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news 11 Dec 12

Criticism of Serbia's Rights Record Upsets Progressives

Serbian NGOs have lambasted the government's rights record in a report issued on world human rights day.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Serbia has seen a negative trend in terms of the protection of human rights since the formation of the new government, Serbian NGOs said in a report released on world human rights day.

"There are more attacks on individuals and civil society, black lists are being created... and the government is responsible for such an atmosphere in society," Dragan Popovic, Director of Center for Practical Policy, said, presenting the report at the House of Human Rights in Belgrade on Monday.

The House of Human Rights brings together Serbia's five biggest non-governmental organizations, which have drafted the report on human rights in Serbia marking the occasion of Human Rights Day.

The day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted on December 10, 1948.

Serbia's new government, which comprises Progressives, Socialists and the United Regions of Serbia, was formed in July.

The NGOs criticized the cancellation of Belgrade Gay Pride Parade in October, saying that state's inability to ensure the safety of the participants was a poor reason for cancelling it.

The report also complained of the lack of control over the security services, referring to the ongoing mystery of who ordered the tapping of the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and President Tomislav Nikolic.

The report also called for a more institutional fight against corruption.

"There must be a separation of powers - only the prosecution and the courts should deal with criminal cases and trials, and politicians must not have information about who will be arrested," Popovic said.

While the government has pledged to root out corruption, Vucic is often seen as acting alone, frequently announcing who will be arrested.

Following the May elections, Vucic became the most powerful man in the country as head of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

He is also first Deputy Prime Minister, Defence Minister and official coordinator for the fight against corruption.

In August, he was also appointed secretary of the Council for National Security, giving him oversight over all the security services, besides which he heads the council's executive body, tasked with rooting out corruption and organised crime.

Following the presentation of the report, NGO activists marched to the government building and handed the report to Dusan Ignjatovic, head of the government's Office of Human and Minority Rights.

Meanwhile, the ruling Progressives issued a statement saying that the NGOs had abused Human Rights Day to score points. They had launched a "decisive attack on the fight against corruption led by the uncompromising Aleksandar Vucic," the party said.

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