The Youth Program of BCHR has has launched a new campaign targeting young people in Serbia in the light of COVID-19 pandemic

April 1, 2020

FB post_O jednoj izolovanoj mladosti (1)The Youth Program of Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has has launched a new campaign targeting young people in Serbia in the light of COVID-19 pandemic.

Dear friends!
This world has changed so much in the past few weeks.
We’re all witnessing major changes dictating joint efforts, new circumstances, new learning, new ways of doing things and opening new questions.
Our isolation in our safe (or unfortunately, not so safe) spaces brings up associations of deserted islands, islands of hope for some of us and islands of loneliness for others.

How do we feel on our deserted islands? And what will happen to us when we leave them? How different will we be?

Some of the values every crisis reminds us of will always be there. Solidarity. Equality. The need to do big things and help those in need. The need to see others and embrace fear and sorrow. The need to hope.

We will often reach out to you through social networks and share with you accurate and clear information about the coronavirus, the emergency and its social aspects. We will try to keep in close touch and communicate with you much as possible in the circumstances.

We will contemplate together the global changes affecting our lives. We will be asking: What is happening to the world? What are the key challenges we young people face in the 21 st century? Where are we, what will our priorities be from now on? What with human rights in times of crisis? Which values and principles do we hold dear now?

Let’s all think together about what we can do and how we can behave to turn this crisis into our contribution to our joint transformation into a more responsible, aware and empathetic world.

What can you do now for yourself and the world around you? Apparently, the time has come when we can all save the world together.

We hope you can spare several minutes to fill this questionnaire and tell us how well informed you are about the pandemic, how you feel, whether you have a skill or interest you would like to share with other young people.

Stay well, stay safe and write to us from your islands of hope!

You can always contact us by e-mail youth@bgcentar.org.rs. Or, if you prefer Instagram, follow us on @mladibgcentar and message us directly. 

We hereby thank the UN Human Rights Team for supporting our initiative.

Your BCHR Youth Programme

BCHR Initiates Review of Constitutionality of the Decree on State Emergency Measures and the Order Restricting and Prohibiting Movement of Individuals in the Territory of the Republic of Serbia

March 31, 2020

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) today filed an initiative with the Constitutional Court of Serbia to review the constitutionality of Articles 2 and 3 of the Decree on State Emergency Measures and the Order Restricting and Prohibiting Movement of Individuals in the Territory of the Republic of Serbia. Rather than itself laying down the specific measures derogating from human and minority rights in the Decree, the Serbian Government authorised the Ministry of Interior to adopt a decision thereof, with the consent of the Health Ministry.

In the BCHR’s view, the Serbian Government’s power to prescribe measures derogating from human and minority rights in the event the National Assembly cannot convene (with the Serbian President co-signing the decree enacting them), cannot be delegated to the ministries by any Government or presidential enactment. Therefore, Articles 2 and 3 of the Decree on State Emergency Measures and the Order Restricting and Prohibiting Movement of Individuals in the Territory of the Republic of Serbia enacted by the Ministry of the Interior with the Health Ministry’s consent are incompatible with the Constitution. The Interior Ministry’s Order does not constitute valid grounds for derogations from human and minority rights enshrined in the Serbian Constitution, especially given that some of the measures restricting the freedom of movement set out in the Order (most notably the measure prohibiting people over 65 and 70 from leaving their homes 24 hours a day) amount to deprivation of liberty under international human rights standards.

To recall, under the Serbian Constitution, measures derogating from human and minority rights in a state of emergency shall be prescribed by the National Assembly by a majority of votes. In the event the Assembly is not in a position to convene, such measures may be prescribed by a Government Decree, co-signed by the Serbian President. In such cases, the Government is under the duty to submit the Decree to the National Assembly for verification within 48 hours from adoption, i.e. as soon as the National Assembly is able to convene. 

The BCHR alerted the Serbian Government to the problem last week, but no-one has reacted to it yet. Given the possibility of unforeseeable legal consequences that may result in the initiation of numerous court proceedings against the state, we have no other option but to take this issue to the Constitutional Court, expecting it to react without delay. We also appeal to the Serbian Government to lay down all measures derogating for human and minority rights in the form prescribed by the Constitution and to ensure that they are proportionate to the purpose of their imposition.

The BCHR’s initiative is available in Serbian here.

BCHR Files Initiative with the Constitutional Court to Review the Constitutionality of Article 2 of the Decree on Misdemeanour Violations of the Interior Minister’s Order Restricting and Prohibiting Movement

March 26, 2020

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights filed an initiative with the Serbian Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of the Decree on the Misdemeanour of Violating the Order of the Minister of Internal Affairs on the Restriction and Prohibition of Movement of Individuals in the Territory of the Republic of Serbia (hereinafter: Decree) and its compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Decree was adopted during the state of emergency introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. BCHR is disputing the possibility of dual, criminal and misdemeanour punishment of individuals who violate the prohibition of movement.

Under the Decree, anyone who violates the restriction or prohibition of movement shall be punished by a fine ranging from 50,000 to 150,000 RSD (Article 1). Article 2 of the Decree is, however, disputable given that it lays down that misdemeanour proceedings may be initiated and completed also in case criminal proceedings have been initiated or are pending against the perpetrator of the misdemeanour for a crime comprising elements of the misdemeanour, regardless of the prohibition in Article 8(3) of the Misdemeanour Act.

Although the ministerial Order specifies that non-compliance with the introduced prohibitions will be punishable as a criminal offence, in accordance with the Criminal Code, and as a misdemeanour, under the Decree, the BCHR holds that there is no justification for punishing the individuals who violate the prohibitions twice (in criminal proceedings – for the offence incriminated in Article 248 of the Criminal Code, and then in misdemeanour proceedings, for a misdemeanour under Article 1 of the Decree), which is precisely what the impugned Article of the Decree enables.

To recall, Article 34 of the Serbian Constitution and Article 4 of Protocol 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights enshrine the ne bis in idem principle, which may not be derogated from even during states of emergency.

The BCHR initiative is available here.

Restricting the movement of asylum seekers during the state of emergency and coronavirus pandemic

March 23, 2020
Decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia on temporary restriction of movement of asylum seekers and irregular migrants accommodated in asylum centers and reception centers in the Republic of Serbia (Official Gazette 32/2020) regulates the issue of the work of asylum centers and reception centers during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic (SARS- CoV-2) due to which a state of emergency was declared on the territory of the Republic of Serbia.
 
This decision temporarily restricts the movement of asylum seekers and other persons accommodated in asylum centers and reception centers, with increased surveillance and security of these facilities. Like other accommodation institutions for a large number of people (such as nursing homes, dormitories, etc.), these centers are extremely vulnerable to the possible spread of the infection.
 
It should be noted that persons currently housed in the centers in Serbia arrived before the outbreak of the pandemic, and thus the closure of the centers was done in order to avoid the spread of the virus inside the centers from outside.

Also, on March 20, 2020, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of the Council of Europe (CPT) issued a statement of principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Recognizing the clear need to take firm action to combat the spread as well as to face specific and difficult challenges for employees of all detention facilities, the CPT recalled that the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment was absolute and that the protective measures taken by States to combat COVID-19 should never result in any form of abuse of persons deprived of their liberty.

 
Therefore, the CPT recommended that during the COVID-19 pandemic, basic principle is for states to take all possible action to protect the health and safety of all persons deprived of their liberty and by taking such action to also contribute to preserving the health and safety of staff., and also to allow the monitoring by independent bodies, including National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) and the CPT,.
 
For the purpose of better informing persons who are currently accommodated in asylum centers and reception centers, the Belgrade Center for Human Rights has prepared info leaflets in the languages most frequently spoken by asylum seekers.
 
Click below to see the leaflets in the following languages

Work of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and Other Human Rights House Member Organisations

March 16, 2020

We would like to announce that, due to the situation with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and the intensified measures of the Government of the Republic of Serbia regarding declaring a state of emergency, the Human Rights House with its member organizations unanimously decided that their employees will work from home in the upcoming period.

For more detailed information on the work and activities of each organization in the upcoming period, do not hesitate to contact them via websites or e-mail addresses.

Following the development of the situation and the recommendations of the competent institutions, the Human Rights House and its member organizations will keep informing on their further steps and activities.

The Human Rights House is comprised of:

  • Belgrade Centre for Human Rights BCHR
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM
  • Civic Initiatives
  • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  • Policy Center

BCHR Presents Its 2019 Annual Human Rights and Right to Asylum Reports

March 3, 2020

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The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) presented its 2019 Annual Reports on Human Rights in Serbia and on the Right to Asylum in Serbia on Thursday, 27 February 2020.

The 2019 Human Rights in Serbia report was presented in the Belgrade Media Center by its editor, Dr. Vesna Petrović. Mr. Matthias Schikorsky, Second Secretary, Political Adviser and Human Rights Officer at the German Embassy in Belgrade and the authors of the Report, BCHR expert Mr. Dušan Pokuševski and reporter Mr. Ivan Protić, discussed the human rights situation in the country. 

Dr. Petrović said that the human rights situation in Serbia has been deteriorating due to lack of dialogue in society and dwindling public trust in state institutions. She cited in example the offensive vocabulary the Serbian MPs have been resorting to in their qualifications of journalists, judges, actors and others who do not share their views, their failure to publicly debate the laws they were adopting and their adoption of leges speciales with corruptive provisions. 

“We thought something would change when the (EU accession) talks on Chapter 23 opened but the fact that no-one has been appointed in lieu of Ms. Tanja Miščević, who stepped down as the head of the Serbian EU negotiation team in September 2019, speaks volumes. The public does not know who is negotiating on behalf of Serbia. Only two new Chapters were opened last year,” said Professor Petrović. 

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