LGBT community and human rights defenders need better protection in Serbia

29.01.2013

Serbia’s ban of the Gay Pride parade in 2011 and 2012 and its failure to prevent and investigate attacks on human rights defenders and journalists were the key areas of criticism during a review of its human rights record conducted by fellow States.

Concern surrounds rights of LGBT persons and human rights defenders

 

Serbia’s ban of the Gay Pride parade in 2011 and 2012 and its failure to prevent and investigate attacks on human rights defenders and journalists were the key areas of criticism during a review of its human rights record conducted by fellow States.

Concern surrounds rights of LGBT persons and human rights defenders

States voiced concerns related to the situation of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Serbia, and urged the Government to enhance efforts to enable them to exercise their fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Furthermore, following the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of the human rights defenders, the States called upon Serbia to ‘develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to protect human rights defenders, including those working on behalf of the rights of LGBT persons and ensure the effective investigation of alleged attacks against human rights defenders’.

The head of delegation noted that the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination and the Labour Law explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. In that respect, the Office for Human and Minority Rights organised a conference in Belgrade in December 2012, which was the first conference dedicated to promotion of LGBT rights. Mrs Stamenić also noted that Serbia is one of the partner countries in the project of the Council of Europe titled ‘Fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity’ to promote LGBT rights, together with Albania, Italy, Latvia, Montenegro, and Poland.

Ireland, Sweden, Canada, and the Netherlands recommended that Serbia ensure transparency in the ownership of media and prevent undue influence over editorial material by politicians, businessmen and other centres of power as well as to investigate all cases of alleged violence against journalists and human rights defenders. The delegation responded that the Government is currently adopting a law on public information, media, transparency on ownership in cooperation with the representatives of international organisations (UN, OSCE etc.). Italy, Argentina, Australia, Austria and Brazil recommended addressing better racial prejudices, xenophobia, hating speech against Roma, women, people with disabilities and LGBT population.

Positive steps

Head of the delegation, Mrs Gordana Stamenić, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, outlined the developments in the promotion and protection of human rights in the Republic of Serbia starting from 2008 when the Government established the Council for the Advancement of the Roma, specialised on improving education for this group.

She pointed to judicial reforms from 2009 and the establishment of the High Judicial and State Prosecutorial Councils.

Also during 2009 the Republic of Serbia adopted Laws on Prohibition of Discrimination and Gender Equality and in 2010 the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Violence against Women. Numerous laws and regulations govern the status of persons with disabilities.

The Law on Professional Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities of 2009 is introduced as an affirmative action measure to employ persons with disabilities.

By adopting the Law on National Minorities in 2009 the members of national councils were for the first time elected in direct elections. 16 national minorities fulfilled the legal requirements to hold direct elections for their respective national councils.  

On the issue of human trafficking, the new Strategy for the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking and the Protection of Victims from 2013 – 2018 was underway as well as the Action Plan 2013 – 2014. In that respect, assistance to victims of trafficking is afforded as part of the activities of state institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Internally displaced persons

The head of delegation brought States’ attention to the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo and Metohija. These people have not been granted access to their real estate properties, even 12 years after Kosovo was declared under UN administration (the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo is the officially mandated mission of the United Nations in Kosovo). The returnees often lack access to basic services, the education system, and employment.

Slovakia addressed this issue, acknowledging Serbia as a country with the highest number of refugees and IDPs on the continent and recognised its efforts and results achieved so far, including its cooperation at a regional level.

Other issues raised

States commended Serbia for the progress on human rights issues in recent years, in particular Serbia’s continuing cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and noted some other positive achievements, including the establishment of the A-status of the Office of the Ombudsman in compliance with the Paris Principles, further steps to increase women’s participation in public life, judicial reform, and measures to improve the condition of the Roma.

In her closing statement, Mrs Stamenić stressed that Serbia was very focused on the implementation of legislative reforms and aligning its legal system with EU standards. She also noted that the Government paid special attention to the most vulnerable groups including children, persons with disabilities, Roma people, refugees, and IDPs.

Serbia received a total of 144 recommendations, accepted almost all the recommendations and rejected 9. The country will provide a response to all of them no later than the 23rd Human Rights Council session, scheduled from 27 May to 14 June 2013.

Heather Collister is a Human Rights Officer and Ana Kapelet is an Intern with the International Service for Human Rights. To follow developments in the UPR and at the Human Rights Council as they happen, follow us on Twitter: @ISHRglobal.

Category:

Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • LGBT rights
Mechanism
  • Universal Periodic Review
Country
  • Serbia