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NEWS 29 Mar 17

UN Rights Committee Takes Serbia to Task

The latest report from the UN Human Rights Committee criticizes the state of human rights in Serbia, focusing on poor levels of media freedom and high levels of hate crimes.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Session of the Human Rights Council. Photo: UN/Elma Okic

The latest report of the UN Human Rights Committee has criticized Serbia for not naming a War Crimes Prosecutor, for allowing suppression of freedom of expression and for inaction over persistent hate crimes.

The report criticizes the lack of resources for the Office of War Crimes Prosecutor and alleged pressure exerted by the government on the office, which has been vacant since December 2015.

It notes alleged cases of pressure and retribution by politicians and the media on judges, prosecutors, the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutorial Council.

Another problem is the lack of legislation providing redress to parents of new-born children who allegedly died in or "disappeared" from maternity wards, mostly between the 1970s and 1990s.

The UN Committee expressed concern over allegations that officials publicly vilified and intimidated people working in the media and the prosecution of journalists and civil society actors for expressing their opinions.

The state should refrain from prosecuting journalists and human rights activists, take steps to protect media workers from intimidation and sanction perpetrators, the report reads.

According to the report, hate crimes remain at a worrying level in Serbia, particularly against members of the Roma community.

The UN Committee says Roma in Serbia experience high levels of discrimination and exclusion, unemployment, forced evictions and de-facto segregation in housing and education.

Discrimination, intolerance and violence against LGBTI persons also remain high, while persons with disabilities still face many challenges in accessing justice, education, employment and political participation.

The Committee notes that while Serbia’s criminal code has been amended to introduce aggravating circumstances for hate crimes, the measure has never been implemented.

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