European Commission on Serbia’s Progress in the Field of Asylum and Migration

October 14, 2020

 

In its latest Serbia Progress Report, the European Commission said that Serbia had “some level of preparation” to implement the EU acquis on justice, freedom and security (Chapter 24, which includes asylum and migration issues) and that it continued to significantly contribute, as a transit country, to the management of the mixed migration flows towards the EU by playing an active and constructive role. The EC confirmed that migrant smuggling networks remain very active along the Western Balkan route and stated that the fight against this type of crime needed to be strengthened.

The EC Report states that most migrants in Serbia are placed in temporary accommodation facilities and do not have any legal status, but adds that Serbia continued to make substantial efforts to meet the essential needs of migrants passing through or remaining on its territory while facing increased mixed migratory movements and a large number of arrivals. The EC said that the national legal framework was largely aligned with the EU acquis but that Serbia needed to further adapt its legislation notably as regards effective access to the asylum procedure, appeal bodies, legal aid and the safe third country procedure. It also noted that access to and provision of information regarding the asylum procedure needed to be improved at all stages, especially at Belgrade international airport Nikola Tesla, where transit procedures, as envisaged by the law on asylum, were not yet being implemented and adequate premises for accommodation at the airport were lacking – issues the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has been alerting to for years.

The European Commission made no mention in its report of the wire fence Serbia erected along its border with North Macedonia or of the “technical agreement” it signed with Austria on the implementation of the Readmission Agreement. Nor did it go into the problems in the enforcement of the bilateral readmission agreements, which are minimally implemented, if at all. It did note that lack of enforceable bilateral readmission agreements with third countries was a serious obstacle for Serbia to manage returns effectively, notably with the main countries of origin including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

As per integration, the European Commission said that integration-related by-laws had been adopted and that the basic legal framework for integration existed but that major obstacles to integration remained. It noted that implementing legislation in different sectors needed to be harmonised with the Asylum and Temporary Protection Act to provide those granted international protection with effective access to socio-economic rights. The European Commission also noted the years-long failure of the Serbian authorities to issue travel documents to successful asylum seekers.

 

Memorial Lecture Devoted to Prof Dr Vojin Dimitrijević Held

October 6, 2020

The memorial lecture devoted to Prof Dr Vojin Dimitrijević, a law professor, intellectual, co-founder and long-standing Director of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, was held on Zoom on 2 October 2020.

The lecture honouring Vojin Dimitrijević was delivered by Prof Dr Žarko Puhovski, Professor Emeritus of the Zagreb University College of Philosophy. Vojin Dimitrijević passed away in Belgrade on 5 October 2012. The participants in the event said that Serbia’s society and public arena have sorely been missing Vojin’s voice, the voice of reason and tolerance,  for eight years now.

The recording of Prof Puhovski’s lecture, entitled “Idiotism of Human Rights” is available on BCHR’s YouTube channel.

Serbian Government and Protector of Citizens Should End Their Oath of Silence on COVID-19 Deaths and Infections

October 2, 2020

 

The Protector of Citizens and the Serbian Government have turned a deaf ear BCHR’s attempts to draw alert them to the alarming claims by BIRN published in June 2020 – that the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections in Serbia was much higher than the Crisis Headquarters had officially been publishing.

Back in late May, the BCHR requested of the Serbian Government to provide it with access to the minutes of the COVID-19 Crisis Headquarters sessions, the decision on the establishment of the Crisis Headquarters and information on all members of this body and their functions. It sent two follow-up requests in June 2020. On 22 June 2020, the BCHR filed an initiative with the Protector of Citizens to launch a review of the work of the Ministry of Health, specifically, the management of the COVID-19 Information System, emphasising, in particular, that any concealment of data on the health of Serbia’s population could result in irreparable and incalculable harm.

Neither the Serbian Government nor the Protector of Citizens have responded to BCHR’s requests for over three months now.

On 30 September 2020, the media quoted the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, as saying that he was looking into whether there were “grounds to launch a review of the relevant institutions”. It is absolutely unclear what exactly he is waiting for, i.e. what he considers “grounds to launch a review” – one would have thought that the data published by BIRN and the public anxiety they caused, the relevant authorities’ decision to stop informing the population on COVID-19 deaths and infections by city and region, the recent statements by Crisis Headquarters member Dr. Predrag Kon, the dissatisfaction of doctors within the United against COVID protest et al would suffice. Unfortunately, this is not the first time the public has had to wait for the reaction of the Protector of Citizens to human rights violations for months. If, indeed, it ever came.  

 

 

BCHR Issues Report on Human Rights in Serbia in the January-June 2020 Period

August 15, 2020

Capture HRReport Jan-June 2020The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) today published its Report on the State of Human Rights in Serbia in the first half of 2020, focusing on respect for human rights during the state of emergency. The Report concludes that democracy in Serbia has continued deteriorating and lists grave violations of human rights, particularly as of 15 March 2020, when the state of emergency was imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Decision on the Proclamation of the State of Emergency and all the subsequent measures were adopted by the executive rather than the legislative authorities. Resort to this possibility, although provided for by the Constitution subsidiarily and in exceptional cases, was unjustified. Grave violations of constitutionally guaranteed human and minority rights, including disproportionate restrictions of the freedom of movement, occurred during the state of emergency; numerous examples and accounts of citizens who were beaten up, arrested and detained for violating self-isolation measures they had not been properly notified of were registered.

The Constitutional Court was apparently hibernating during the state of emergency. Sixty-seven days passed from the day the state of emergency was imposed until it rendered its first decision. It only reacted publicly to criticisms of its dormancy. By mid-May, it received a total of 51 initiatives challenging the constitutionality and legality of regulations enacted during the state of emergency: 10 questioned the constitutionality of the Decision on the Proclamation of the State of Emergency and 41 the constitutionality and legality of other regulations adopted since 15 March 2020.

The media situation continued deteriorating in the first half of the year. The number of attacks and pressures against journalists increased, as did the authorities’ rhetoric against impartial outlets. The Government Conclusion of 28 March allowing only the COVID Crisis Headquarters headed by the Prime Minister to release any pandemic-related information was tantamount to centralisation of information and censorship. Violations of media freedoms climaxed with the arrest of Nova portal’s reporter Ana Lalilć on 2 April for causing public anxiety by reporting on the problems in the Vojvodina Clinical Centre during the pandemic.

International institutions and organisations alerted to grave problems with respect to democracy, rule of law and reforms in Serbia in the first half of the year. In its Non-paper, the European Commission noted serious delays and the need to accelerate reforms in the key areas of judicial independence, the fight against corruption, media freedom, the domestic handling of war crimes and the fight against organised crime, specifying that the pandemic created additional challenges. In its Freedom in the World 2020 Report, Freedom House classified Serbia as a hybrid regime, citing data coinciding with BCHR’s annual human rights reports.

The judiciary, as a separate branch of government, did not fulfil the standards and expectations related to the improvement of its efficiency, fairness of access to justice and protection of civil rights. Introduction of “Skype” trials during the state of emergency, denying the defendants a public explanation of the decisions against them, and case law discrepancies resulting from the imposition of different penalties for the same offences committed during the state of emergency, further eroded legal insecurity and public trust in the judiciary.

The Protector of Citizens, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection and the Anti-Corruption Agency were not particularly active in the first half of the year either, especially during the state of emergency, when citizens needed and, indeed, expected greater protection. The parliament’s failure to promptly initiate the procedure to elect the new Equality Commissioner was particularly concerning: this institution has not been performing its duties conferred by law to protect the citizens from discrimination since May, when the prior Commissioner’s term in office expired.

The Report on Human Rights in Serbia in the January-June 2020 Period is available HERE.

This publication is the product of our team, comprising Lazar Stefanović, Snežana Lazarević, Vladica Ilić, Luka Mihajlović, Vesna Petrović, Dušan Pokuševski, Ivan Protić, Goran Sandić, Anja Stefanović, Milena Ančić, Bojan Stojanović, Aleksandar Marković, Ana Trifunović i Duška Tomanović.

The publication of this Report has been supported by the United Nations Human Rights Team in Serbia. The Report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.

New FRA quarterly report – Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns – Quarterly bulletin 3 – 2020

July 31, 2020

Capture FRAEuropean Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has published quarterly bulletin no 3 for 2020: Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns for the period from the 1 April to 30 June 2020. The report collects data on the state of fundamental rights of persons arriving to the EU member states. It lights on main trends in the majority of the EU member states in the field of asylum and migration. Additionally to the EU member states, the report gives up date on the key fundamental rights concerns in this area in the Republic of Serbia and North Macedonia.

Quarterly Bulletin no 3 mostly focused on key challenges in the context of COVID-19 pandemic including legal framework changes, restriction of movement, hindered access to the asylum procedure, overcrowding of the accommodation facilities, protection of children as well as hate speech and violence. Report points to slowdowns in the number of asylum seekers due to health measures and restrictions in traveling despite that the enforcement of measures was ease off to certain extent.

BCHR contributed to the report with analyses on the state of affairs in the Republic of Serbia. The report stresses that the Asylum Office resumed procedural actions and that the abolishment of the Government’s Decision on closure of all border crossing for entering into Republic of Serbia in May which led to opening of border crossings and restart of commercial flights. Attention is given to the physical abuse of unaccompanied children in the Asylum Centre Bogovađa and Order of the Ministry of Health from 7 May.

Civil society and media will not give up the fight for a democratic and free Serbia

July 28, 2020

 

The media and civil society organizations demand from the Ministry of Finance and the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering to immediately present the grounds for suspicion due to which they ordered the extraordinary collection of information about organizations, media, and individuals from the commercial banks. The article of the law, referred to by the director of the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, states that such inspection should be performed exclusively for organizations for which there are grounds for suspicion of their involvement in the financing of terrorism. Since the list includes numerous organizations and individuals dealing with investigative journalism, protection of human rights, transparency, film production, development of democracy, rule of law and philanthropy, the conclusion is that this is a political abuse of institutions and a dangerous attempt to further collapse the rule of law in Serbia.

The abuse of legal mechanisms and institutions to unlawfully put pressure on the media and civil society organizations is a drastic attack on freedom of association and freedom of information. For years, the government in Serbia has been facing serious criticism from both international and domestic organizations regarding the threat to these two important freedoms. Such an attack on organizations that advocate for establishing Serbia as a state governed by the rule of law with respect for the law and a genuine fight against corruption, is an additional argument that these values are seriously endangered in Serbia. Organizations, media and citizens will not give up the fight for a free and democratic state, regardless of threats and pressures. Such and similar moves by the authorities only further motivate us as citizens to persevere in the defense of our own country.

The media and organizations will take all appropriate legal actions against those involved in this abuse, including the prosecution of those responsible, but above all they will insist on complete and clear answers on how this could have happened. We remind the public that the organizations and media from the list are subject to various types of regular state control, including inspections and rigorous checks of financial operations by the Tax Administration and the National Bank of Serbia, as well as by their own donors. Any legal inspection of the work of organizations is welcome and we will al

ways support it. On the other hand, we will fiercely oppose the abuse of institutions and procedures, because that is our mission – the fight for a democratic and legal state.

Signatories:

(the list is regularly updated with new signatures)

  1. A1 Novi Pazar
  2. Academy of Women’s Leadership
  3. Aida Corovic, HUman rights activist
  4. Alternative Girls’ Center
  5. Dr Srećko Djukić, Forum for International Relations of the European Movement in Serbia (FMO)
  6. Andja Jocic
  7. Anja Andjusic, FM
  8. AS – Center for Empowerment of Young People Living with HIV and AIDS
  9. Association “Naš svet, naša pravila”
  10. Association “Kutija”, Nis
  11. Association Fenomena
  12. Association for Consumer Protection “Prosperity” – Novi Sad
  13. Association for the help of mentally challenged people “Pearl“ of the municipality of Srbobran
  14. Association of Citizens “NE-BO”, Negotin
  15. Association of Independent Electronic Media – ANEM
  16. Association of parents and children Brodić Parkić
  17. Association Stara planina Pirot
  18. Association Voice of Citizens of Šumadija, Kragujevac
  19. Associations Film Club Prokuplje
  20. ASTRA – Anti Trafficking Action
  21. Autonomous Women’s Center
  22. B92 Fund
  23. BalkanIDEA Novi Sad
  24. Becej Youth Association
  25. BeFem
  26. Belgrade Center for Human Rights
  27. Belgrade Center for Security Policy
  28. Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence
  29. Belgrade Open School
  30. Belgrade Pride
  31. Beta News agency
  32. Biber team
  33. Biljana Stepanović
  34. BIRN
  35. BIRODI
  36. Boom93
  37. Borivoj Stajić
  38. Branko Vuckovic, journalist from Kragujevac
  39. Business Association of Local and Independent Media Association “Lokal Press”
  40. Business Info Group
  41. CANVAS
  42. Catalyst Balkans Foundation
  43. Center for Applied Psychology
  44. Center for Contemporary Politics
  45. Center for Democracy and Development of Southern Serbia
  46. Center for Democracy Foundation
  47. Center for Development of Serbia
  48. Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities in Serbia
  49. Center for Local Media Development
  50. Center for Moms, Belgrade
  51. Center for Monitoring & Activism – CEMA
  52. Center for Nonviolent Action
  53. Center for Policy Research
  54. Center for Policy Research Argument
  55. Center for Protection, Education and Empowerment of Refugees Info Park
  56. Center for Regionalism Novi Sad
  57. Center for Social Dialogue and Regional Initiatives – CDDRI
  58. Center for Social Policy, Belgrade
  59. Center for the Advancement of Society
  60. Center for the Rule of Law
  61. Center for Women’s Studies
  62. Centre Living Upright
  63. Centre of Modern Skills
  64. CeSID
  65. Chil Rights Centre
  66. CINS
  67. Citizens Association for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and All Forms of Gender-Based Violence (ATINA)
  68. Citizens’ Association Institute for Corruption Research, Pancevo
  69. Citizens’ Association AIM Center
  70. City radio
  71. Civic attitude
  72. Civic Council of the City of Kraljevo
  73. Civic Initiatives
  74. Civil action Pancevo
  75. Civil Rights Defenders
  76. CK13
  77. Coalition for Solidarity Economy Development
  78. Coalition PreUgovor
  79. Conceptual Policy Group, Novi Sad
  80. Consultations for lesbians
  81. CRTA
  82. Da se zna!
  83. Daca Jović, activist
  84. Daily Danas
  85. Dajana Đedović, Forum for Culture of the European Movement in Serbia (FzK)
  86. Dijalog.net Valjevo
  87. Djordje Popović, FMO
  88. Don’t let Belgrade d(r)own
  89. Dr Aleksandra Bosnić Đurić, cultural scientist
  90. Dr Ljubomir Jacic
  91. Dr Milorad Đurić, political scientist
  92. Dr Sonja Avlijaš, FzK
  93. Dragan Srećković
  94. Drug Policy Network in South East Europe
  95. Duga Association
  96. Ecogenesis Association
  97. Educational Center Krusevac
  98. Environment Engineering group
  99. Eurocontact, Krusevac
  100. European Movement in Serbia
  101. European Movement in Serbia Leskovac
  102. European Movement Valjevo (Slavica and Vladimir Pantić)
  103. European Policy Centre
  104. FemPlatz
  105. Forca Požega
  106. Foundation Ana and Vlade Divac
  107. Foundation for Freedom of the Press – Senta
  108. Foundation Pons Nis
  109. Goran Cetinic, FMO member
  110. Green Network of Vojvodina
  111. Heart Center, Novi Sad
  112. Heartefact Fund
  113. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
  114. Human Rights Committee Negotin
  115. Human Rights Committee Nis
  116. Human Rights Committee Valjevo
  117. Humanitarian Center Mitrovica
  118. Humanitarian Law Center
  119. Igor Mihaljević, journalist
  120. Impulse – Tutin
  121. Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina
  122. Independent cultural scene of Serbia – NKSS
  123. Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS)
  124. Informal association “Za naš kej”, Belgrade
  125. InfoVranjske
  126. Initiative A11
  127. Initiative for Požega
  128. Institute for European Affairs
  129. Integrity Center, Nis
  130. InTER
  131. Internet portal “Media box”, Nis
  132. ISAC Fund
  133. Ivan Medenica, FzK
  134. Ivan Ninić
  135. Ivana Jovanović, European Youth Movement Forum in Serbia (FM)
  136. Iz kruga – Vojvodina
  137. Izađi group
  138. Jasmina Borojevic
  139. Jedi movement, Nis
  140. Jelena Erdeljan FzK
  141. Jelena Šantić Foundation
  142. Južne vesti
  143. KC Grad, Belgrade
  144. Kolubara District Women’s Association
  145. Kolubarske.rs
  146. Kragujevac newspapers
  147. Kreni-Promeni Association
  148. KRIK
  149. Libek
  150. Link plus
  151. Loznica Pact
  152. Majdanpek Resource Center
  153. Media and Reform Center Nis
  154. Media Association
  155. Mesečina Foundation, Subotica
  156. Milan Antonijevic
  157. Milena Dragicevic Sesic (FzK)
  158. Milena Stefanovic European Fund for the Balkans
  159. Milivoj Bešlin, FMO
  160. MillenniuM
  161. National Coalition for Decentralization
  162. National Convention on the European Union
  163. National Youth Council of Serbia
  164. Nedim Sejdinović, journalist
  165. Nenad Šebek, Media and CSO Consultant
  166. Network of Human Rights Committees in Serbia CHRIS
  167. Network of the European Movement in Serbia
  168. New Economy
  169. New Media Center kuda.org, Novi Sad
  170. New optimism
  171. New Social Initiative – NSI
  172. New Solidarity Network
  173. Newspaper “Grad”, Kruševac
  174. NGO Aktiv
  175. NGO Center for the Development of Liberalism
  176. NON-ALIGNED FILMS
  177. Non-Smoking Educational Center Association _ RP
  178. Novi Sad Humanitarian Center
  179. Novi Sad Open Club
  180. Novi Sad School of Journalism
  181. Obrenovac Youth Foundation
  182. Online Media Association
  183. Open Society Foundation
  184. Optimist, Bosilegrad
  185. Organization for Respect and Care of Animals – ORCA
  186. Partners Serbia
  187. PATOS, Smederevo
  188. People’s Parliament Leskovac
  189. Peščanik
  190. “Podrinske” Šabac
  191. Podrinje Anti-Corruption Team Pact
  192. Policy Center
  193. Portal Kruševacgrad
  194. Portal SEEcult.org
  195. Proaktiv
  196. Dr. Vojin Rakic
  197. Propulsion Fund
  198. Protecta
  199. Radio Sto Plus Novi Pazar
  200. Radio Zlatousti
  201. Ravangrad Citizens’ Association
  202. Reconstruction Women’s Fund
  203. Regional Information Agency JUGpress
  204. Re-Kraft
  205. Remark DPCM
  206. RERI
  207. Res Publica Kragujevac
  208. Roma Center Kragujevac
  209. Roma World, Nis
  210. Romani Cikna
  211. Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms
  212. Sanja Ivačić, FMO
  213. Slavica Milojevic
  214. Slavica Ranisavljev Kovacev, Novi Sad
  215. Slavica Stojanović
  216. Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation
  217. Slobodan Georgiev
  218. Smart collective
  219. Society for Adult Education
  220. SOinfo.org
  221. SOS Women’s Center Novi Sad
  222. Strahinja Brajušković, Senior consultant and member of the Working group of NCEU for Chapter 23
  223. Streets for cyclists, Belgrade
  224. Students for Liberty – Serbia
  225. Tamara Spasojevic
  226. The Lawyers’ Committee For Human Rights (YUCOM)
  227. The movement of the citizens of Novi Sad
  228. Tijana Jurić Foundation
  229. Timok Youth Center – TOC, Zajecar
  230. Trag Foundation
  231. Transparency Serbia
  232. UG Center for Civil Values from Subotica
  233. United Trade Unions of Serbia Sloga
  234. Urban In – Novi Pazar
  235. USOP – Union of Organizations of Serbia dealing with the protection of people living with HIV and AIDS
  236. Uzice Center for Children’s Rights
  237. Uzice Center for Democracy and Human Rights
  238. Vega Youth Center
  239. Vesna Perić
  240. Victimology Society of Serbia
  241. Vladan Jovanović – independent regional consultant in the field of social protection, children’s rights, human and minority rights
  242. Vojvodina Civic Center
  243. Vojvodina recommended
  244. Vranje Development and Integration Team
  245. Vukašin Obradović
  246. Women for Peace Leskovac
  247. Women in Black
  248. Women’s Association Peščanik Kruševac
  249. Young researchers of Serbia
  250. Youth Empowerment Club 018
  251. Youth Initiative for Human Rights
  252. Zajecar Initiative
  253. Zvezda Center, Belgrade