends and received only minimal support from international refugee agencies. The strain of living for 2 years in poverty and overcrowded conditions resulted in family violence, particularly wife beatings, which human rights organizations report was largely ignored by authorities. While legal recourse is theoretically available to victims of domestic violence, few women, most of whom are fearful of being rejected by their family, are willing to risk making a formal complaint. Police rarely investigate women's complaints seriously.
In the early 1990s, women's rights organizations in Serbia, originally formed around a strictly antiwar agenda, expanded the scope of their activities as they recognized the growing need to help female victims of the Yugoslav wars. The Center for Antiwar Action, in cooperation with a number of women's rights groups, opened a hot line for rape victims. The flood of calls overwhelmed the small staff, and programs geared towards assisting and counseling victims of rape have proliferated. In the summer of 1994, two of the largest organizations, Women in Black and the SOS hot line, opened a center for juvenile females and sponsored assistance programs for women refugees in camps throughout the country.
The apolitical character of Serbia's feminist organizations allowed them to operate with little overt opposition from local authorities who, however, regularly ignored their protest demonstrations. Women in Black continued to hold weekly silent protest meetings, for which they received explicit police permission. Police, however, refused permission for a protest meeting that was to be held on a major Belgrade bridge in order to draw attention to the destruction of the Mostar bridge in Herzegovina. Feminist groups organized and held conferences in Belgrade and Novi Sad with the participation of women activists from abroad.
Women are entitled to equal pay for equal work. However, they are vastly underrepresented at the top levels of government, state-run industry, and academic institutions. Maternity leave is usually granted for 1 year. President Milosevic rejected a law limiting the availability of abortion as a restriction on women's rights, the first time the feminist community has found itself allied with the Serbian President.
ChildrenPolice violence against non-Serb children (see Section 1.c.) is the primary abuse. Otherwise, there is no pattern of governmental or societal abuse against children, nor is child prostitution condoned. Children are not conscripted into the army.
National/Racial/Ethnic MinoritiesThe ethnic minorities of Serbia-Montenegro suffered discrimination in all respects as the "FRY" continued its policy of "ethnic cleansing" as a means of creating "Greater Serbia" (see Section 1). In addition to the abuses described elsewhere in this report, there were credible reports that qualified Muslims or ethnic Albanians continued to be fired from their jobs on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Members of ethnic minorities were badly treated in the armed forces in which they were viewed with suspicion and often outright hostility. In Kosovo, court proceedings, formerly conducted in the defendant's language, are now conducted in Serbian; an interpreter is provided if necessary.
Traditional societal discrimination against the substantial Roma population remains widespread. The two Roma parties are not well organized and do not play a role in the political life of the country commensurate with their numbers. The Roma have the right to vote, and there is no legal discrimination. However, local authorities apparently condone and even participate in their harassment and intimidation.
Religious MinoritiesIn the former Yugoslavia, religion and ethnicity are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. "Muslims," for example, are considered an ethnic rather than a religious minority, although they are increasingly referred to as "Serbs of Muslim faith" in official propaganda.
Serious discrimination and harassment of Serbia's religious minorities continued, especially in the Kosovo and Sandzak regions. Violence against the Catholic minority in Vojvodina--largely made up of ethnic Hungarians and Croatians--is also a continuing problem. Individual Catholics were targeted for harassment by Orthodox "Chetniks," and a number of Catholic churches were bombed (see Section 2.c.).
People with DisabilitiesThere is no formal legislation to provide equal rights for the disabled. Only public buildings are required to provide access for the disabled. Plans for the Belgrade metro envisage elevator access for the disabled at all stops.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of AssociationAll workers (except military personnel) have the legal right to form or join unions. Unions are either official (government-affiliated) or independent organizations. Workers in the official unions, whether Serb or non-Serb, have little real voice in their unions, and their bargaining leverage is circumscribed by the Government. Consequently, they have achieved little in terms of bettering their condition. They are ostensibly permitted to join the independent unions, but these are so weak that they have been largely ineffective.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain CollectivelyWhile this right is guaranteed in law, collective bargaining is rudimentary. Individual unions tend to be very limited and pragmatic in their aims, unable to join with unions representing workers in other sectors and bargain together for a common purpose, such as to eliminate safety hazards in the workplace or to provide certain minimum health conditions. The overall result is a highly fragmented labor organizational structure composed of workers who relate to the needs of their individual union but rarely to those of other workers.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory LaborForced labor is prohibited by law and is not known to occur.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of ChildrenThe minimum age for employment is 16, although in villages and farming communities it is not unusual to find younger children at work assisting their families. With the fall in industrial production by two-thirds compared with 1989, factories and stores have retained only their most experienced and senior workers. Over the past year it was extremely unusual to find a teenager in Belgrade working at any full-time or even part-time job. Unemployment, which unofficially ran in excess of 50 percent, was concentrated more highly among young, unskilled workers.
e. Acceptable Conditions of WorkThe economic decline, which began at the beginning in 1991 and was accelerated by the onset of U.N. economic sanctions in May 1992, continued to exert a major influence on the conditions of work. While the Government succeeded in stabilizing prices through much of 1994, a large gap remained between prices and wages. By November the average monthly wage had risen to about $94 (255 dinars) at the current black market rates. While there is no official poverty line in Serbia-Montenegro, banking and finance officials have used 250-300 dinars as an "unofficial" poverty level for the average wage earner. The minimum wage, which is established in December by negotiation among the Government, the chambers of commerce, and the unions (both official and unofficial) was about $37 (90 dinars) at the black market exchange rate.
While the official workweek was listed as 40 hours, many employees worked fewer hours due to the economic slowdown. These employees remained, for the most part, on enterprise payrolls, continuing to draw a minimum monthly salary--between $29.50 and $59 (50 and 100 dinars)--plus food supplements as available. The Government, which previously assumed responsibility for providing redundant workers with a minimum "unemployment" payment, shifted this responsibility in the last half of the year to enterprises. Many enterprises attempted to trim these workers, but concerted action by both official and independent unions may have helped to prevent further massive layoffs in the economy.
Federal and republic laws and regulations regulate occupational health and safety, but enforcement is lax.