Western Balkans

The countries in the Western Balkans are continuously ratifying international human rights conventions and harmonising existing legislation to comply with the European standards. Still, unequal implementation of these conventions and the lack of knowledge concerning adopted laws and international human rights standards are major obstacles for the improvement of human rights situation in the region. Political instability, widespread corruption, lack of continuity in reforms, limited independence of judiciary and weak non-judicial mechanisms leave much work for human rights organisations and independent media – the sole watchdogs of the societies.

Select archive for specific country:
Albania | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Kosovo | Macedonia | Montenegro | Serbia

Open call for a video-sprint in the Western Balkans

CRD_logga_web_02

Civil Rights Defenders is issuing an open call for participation in a video-sprint event, which is scheduled to take place in Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in October 2014. The events will be organised by Civil Rights Defenders in partnership with Youth Initiative for Human Rights Serbia as part of the “Video for Change” project supported by the Swedish Institute within their Creative Force Programme.

Serbia must protect the rights of asylum seekers

Asylum seekers

Extensive and violent protests erupted in Serbia when local authorities in the cities of Obrenovac and Vracevic decided to give 200 asylum seekers temporary winter accommodation in dormitories, as a result of freezing temperatures. Aggravated citizens blocked the road leading to the accommodation facilities and one of the dormitories was set on fire. Civil Rights Defenders strongly condemns the lack of reaction from the police and the failure to protect the asylum seekers.

“Seven” on tour in the Balkans

Photo: Seven on tour

Starting on the 5th of November, the documentary play Seven will be on a tour in the Western Balkans, visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania. Seven is a documentary play about gender based violence based on interviews with seven activists from around the world. The tour is supported by the Swedish Institute and coordinated by Civil Rights Defenders in cooperation with local partners in each country.

Second Albanian LGBT activist included in the Natalia Project

Xheni Karaj. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

“I was once spat at by a man on the street while at a demonstration. Albanian men get very threatened by lesbians so I challenged him. I grabbed his hand and told him I would not let go until the police arrived” said Xheni Karaj, LGBT activist from Albania who is now included in the Natalia Project security system. The Natalia bracelet represents an important physical, moral and psychological support to human rights activists.

New media and art as tools for human rights advocacy

Wallpaper (webb)

Civil Rights Defenders is organising a five-day working conference in Przno, Montenegro, from the 22 to the 27 October. The conference is entitled “Empowering people – ideas worth spreading“ and will gather human rights activists from Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The goal of the conference is to increase the participants’ capacities in using new media and technology as well as art in their advocacy work.

Belgrade Pride in Swedish media

For the third year in a row Serbian authorities banned the Pride Parade in Belgrade. The frustration and disappointment within the LGBT community was unmistakable and Civil Rights Defenders immediately condemned the decision. The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet interviewed Civil Rights Defenders Program Director for the Western Balkans, Goran Miletic, and wrote; “Now, he and the others must continue to battle against the wind”

Natalia braclet protects LGBT-activist in the Balkans

Kristi Pinderi, LGBT activist from Albania, is one of the human rights defenders included in the Natalia Project.

Kristi Pinderi from Albania, is one of the first human rights defenders from the Western Balkans to be included in the Natalia Project security system. For him the bracelet represents a strong moral support in his day-to-day work: ”Behind the bracelet there is an entire system and organisation with people, institutions, and media ready and willing to act in case of an emergency. It is a way for human rights activists not to feel alone and it is definitely the best tool for empowering them”

House of representatives adopted proposed definition of hate crime

Sumeja Tulic, programme officer at Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 24 July, the House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted the legal amendment proposed by civil society, including a definition on hate crime. “I am very pleased that our effort to foster a coalition of organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina has yielded such a positive outcome”, says Sumeja Tulic, programme officer at Civil Rights Defenders.

Trans Gender Europe: Bosnia adopts trans-inclusive hate crime law

Bosnia 2

TGEU reports that “Bosnia i Herzegovina’s House of Representatives recently adopted hate crime legislation that is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation”. The legislation reads “Whoever publicly incites or makes publicly available pamphlets, photos, texts and other materials which advocates, urges or incites hatred, discrimination or violence directed by any person or group of […]

Definition of hate crime in the Criminal Law needs to be improved

28-30 November 2012 Civil Rights Defenders organised a workshop on hate crimes and hate speech. The workshop included training in monitoring, advocacy and litigation strategies. Photo: Civil Rights Defenders

The Draft of the Law on Amendments to the Criminal Law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, recently sent to the parliament, contains narrow and incomplete legal formulations of hate crimes and exclude several protected grounds. This caused Civil Rights Defenders’ partner to propose changes to the legal formulation of hate crimes. Civil Rights Defenders urges the authorities to take the needed steps in accepting the changes.

20th Anniversary of the massacre in Štrpci

Twenty years ago, the Army of the Republic of Serbia abducted 19 non-Serb citizens of Serbia and Montenegro on the railway station in Štrpci (BIH). The passengers were taken to the village of Visegradska banja, where they were tortured and killed. Up till now, the remains of three victims have been found. On February 27, Civil Rights Defender’s partners in Serbia marked the 20th Anniversary of the abduction in Strpce in front of the main railway station in Belgrade.

MFA’s reply on human rights defenders

In December, Civil Rights Defenders wrote a letter to the Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and urged him to demand stronger protection for human rights defenders in Kosovo. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has replied that “we are discussing these important issues on a political level. When Prime Minister Hachim Thaci visited Sweden in October, EU integration and the necessary reforms, including human rights, were major themes.”

Future professionals trained in freedom of speech

Photo: Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Theoretical and practical insight into national media legislation and European standards in the field make law students better prepared to handle human rights issues in their future work as legal professionals. That is why Civil Rights Defenders, together with one of its long-term partners, the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is conducting trainings for law students in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The culture of silence and impunity must be broken

On 29 November, Ramush Haradinaj, Prime Minister in the Kosovar government 2004-2005, and former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was again aquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Haradinaj was on trial for crimes against civilians in the prison camp in Jablanica in 1998. Civil Rights Defenders deeply regrets the fact that the ICTY failed to properly establish the facts in this case.

Video: Activism for change – Youth Initiative for Human Rights in BiH

Youth Inititative for Human Rights in BiH

Since its establishment in 2006 the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown to become a well-respected organisation. Today their network of youth activists is the longest running network of its kind and it is involved in all major human rights events, in the country. Civil Rights Defenders has worked with the YIHR BiH since the beginning. This video describes the work of achieving change in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Blerta Cani Drenofci

Blerta Cani Drenofci Photo: Julia Björne/Global Reporting

Until 1993 persons with disabilities were invisible, kept in institutions, and no one talked about their rights. Today the issue is less controversial but Blerta Cani Drenofci, Executive Director of Albanian Disability Rights Foundation, says she her choice of career has often been questioned: “In the beginning I met a lot of ignorance. My friends were surprised that I wanted to work with this issue.”

Seminar: A dedicated fight for dignity

Blerta Cani Drenofci, ADRF

This year Albania participated in Paralympics for the first time ever. But the obstacles that Albanians with disabilities must face are still high. Their human rights are violated on a daily basis and a person with disabilities is commonly regarded as a ‘misfortune’. Welcome to a seminar on September 26 with Blerta Çani Drenofci, Executive Director at Albanian Disability Rights Foundation.

New report: Long road to press freedom ahead

Cover report Press Freedom Serbia

Only 4 of the European Council’s 27 principles for press freedom have been fully implemented in Serbia, the first comprehensive report on the media situation in the country: Serbian Media Scene VS European Standards, suggests. Free press is a cornerstone for democratic development; in this report the challenges lying ahead of the Serbian media scene become evident. This report is a result of a yearlong cooperation between Civil Rights Defenders and local partners.

Zdravko Cimbaljevic

Zdravko Cimbaljevic Foto: Ninke Liebert

Two years ago, an unfamiliar man attacked Zdravko Cimbaljevic. The hate crime led Zdravko to openly speak about his homosexuality in the press, thereby becoming Montenegro’s first open homosexual. Since then, he is subject to constant threats. It is a difficult task to change the attitude towards LGBT people in a country where about 70 per cent of the population believes that homosexuality is a disease: “I don’t ask everybody to love us, just not to attack me or violate my rights.”

The role of civil society, citizens and media in the Western Balkans: Challenges as an opportunity

Civil Rights Defenders is organising a two-day regional conference in cooperation with Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina (TI BiH) on the theme “The role of civil society, citizens and media in the Western Balkans: Challenges as an opportunity“. The conference will be held in Sarajevo, November 22-23. Journalists, activists and civil society organisations from the […]

Combating prejudices with radio debates

Widespread lack of respect for human rights, in particular discrimination against vulnerable groups, remains of great concern in Albania. Civil Rights Defenders believe that the media can play an important role in raising awareness about human rights and mobilizing civic engagement. A cooperation with Independent Local Media Association (ILMA), to engage citizens in debates on radio about the most important human rights issues, has therefore been established.

Kosovo 2.0 – Vibrant news in three languages

Kosovo 2.0 is a web portal and a magazine available in English, Albanian and Serbian. Since the launch in July 2010, it has had around 257,760 unique visitors and more that 1,000 unique visits a day. Civil Rights Defenders collaboration with Kosovo Glocal aims at building up Kosovo 2.0, a comprehensive and vibrant media platform, offering interesting and current news, commentary and information that will contribute to an overall respect of freedom of expression in Kosovo.

Map of victims of the Yugoslav wars

Together with Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in Serbia Civil Rights Defenders provide work to raise public awareness on the importance of confronting the past, by compiling and disseminating a comprehensive record of human losses in Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro in the wars of the 1990s. The “Interactive Online Map of Human Losses” provides user-friendly information and access to relevant documents on human losses in Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia.

Improving protection against discrimination

Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the Albanian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (AHC) in this specific project aims at improving the situation regarding protection against discrimination in Albania. We do this by raising capacities of our legal aid partners and the Institution of the Commissioner against Discrimination in handling cases of discrimination as well as increase the capacities of lawyers, people from public structures and civil society to understand and follow cases of discrimination.

Two years after independence Kosovo is still a “State of constriction”

In May 2010 Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Kosovo and Civil Rights Defenders published a report which scrutinized different parts of Kosovo governance structures. The report titled “State of Costriction” questions whether the citizens of Kosovo feel free to follow their conscience and judgment. The report concludes that the answer to this question is […]

Fighting corruption with Transparency International

Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked among the most underdeveloped and corrupt countries in the world where reforms are slowly implemented (the same level with Zambia, Jamaica, Senegal and Dominican Republic). Citizens’ participation is a crucial component to a culture of tackling corruption, since integrity, accountability and transparency must take hold societal and systemically if it is to uproot corruption practices.

Enabling Roma communities to access basic human rights

The main objective of Civil Rights Defenders cooperation with the organisation ARKA is to register, and provide identification documents, to around 300 Roma individuals in Skopje, Kumanovo, Kratovo, and Kriva Palanka regions. The registration will give them access to basic human rights; such as the right to education, health care, social allowances, as well as the possibility to get a legal employment and the right to vote in general elections.

Monitoring detention centres and mental health facilities

Public administration has the power to deprive people of their liberty following procedures clearly established by the law. But when detention takes place outside the public scrutiny it opens the door to violations of rights of the inmates, as well as to torture and ill-treatment. Civil Rights Defenders initiated cooperation with Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims in 2007, with the aim to monitor detention facilities and prisons.

Improving accountability of duty holders

Civil Rights Defenders have cooperated with the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for more than a decade, with the main focus to enhance awareness and respect for human rights and the rule of law in Macedonia. By providing free legal aid we not only improve people’s access to justice but also monitor the respect of human rights by authorities, and put pressure on authorities to comply with international and national human rights standards.

Empowering the most vulnerable with Tirana Legal Aid Society

Since 2006 Civil Rights Defenders has cooperated with Tirana Legal Aid Society, TLAS, in assisting Roma families to register their children, but also other members of the families, in order to help them get access to some of the most fundamental human rights; such as the right to education, health care, social allowances, as well as the possibility to get a legal employment and the right to vote in general elections. Hundreds of families have been assisted through our joint efforts so far.

Monitoring trials – in cooperation with Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Through Civil Rights Defenders partnership with the Helsinki Committee we monitor and report on fair trial standards in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the last couple of years we have also worked intensively on lobbying for an all inclusive Law against discrimination, in addition to the regular long-term activities of providing free legal aid to victims of human rights violations.

string(35) "nkevab646644-139146.mysql.binero.se"