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Human Rights Watch: More efforts needed to end human rights abuses in the Balkans

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Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 states that the governments in the countries of the Western Balkans did little during 2013 to address longstanding human rights problems. This year, the World Report documented human rights concerns in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Serbia (including Kosovo), as well as concerns on the situation in Croatia in the chapter on the European Union.

HRW World Report 2014 (Photo HRW)

“The Western Balkan countries need to work harder to bring their human rights records in line with European and international standards,” said Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo are going to have to put a stop to these serious abuses if they really aspire to move closer to Europe.”

Protection of minorities remains weak throughout the region, including for Roma, who face widespread discrimination in accessing health care, education, and housing, including forced evictions.

The media, and especially investigative journalists in the countries of the Western Balkans have been targetted by numerous threats and acts of intimidation by political and religious communities. LGBT persons continue to face intolerance and harrasment. The report notes the case of Serbia, where the Natioanal Security Council moved to ban, for the third year in a row, the Pride Parade citing security concerns. Journalists in the region face a hostile environment, including threats and attacks.

Aa far as Croatia is concerned (the country was covered as a part of the general report on the European Union), the report notes problems with reintegration of members of the Serb minority, with continued discrimination and hostility in some regions of the country and obstacles in relation to the right to housing. In November, the Vukovar city council halted the implementation of bilingualism after protests against Cyrillic street signs.

Read the full World Report 2014, and the country reports on the website of the Human Rights Watch.

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