The government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic denied visas to a delegation of internationally prominent academics.
"The government's refusal to allow us in is further evidence of its systematic campaign to dismantle intellectual freedom and isolate independent scholars," said Jonathan F. Fanton, president of New School University in New York and chair of the Human Rights Watch board. "The Milosevic government has undermined the autonomy of Serbia's academic institutions and harassed and dismissed faculty dissidents, part of an ongoing attack on free expression and inquiry."
In addition to Fanton, members of the planned delegation included: John Polanyi, 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry and one of Canada's preeminent scientists; Richard Rorty, now at Stanford, one of the world's leading philosophers; and Sam Treiman, a physicist who has served as chair of the physics department at Princeton University, and is a member of such distinguished bodies as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The delegation had scheduled meetings with a diverse group of academics in Belgrade, including members of the Alternative Academic Educational Network, an organization recently formed by University of Belgrade faculty members to provide instruction to students off-campus, free from government control. The delegation had also planned to meet with students, including members of a new group called Otpor—or "Resistance"—that has taken the lead in organizing student opposition to the government crackdown on the universities.
"The delegation had wanted to establish contacts with Serbian colleagues and help end the isolation of academics in Belgrade," said Fanton. "The government apparently saw such contacts as a threat."
The Human Rights Watch report, due out this Monday, details actions by Milosevic and his political allies in recent months that have destroyed the autonomy of Serbian universities and led to the dismissal or suspension of over fifty campus-based dissidents and independent-minded academics.
For Further Information:
In New York, Joseph Saunders: +(1-212) 216-1207
Fred Abrahams: +(1-212) 216-1270