Human rights protection, as a fundamental element of freedom, constitutes the third variable of the rule of law dimension. Without the rule of law in its entirety, there cannot be effective human rights protection. Without the respect for human rights, the rule of law is unthinkable. Likewise, human rights and economic freedom are interlinked. On one hand, human rights include property rights and the latter are the backbone of economic freedom. On the other hand, without economic freedom - itself a human right per se - many other human rights cannot be effectively protected, because for their judicial or other protection it is sometimes essential to provide private financial resources independently from the government.
FNF used the scores from the Maplecroft`s Human Rights Risk Atlas to compile its Freedom Barometer in the field of human rights protection. 20 different indices from the Atlas were extracted and the average score derived from them. A score of 0 indicates the highest, whereas a score of 10 indicates the lowest possible risk in the pertinent area of human rights.
Human Rights in the Region
In the Western Balkans, human rights were totally neglected during the communist era. Moreover, human rights advocacy per se constituted an act of treason and qualified one for the status of a political enemy. The wars of the 1990`s brought additional, unthinkable human rights abuses, such as genocide and ethnic cleansing, mostly in the name of ethno-nationalism. Post-conflict societies of Western Balkans have witnessed new cynical political elites, who just paid lip service to human rights and respected them only in as much as the EU had demanded it from them. Having all those in mind, one could assess that the human rights situation in the region considerably improved during the last 10-15 years. In the Table 1, scores for human rights in the five countries of the region could be found.
In its publication Freedom Barometer 2013 Western Balkans, FNF exposed to criticism the above countries for all the shortcomings in protection of human rights. For instance, “visible minorities” - such as Rroma, or “outed” gay people - are discriminated against throughout the region. In Serbia, small or new religious communities, human rights watchdogs, or LGBT community, often face vandalism or other violent opposition. In Croatia, the use of Serb Cyrillic alphabet in multi-ethnic towns in the east is obstructed by vandalism, while in popular culture shows hate speech is a socially acceptable behavior. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, one`s human rights depend much on whether or not he/she lives among ethno-religious compatriots. Nonetheless, the risk of arbitrary arrest or ill treatment in custody is high regardless of ethnicity. In Montenegro, partitocracy, nepotism and tribalism discriminate people even outside the public sector. The number of women at top positions is small indeed. In Albania, the gap between state-of-the-art legislation on one and actual treatment of LGBT people in everyday life on the other hand is striking. Politicians lip-service European values, while LGBT community is de facto excluded from society.
However, there are also success stories. There are achievements, or improvements, in some fields, whereof WB countries could be proud. For instance, during five consecutive years, 2009-2013, the multi-confessional Albania has been scoring 9.63 (out of 10) for the Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion. The degree of religious tolerance and the respect for all beliefs is indeed remarkable. During any of the numerous social conflicts that followed the collapse of communism in 1991/92 - even during the civil war in 1997 - religion was not an issue.
It was only by the end of last decade that someone in Serbia started seriously thinking about family violence. It was the civil society sector: NGOs and independent media. Their initiatives led to the establishment of the first safe houses specialized for women or children victims of domestic violence. Both the governments and the opposition at all tiers soon grasped the issue as a possible vote-winner and facilitated a true turnabout in the attitude towards women beaten at home. Anti-discrimination act was carried in the National Assembly, the police started actively protecting beaten women, while local governments increasingly supported safe houses from the city or municipality budgets. Thereafter, Serbia`s score for Women`s and Girls` Rights Index grew steadily and considerably.
Meanwhile, in Montenegro, the Freedom of Opinion and Expression Index (defined as “the right of a person to hold opinions, as well as seek, receive and impart information and ideas without fear or interference”) rose steadily.