Press briefing notesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Press briefing notes on Western Balkans
12 November 2021
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
We are concerned at events this week in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where police stepped in to protect a mural of the convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic painted on a building in the city centre.
The mural in Belgrade is not an isolated incident. Posters, graffiti, other materials and statements praising war criminals are found in other parts of Serbia, as well as in various towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and elsewhere in the region.
Symbols glorifying convicted war criminals should have no place in the public space. Such symbols are all the more concerning given the recent rise in hate speech and denial of genocide and other atrocity crimes in the Western Balkans – developments that highlight the failure to address the past.
The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is particularly worrying, where such trends are deepening divisions.
We call on the authorities in the region to abide by their international human rights obligations to ensure the rights to truth, justice and reparation, as well as to adopt measures to prevent recurrence and to promote further reconciliation efforts. We call on them to condemn and refrain from all forms of hate speech and incitement to violence and to ensure the perpetrators of such acts are held accountable.
The UN Human Rights Office stands ready to continue offering its guidance on human rights issues to help people in the Western Balkans move forward with the transitional justice processes that are so crucial for the region’s future.