Report – Human rights defenders in Serbia – Issues and challenges
Human rights defenders in Serbia have been facing with a narrowing space for action for years, primarily through the impossibility of exercising the basic rights that enable them to work, namely freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of information. They are constantly exposed to various types of pressures and attacks, both by various government officials and by formal and informal groups and individuals close to the governing structures. Negative public perception of human rights defenders has been present since the 1990s. This narrative has come to the fore in recent years, as evidenced by numerous relevant domestic and international reports on this topic. The essential misunderstanding of the role and importance of human rights defenders by the state is one of the greatest adversaries in the fight for a democratic and free society.
The position in society and the activities of human rights defenders in 2019 depended on the social and political context. Domestic political life in the previous year was marked by a serious crisis of democracy, further collapse of freedom of the media and of expression, and pressure on activists and opposition representatives. The crisis has resulted in a boycott of the National Assembly by opposition lawmakers, as well as an announced boycott of elections by most opposition parties. Civil society organizations attempted to provide support in overcoming the crisis, but that has not been met with understanding. The opportunity was used, once again, to characterize civil society organizations and human rights defenders as political opponents and enemies of the state.
This report has been compiled to present the basic issues and challenges that human rights defenders in Serbia have been facing today, as well as in order to further promote the importance of their role and work on preserving the basic human rights and civil liberties of each individual.