Zero Report on Youth Rights in Serbia 2019: Serbian Youths are Unemployed, Depressed and Neglected

February 5, 2020

Zero report

Serbian media have increasingly been reporting on the situation of young people in the country since the beginning of the year. They have been discussing youth migration, notably emigration of youths from Serbia, their housing and announcements of state projects to address sustainable housing issues, and elections, by monitoring the activities of specific youth groups in the country’s political life.

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has for years been implementing activities in the youth sector and working with young people across Serbia. It has begun reporting on the human rights of youths on an annual level with the cooperation and expert assistance of the United Nations Human Rights Team. Its 2019 Zero Report on Youth Rights in Serbia  shows that youths are neglected, leaving the country, insufficiently involved in decision-making, underrepresented in the media and, at great risk of poverty.

Herewith the key findings of the Report:

o   Youths between 15 and 24 years of age are at twice the risk of poverty as the adult population;

o   Most youths (57%) are engaged in some form of precarious employment: part-time employment (36%), temporary and occasional employment (8%) or informal employment (11%);

o    Youths are paid 20% lower wages; one out of three workers under 30 are paid wages lower than two-thirds the median wage; eight out of ten youths are paid wages lower than the national average; and, one out of five earn less than the minimum wage every month;

o   Around half a million people aged 20-34 in Serbia live with their parents; one-third of them have no prospects of living independently because they have no income; many of those that have jobs continue living with their parents because they cannot afford to rent their own place and live decently on the money left over; and, young people mostly resolve their housing problems through inheritance or with their parents’ financial assistance;

o    Over 4,000 people who emigrate from Serbia every month are young; circa 51,000 people that leave Serbia every year equals the population of an average Serbian municipality;

o   Youths, especially those in rural areas, do not have equal access to health care; more must be done to improve the protection of the reproductive health of young people and their protection from sexually transmitted diseases; 70% of youths between 15 and 29 years of age are sexually active but a much lower share of them uses contemporary contraceptives; the situation of youths living with HIV, multiple sclerosis and other grave illnesses is problematic;

o   A large share of youths aged between 15 and 29, especially of poorer social and economic status, suffers from anxiety and depression;

o   Only 40% of youths over 18 vote regularly, while 32.4% say they never vote.

The 2019 Zero Report on Youth Rights in Serbia shows that youths are the most interested in realising their economic and social rights, which they qualify as systemically jeopardised and neglected.

You may download the publication here.

Topmost State Officials’ Statements are in Direct Violation of the Principles of the Rule of Law, Separation of Powers and the Independence of the Judiciary

January 21, 2020

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights is deeply concerned by a statement made by Justice Ministry State Secretary Radomir Ilić by which he directly violated the principles of the rule of law, separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. The BCHR hereby warns of the potentially grave consequences of his, as well as President Aleksandar Vučić’s recent comments on the work of the judiciary. Such statements presage the undermining of the very foundations of the constitutional order and the establishment of a constitutional and political system of governance in which the executive will prevail over the legislative and judicial branches formally as well. 

During his appearance on TV Prva on 19 January 2020, Ilić inter alia said that “courts and prosecutors have become an irresponsible branch of government, a closed system not subject to any external oversight … Instead of President Vučić appointing judges (like the French do), we here have judges and prosecutors sitting together with criminals…”. Ilić also dismissed allegations of political pressures on the judiciary and said that the Constitution needed to be amended to ensure external oversight of the judiciary. 

Such a statement by a senior government official came only a few days after Vučić criticised the prosecutor’s decision to discontinue an investigation, whereby he directly violated the constitutionally guaranteed principle of prosecutorial autonomy and the presumption of innocence of the individual who had been under investigation.

The BCHR appeals to all government officials to stop jeopardising the independence of the judiciary and calls on the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council to rise in its defence. The populist rhetoric topmost state officials have been resorting to in order to discredit judges and prosecutors needs to be viewed through the prism of the constitutional reform launched back in 2017. 

The Chapter 23 Action Plan envisages the amendment of the Constitution and laws on the judiciary in order to ensure the independence of the judiciary and minimise any influence of the legislative and executive branches on the nomination, election, appointment, transfer and termination of office of judges, court presidents and (deputy) public prosecutors.  In 2017 and 2018, the Justice Ministry masterminded the drafting of amendments to the constitutional provisions on the judiciary.   To recall, the way in which it organised the consultation process gave rise to major doubts about the authorities’ genuine commitment to implement the constitutional reform with a view to precluding the executive and legislative branches’ influence on the judiciary. In mid-2018, the parliamentary Constitutional Issues and Legislation Committee endorsed the Government proposal to amend the constitutional provisions on the judiciary. However, the latest publicly available version of the amendments does not respond to the goals set out in the Chapter 23 Action Plan; rather, the proposed amendments are, to an extent, inferior to the valid provisions of the Constitution. 

Is it even worth asking what the Republican Public Prosecutor is doing in a country with crumbling institutions?

BCHR Surprised by the Culture and Information Ministry’s Rapid Initiation of Misdemeanour Proceedings against Belgrade Weekly Vreme

January 18, 2020


The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights hereby expresses its surprise at the speed at which the Ministry of Culture and Information filed a misdemeanour report against the eminent Belgrade weekly Vreme and sincerely hopes that it will continue responding as rapidly and diligently to all breaches by media outlets, especially the tabloids that have grossly violated the Press Code of Conduct and the Public Information and Media Act on innumerable occasions, as the many Press Council decisions against them corroborate. The BCHR expects that the Ministry will just as fervently and consistently react to any future violations in accordance with the law, ethical principles and pledge to support the professional work of the media, given the sizable funds allocated to tabloid media through various projects. We have no doubt that the Ministry values the tax-payers’ money and believes that it should be used expediently and allocated in accordance with public interests, professional public information standards, culture of speech and dialogue, and Serbia’s laws and Constitution.     

To recall, BCHR on 11 January 2020 filed a criminal report with the Republican Public Prosecution Service (RPPS) against unidentified staff of the Niš Higher Public Prosecution Service and/or the city police officers, who are suspected of leaking to the dailies Informer, Alo Srpski telegraf and its Internet portal  the statement Ninoslav Jovanović from Malča gave the Niš Higher Public Prosecutor, in which he testified in detail of the grave crimes he committed  against his underage victim. The Ministry initiated misdemeanour proceedings against Vreme because it ran the tabloids’ front-pages to illustrate its article titled “Evil Looming from the Newsstands”.

BCHR Submits Initiative for an Inspection of the Work of the Požarevac General Hospital

January 15, 2020

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights submitted an initiative for an inspection of the work of the Požarevac General Hospital, after the latter refused to allow access to or hand over the body of a still-born baby to its parents. The BCHR filed the initiative for the inspection of the work of the Požarevac hospital and, if necessary, initiation of misdemeanour proceedings together with the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM and the A11 Initiative for Economic and Social Rights. The initiative was launched after media reported in late 2019 that the Požarevac General Hospital refused to allow access to or hand over the body of a still-born baby to its parents. The video footage published on the Internet showed the Hospital Director telling the parents that still-born children were treated as foetuses and that the body would be disposed of in accordance with the Medical Waste Rulebook.  (more…)

Criminal Report filed against Unidentified Staff of the Niš Prosecution Service and Police for Leaking Suspected Child Molester’s Testimony to Tabloids

January 13, 2020

On 11 January 2020, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights filed a criminal report with the Republican Public Prosecution Service (RPPS) against unidentified staff of the Niš Higher Public Prosecution Service and/or the city police officers. They are suspected of leaking to tabloids the statement Ninoslav Jovanović from Malča gave the Niš Higher Public Prosecutor in early January 2020, which contained details of the grave crimes he had committed against his underage victim. By leaking his testimony to the dailies Informer, Alo, Srpski telegraf and its Internet portal, the officials have committed the following offences that are incriminated by the Criminal Code and prosecuted ex officio: violation of confidentiality of proceedings (Article 337), abuse of office (Article 359) and/or violation of the law by judges, public prosecutors or their deputies (Article 360).   (more…)