Youth Rights Talks on Tuesday, 7th of December – this year theme is environment #WhatNext?

December 6, 2021

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Belgrade Centre for Human Rigths and BCHR’s Youth Team are very pleased to invite you to a unique event that focuses on the voices of young people and their human rights – Youth Rights Talks, which will be held on Tuesday, 7th of December, at 11 A.M. For the fourth year in a row, Youth Rights Talks provides young people with a safe space to publicly express their views, thoughts, and stories on social issues, thus establishing dialogue among young people and relevant institutions in the country.

This year’s leading theme is the right to a healthy environment and environmentally sustainable communities with our slogan #WhatNext?. Among the hundred participants, we expect young people from all over Serbia, international organizations, decision-makers, and institutions that deal with issues, problems, and the future of young people in Serbia at the policy level.

You can follow our event via the ZOOM platform, by registering at the link:
https://undp.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0sf-qhpjMrHtTrqTgCHjYaN17b-U3VJPEE

The official language of the event is Serbian. A translation to English will be provided. The event is accessible to people with disabilities, and Serbian sign language interpreters will be provided.

Youth Rights Talks 2021 is organized by the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights in cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Team in Serbia. 

The detailed agenda of the event in english is HERE.

State authorities still tolerating public officials’ ill-treatment

Capture prohibtion of tortureThe Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has published its publication Prohibition of Torture and Other Forms of Ill-Treatment in Serbia 2018-2020, which includes an analysis of the relevant national criminal law, prosecutorial investigations and court proceedings against public officials suspected of extortion of confessions and torture or ill-treatment. The publication analyses investigations of police ill-treatment during the July 2020 civic protests and presents the results of a survey of public awareness of post-arrest rights. 

The research shows that the national criminal law framework on the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment is unsatisfactory and that the numerous shortcomings of the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Legal Aid Act and other regulations are precluding effective investigations of ill-treatment cases and the adequate punishment of public officials found guilty of those crimes. 

Police officers still account for most public officials charged with these crimes. The data indicate that their collegiality goes beyond professional; as a rule, they neither report their fellow officers who torture or ill-treat people nor testify against them (at least 226 officers testified in such cases but none of them confirmed that the defendants had used excessive force against the victims). Investigations against public officials are neither prompt nor comprehensive and are rarely independent. Nearly all public officials found guilty have been handed down suspended sentences. In the analysed period, only two police officers found guilty of torturing an individual in Niš were convicted by a final judgment to five and eight months’ imprisonment, and only five officers found guilty in one case (of ill-treatment during the 2014 Pride Parade in Belgrade) lost their jobs. In all other analysed cases, the convicted officers did not suffer any work-related consequences, except for one officer whose salary was cut by 20%. In all cases ending with a final decision, the courts instructed the victims of ill-treatment to claim damages in civil proceedings.

Not one of the scores of proceedings initiated in response to police brutality during last year’s protests have been completed. The prosecution offices and the Interior Ministry’s Internal Control Sector claim that they cannot establish the identity of the uniformed officers not wearing visible ID who ill-treated people on Belgrade and Novi Sad streets in July 2020.

The survey showed that members of the public are insufficiently aware of their rights in case they are deprived of liberty.

The research was conducted with a project funded by the European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law.

The analysis is available in Serbian and English.

 

Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia – Periodic Report for July–September 2021

November 22, 2021
Capture Cover azil periodicni englThe Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) team has compiled the report on the right to asylum in the Republic of Serbia, covering the July-September 2021 period.
 
The report analyses the treatment of the asylum seekers and refugees based on the information the BCHR team obtained during their legal representation in the asylum procedure and provision of support in their integration, and during its field work. In addition to reviewing the relevant decisions by the asylum authorities, the report also describes the BCHR’s activities geared at facilitating the integration of refugees and asylum seekers, and their access to their right to education. 
 
It also comprises data the BCHR collected through regular cooperation and communication with the state authorities and UNHCR. The statistical data cover the 1 July – 30 September 2021 period.
 
The report is primarily designated for the state authorities charged with ensuring the realisation of the rights of asylum seekers and foreigners granted international protection, as well as other professionals and organisations monitoring the situation in the field of asylum.
 
The report is available HERE.

BCHR Webinar on Statelessness and the Refugee Law

November 8, 2021

Capture vebinar 19On 2 November 2021, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, with the support of the UNHCR Office in Belgrade, held an online panel discussion on Statelessness and the Refugee Law. The BCHR traditionally organizes events on issues of importance for the inclusion of refugees in the society of the Republic of Serbia.

The reason for organizing the event was our initiative to analyze the position of stateless persons who are also refugees, with reference to the general legal status of stateless persons, then the main challenges faced by refugees who are also stateless persons, as well as the presentation of individual examples from practice.

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The panelists were Nina Murray and Patricia Cabral from the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) and Milan Radojev from NGO Praxis Serbia. The event was opened by Sonja Tošković, the Executive Director of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and the moderator was Vuk Raičević, legal advisor of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights.

The first part of the panel discussion was devoted to general issues related to statelessness. Milan Radojev spoke about the concept of statelessness and its causes, international instruments related to statelessness, the position and rights of stateless persons. He then explained the procedures for determining the status of stateless persons, prevention of statelessness and the position of stateless persons in Serbian legislation.

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Nina Murray and Patricia Cabral presented an overview of the relationship between the refugee law and statelessness and why statelessness is relevant in the refugee context. The usual profiles of stateless refugees were analyzed, as well as the main challenges for stateless refugees in Europe and the analysis of international standards for their protection. Examples of good practice from other countries were presented, and Vuk Raičević also presented examples from practice and challenges in the context of Serbia. Representatives of the European Network for Statelessness presented to the participants of the panel discussion the tools and resources to support the work of lawyers, decision makers and communities.

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An open discussion was held at the end of the panel. Among the 42 participants in this event were representatives of several state institutions, then the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Belgrade, as well as representatives of international organizations and colleagues from the civil sector.

We also saw this event as an opportunity to consider the possibilities of joint multisectoral action to improve the current situation in this area in our country, exchange experiences, as well as future cooperation.

The panel discussion is part of the project “Support to Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Serbia”, which the Belgrade Center for Human Rights is implementing with the support of the UNHCR.

Border Police at Belgrade Airport Reportedly Stonewalling Aliens Who Want to Seek Asylum in Serbia

October 12, 2021

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Over the past few weeks, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) has been receiving more calls from foreign nationals, primarily Cuban nationals, denied entry into Serbia and held in the transit zone of Belgrade Airport Nikola Tesla. Dozens of them have been planning on expressing the intention to seek asylum and applying for asylum in Serbia and asked the BCHR to extend them legal aid. Most of the aliens who contacted BCHR said that the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) officers deployed at the Airport had not responded to either their oral or written requests to apply for asylum in Serbia and had seized the telephones of some of them, thus precluding them from seeking legal aid.

One of the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which Serbia has ratified, is the right of everyone fleeing war or fearing persecution in their country of origin to access the territory of the state they are seeking international protection from. Serbia is also a signatory of the UN Convention against Torture, which prohibits expulsion and refoulement of people to a territory where they are at risk of torture.

Under the national Asylum and Temporary Protection Act, the provisions of which are interpreted in accordance with the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, aliens may express their intention to seek asylum to the relevant MIA officer, either orally or in writing, during a border check when entering the Republic of Serbia or inside its territory. Aliens who express such an intention are registered and referred to an asylum centre or another facility designated for the accommodation of asylum seekers.  

Aliens denied entry at the Airport are usually held in the transit zone for days. In its report on its visit to the Belgrade Border Police Station and Nikola Tesla Airport of 25 February 2020, the National Preventive Mechanism of the Protector of Citizens found that the rooms in which aliens not fulfilling the requirements to enter Serbia were being held were unsuitable for longer stays.[1]

In BCHR’s experience, aliens seeking asylum at Nikola Tesla Airport are allowed to enter Serbia and access the asylum procedure only after the lawyers intervene and insist that the Border Police comply with the relevant national and international regulations.

To recall, the Serbian MIA is under the obligation to respect and apply the Asylum and Temporary Protection Act in respect of all aliens who notify police officers that they want to seek asylum in Serbia. The relevant institutions are under the duty to examine the existence of the risk of persecution, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of each asylum seeker. The BCHR also alerts to the fact that asylum seeking women and children are also being held in inadequate conditions at Nikola Tesla Airport.

[1] The NPM Report is available in Serbian at:https://npm.rs/attachments/article/966/izvestaj.pdf.

#ChangetheNumbers Video within the #UptoYou Campaign to Restore Youth’s Trust in Vaccination

October 6, 2021

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BCHR’s Youth Programme has made the following video #ChangetheNumbers to build youth’s trust in the immunisation within the ongoing #UptoYou campaign. The video, which is primarily intended for the younger audience, emphasises the power each and every individual has and the contribution they can make to suppress the pandemic. The video presents the story of a young woman in everyday situations, and its main message is Each number = A human story.

Although Serbia has been registering record-high numbers of new corona cases for weeks, there is no indication that the relevant authorities will in any way change their approach or introduce stricter measures to fight the pandemic. It is therefore necessary to constantly alert to the importance of responsible behaviour of every single individual, both towards themselves, their own health and that of the people around them and their community. According to the information published by the media, around 20% of young people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to date. The Belgrade Student Health Care Institute reported that nearly 13,000 university students have been jabbed.

Young people are surrounded by contradictory information coming from all sides and they are under great pressure,” says Dr Mila Paunić, an epidemiologist at the Belgrade Student Health Care Institute. “Now, with the surge in the number of new cases, it’s more important than ever to arm the youth with knowledge and information from credible sources and everything else is up to them. It’s #UptoYou, up to us as a society.”

Youth health is the main topic of the upcoming International Congress organised by the Belgrade Student Health Care Institute, which is held on 7-8 October.

The #UptoYou campaign focuses on youth, providing them with room to ask their questions and voice their dilemmas about vaccination and COVID-19, and simultaneously offers them concrete answers and expert information. Various contents designated primarily for youth have been produced within the campaign: posters, leaflets responding to youth’s FAQs (link), and the e-mail address of the Student Polyclinic expert team pitanjavakcinacija@zzzzsbg.rs, which young people can write to, share their dilemmas and ask for answers to their questions at all times.

The #UptoYou campaign is implemented by the BCHR Youth Programme in cooperation with the UN Population Fund in Serbia and the Belgrade Student Health Care Institute

Follow our campaign on social networks @mladibgcentar and join us!