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Dienstbier: Almost 600 Otpor activists arrested

Belgrade, Wednesday -- Serbia needs dialogue, not conflict, between the authorities and the opposition, the UN's special rapporteur for human rights, Jiri Dienstbier, said today. Dienstbier told a press conference that he was anxious about the state of human rights in Serbia and the coming terrorism legislation which could make opposition activities illegal and increase repression and takeovers of independent media.

Dienstbier quoted Otpor as saying that 573 of the organisation's activists had been detained for interrogation by police to date. The human rights envoy also condemned Albanian violence against Serbs in Kosovo and pledged to fight against ethnic cleansing in the province.

Dienstbier last night met leaders of the democratic opposition and briefed them on his meetings with a number of Serbian officials. After discussing Serbia's proposed anti-terrorist legislation with Justice Minister Dragoljub Jankovic yesterday, he told opposition leaders that he was opposed to capital punishment and had expressed that view to the Yugoslav authorities.

Source: B92

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