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

December 6, 2021

Gform YRT 21

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.

We condemn the arrest of peace activists Aida Ćorović and Jelena Jaćimović

November 9, 2021

tri slobode englOrganizations gathered around the Three Freedoms Platform strongly condemn the arrest of peace activists Aida Ćorović and Jelena Jaćimović, who were brutally detained by plainclothes police while protesting against the mural of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladić. On International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism, the arrest of human rights activists and taking the side of convicted war criminals shows the true political orientation of the authorities in Serbia.

We remind you that a gathering organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in order to remove the mural of Ratko Mladić was illegally banned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs due to alleged danger to the safety of people and property. Minister Aleksandar Vulin then issued a statement in which he characterized the planned removal as “hypocritical, vile and driven by evil intentions”. On the day of the originally scheduled protest, and according to eyewitnesses, members of the Ministry of the Interior stopped and identified citizens who found themselves in the immediate vicinity of the mural.

We remind you that the arrest of Maja Stojanović, now the executive director of Civic Initiatives, which took place 14 years ago after a similar action against Ratko Mladić, ended with her being declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, and the President of Serbia paying the then imposed misdemeanor fine. The repetition of such catastrophic mistakes by Serbian authorities represents a step backwards, and shows that Serbia is moving in the direction of celebrating crimes, not democratization.

In its statement, the Ministry of the Interior stated that “there are many who would like to see pictures of broken Serb heads coming from Belgrade.” Instead, tonight in Belgrade, we are witnessing a brutal demonstration of force against peace activists by non-uniformed persons, in order to defend the politics of war-mongering.

 

  1. Civic Initiatives
  2. Youth Initiative for Human Rights
  3. Center for Cultural Decontamination
  4. Initiative for Social and Economic Rights – A11
  5. Belgrade Center for Security Policy
  6. Trag Foundation
  7. Slavko Curuvija Foundation
  8. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  9. Belgrade Center for Human Rights
  10. Partners Serbia
  11. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM
  12. Women in Black
  13. Autonomous Women’s Center
  14. New Optimism
  15. Policy Center
  16. Serbia on the Move
  17. Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability – CRTA
  18. Our Endowment (Naša zadužbina)
  19. Catalyst Balkans
  20. National Coalition for Decentralization
  21. Transparency Serbia

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.

The Commissioner for the Protection of Equality finds that Raiffeisen Bank discriminated against refugees

November 2, 2021

BCHR A11

Acting on the complaint of the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality determined that Raiffeisen Bank a.d. Belgrade, violated the provisions of Article 6 of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination of the Republic of Serbia when it refused to open accounts for persons with granted asylum, ie recognized refugee status in Serbia. In the opinion, the Commissioner stated that it is not possible to exclude in advance the possibility of opening bank accounts for certain categories of persons solely based on citizenship, i.e. the country of origin of a natural person or nationality. This is a new decision of the Commissioner in proceedings on complaints against banks, since it was previously established in early July that Banca Intesa discriminated against refugees and asylum seekers.

After the information that some banks refuse to open a bank account for persons with granted asylum in Serbia, with Iranian origin, Initiative A 11 and the Belgrade Center for Human Rights conducted testing of discrimination in Raiffeisen Bank in May 2021. As the discriminatory situation was confirmed during testing, we filed a complaint due to discrimination. Namely, in this case, banks refused to open accounts to persons who have an ID card issued by the Asylum Office – Internal Affairs Serbia with recognized refugee status, and thus intend to settle permanently in Serbia, with the excuse of the bank’s internal procedures. The Commissioner states that during this procedure Raiffeisen Bank did not submit evidence from which it would be established that this denial was for justified reasons, i.e. to open an account for a person of Iranian origin with granted asylum in Serbia. The Commissioner states that the refusal to open an account, i.e. to establish or terminate a business relationship is possible only if the bank has determined that there is a high risk in establishing a business relationship, and could not apply intensified actions and measures in accordance with the law and the bank’s internal act.

The Commissioner also recommended that the bank, without negative generalizations, in each specific case, assess and consider the requirements for opening an account and not violate the regulations on the prohibition of discrimination. The Commissioner notes that by its actions the bank indisputably denied the application of the corpus of rights guaranteed by the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection, but also by the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees from 1951, such as the right to access the labor market, integration assistance, property rights, and social security.

The Belgrade Center for Human Rights and Initiative A 11 welcome the Commissioner`s response to the joint complaint and point out the importance that in any future similar situation, banks must justify their actions without flat and discriminatory assessments, and that regardless of procedures, rules and risk assessments, the bank must operate in accordance with the laws of Serbia. We also remind you of the stand taken by the National Bank of Serbia after the request for an opinion sent by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights at the beginning of the year, stating that regulations in the field of banking do not provide grounds for excluding the possibility of establishing business relations with the entire category of persons, with a reminder of the provisions of national legislation concerning the prohibition of discrimination.

The Equality Commissioner Opinion and recommendation is here in serbian.

The National Bank of Serbia response to BCHR’s request is here in serbian.