Kosovo Police Must Investigate Hate Crime Attacks
Civil Rights Defenders urges the government of Kosovo and relevant institutions to bring to justice everyone responsible for the recent attacks, threats and hate crimes by religious extremist and radical groups against the Magazine and web platform Kosovo 2.0 and the LGBT organisation Libertas. Further, the government of Kosovo must take all necessary measures to fulfill their international and domestic obligations in protection and fulfillment of human rights.
Civil Rights Defenders also calls on the state prosecutor and the Kosovo police to act accordingly and to promptly investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of the hate crime attacks, physical assaults and life threats on these two organisations and other individuals. The authorities must ensure the values and liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo. The criminal acts are not only aimed at the two organisations in question, but are also a threat to the rights and liberties of every citizen of Kosovo, such as the right to life, right to speech and freedom of expression.
“We strongly support every person’s right to exercise the freedom of religion. The use of violence, however, cannot be justified in the name of religion, as we are well aware that religions promote peace and coexistence in society”, said Goran Miletic, Programme Director for Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.
Civil Rights Defenders has also informed Carl Bildt, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, about the situation and asked him to use his influence and require from Prime Minister Tachi to strengthen protection for Kosovo’s human rights defenders, and to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice
After Kosovo 2.0 announced the release of an issue of the magazine exploring sexuality, gender and LGBT rights, the organisation started receiving hateful and threatening messages and comments on their Facebook page and on the staff’s personal Facebook profiles. Some online media were also allowing hateful and denigrating comments about Kosovo 2.0 and their friends. During the launch party on 14 December, a group of approximately 20 men rushed into the venue and physically assaulted one of Kosovo 2.0’s staff members. They also destroyed the stage in the premises.
After the incident, special police forces were called to the venue. At the same time a growing group of over 100 protesters began to approach the building, yelling epithets such as “Out pederasts!” and “Allahu akber!”. The event was cancelled and the participants had to be evacuated by the police in small groups so as not to provoke the crowd. Civil Rights Defenders field staff was among these guests and personally witnessed these events.
On 16 December there was another incident where a group of 7 people attacked the premises of Libertas, an organisation that works for promotion and protection of LGBT rights in Kosovo. One person who left the office was severely beaten by 3 or 4 men. The attackers also threw tear gas through an open window in the office, clearly aiming to force the people inside to leave the premise. Kosovo Police was notified and arrived immediately at the scene of the crime, but were not able to arrest any of the offenders. Charges have been filed against unknown persons.
Civil Rights Defenders calls on the authorities to not only condemn these events, which are a threat to freedom of speech and democracy, but to take concrete measures that bring the perpetrators to justice and send a clear message that this society stands for protection of civil liberties and equal rights for all.
Read Civil Rights Defenders’ letter to the government: Civil Rights Defenders reactions on recent events and attacks.