UN rights prober warns Belgrade against crackdown

BELGRADE, Jun 22, 2000 -- (Reuters) The UN human rights investigator for former Yugoslavia said on Wednesday that Belgrade's crackdown on dissent could breed an explosive situation with grim consequences. "I am very disturbed by the (recent) development of the situation here as people inside the political structure take the expression of any opposition view as a continuation of (NATO) bombing," Jiri Dienstbier told reporters. "There are attempts to criminalise all opposition views. "If this continues, if the opposition is put underground, if newspapers are closed, radio stations and so on it may create a very bad explosive situation with serious consequences for people and human rights," he said. Yugoslav Serb authorities have branded opposition parties as servants of countries that took part in NATO's 1999 air war against Yugoslavia in the Kosovo conflict. Belgrade has also accused the student-based Otpor (Resistance) movement and the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement party of being behind last month's fatal shooting of a senior government official. Further, the Belgrade government has stepped up fines and lawsuits against non-government media and last month seized Belgrade's influential television station, Studio B. Speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Yugoslavia, Dienstbier said he had urged Serbian officials to choose dialogue over confrontation with the opposition. He said oppositionists he had had spoken showed readiness for dialogue. Dienstbier criticised a court ruling on Tuesday to evict from its premises the printing press of independent Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti, which would also affect other non-government papers printed there. He said Serbian police had interrogated 573 Otpor activists over the past several months. Dienstbier added there were people in Serbian government structures who refused to become instruments of repression, citing a judge who declined to act on instructions in a case involving associates of the son of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. "It is very dangerous to push all different views underground," said Dienstbier, a former Czech dissident and later foreign minister. "No matter what they (the authorities) think about the opposition as paid agents of foreign powers, they should take into account that these people are Serbian citizens and have based their views on experience here and not on any advice or money from abroad."

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