CCFD letter to Bernard Kouchner

Mr Bernard Kouchner

Minister of Foreign and
European Affairs
37 Quai d’Orsay
75351 Paris Cedex 07

Paris, 27 February 2008

Appeal addressed to the French authorities requesting them to take action to promote the freedom of expression and protect human rights defenders in Serbia

Dear Sir,

Since Kosovo declared independence on Sunday, 17 February, the political scene in Serbia has become more and more radical, and the people who defend human rights are increasingly receiving open threats. Violent scenes are becoming more commonplace on the streets of a number of cities in Serbia, and many foreign embassies and businesses have been attacked in Belgrade and Banja Luka (capital of the Republika Srpska). On these occasions, the police played a noticeably passive role.

Nataša Kandić, Director of the Humanitarian Law Center and an internationally recognised figure because of her efforts to uncover the truth about war crimes, was on the receiving end of the most explicit warnings in recent days owing to her presence in Pristina on the day that Kosovo declared independence:
– On Tuesday, 19 February, a member of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) stood before the Serbian Parliament to advocate the banning of all political parties and NGOs that recognised Kosovo’s independence.
– On the same day, the SPS started a petition for the filing of a criminal complaint against Nataša Kandić, accusing her of “committing a serious criminal act against the constitutional order and the security of the Republic of Serbia by threatening the state’s independence and territorial integrity”.
– On the same day, the daily newspaper Večernje novosti published an article entitled Nataša, the woman who does not exist, implicating that her elimination would be of no consequence. It is worth remembering that this is the same newspaper that had published the threats against Zoran Đinđić, the Prime Minister assassinated in March2003.

We therefore believe that there are serious reasons to be worried at present about the personal safety of Nataša Kandić, and of several other human rights defenders in the country. Consequently, we are asking the French authorities to intervene, in particular through the Council of the European Union, in order that the Serbian authorities:
– take immediate concrete measures to prevent any future violation of human rights;
– condemn any propensity to make scapegoats of human rights defenders;
– guarantee freedom of expression for all sections of Serbian society.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours faithfully

Antoine Malafosse
General Delegate

Signatory associations:

Association Sarajevo
Comité catholique contre la faim et pour le développement (CCFD)
Centre André Malraux
Comité Kosovo
Guernica ADPE
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint programme of the Fédération internationale des droits de l’homme [International Federation of Human Rights] and the Organisation mondiale contre la torture [World Organisation against Torture])

The following individuals are also supporting the appeal:

Mr Georges-Marie Chenu, former ambassador
Mr Paul Garde, professor emeritus
Ms Florence Hartmann, journalist
Mr Pierre Hassner, university professor
Ms Sylvie Matton, journalist


– Mr Javier Solana, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union
– Ms Rama Yade, State Secretary in charge of foreign affairs and human rights under the authority of the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs