BELGRADE -- Monday – Human Rights Watch has accused the Serbian government of failing to protect minority communities, including Hungarians in Vojvodina, from ethnically-based attacks.
The international lobby group, in a report released on the eve of EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn’s visit to Belgrade to kick off accession talks with Serbia-Montenegro, warns that violence against minorities is on the rise in Serbia.
HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director Holly Cartner said that Belgrade should not count on integration into the EU if it didn’t take a more serious approach to the problem.
A number of attacks are cited, including physical assault, vandalism of religious and cultural buildings and the desecration of graves.
In addition to the Hungarian minority community in the northern province of Vojvodina, Slovaks, Croats and Muslims, inclusding Albanians, have also been targeted, according to the report.
Complaints made by members of minority communities include delays in police responses to incidents and, in some cases, allowing attackers to flee or even openly supporting them.
The lack of legislation against ethnically-motivated acts and light sentences imposed for such crimes also signal that the Serbian government does not take the issue seriously, says HRW.
Serbia has been accusing the Kosovo government, in recent years, of not doing enough to protect minorities in Kosovo. Now it finds itself being accused of the same things by the most respected human rights organization. There has been no reaction yet from the Kosovo government. F.F
B92,RTK and AP.