Executive Summary

Serbia has taken a number of measures to combat racism and intolerance. It is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights which contains a general non-discrimination clause. In 2006 Serbia adopted a new Constitution which establishes the principles of non-discrimination and protection of minority rights and provides for the state to promote understanding, recognition of and respect for ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. In 2006 Serbia also enacted a new Criminal Code which prohibits racist offences and racial discrimination. It has taken a number of measures to improve the situation of Roma, particularly in the area of access to health care, which are beginning to bear fruit. In 2004 an Ombudsman was appointed in the autonomous province of Vojvodina and he has a deputy who deals with the situation of national or ethnic minorities in the region. In June 2007, a national Ombudsman (Protector of Citizens) was elected and officially assumed his duties the following month. The National Assembly passed the Law on Asylum on 24 November 2007 and it will enter into force on 1 April 2008.

However, a number of measures remain to be taken. Although a bill on discrimination has been drafted, Serbia has not yet enacted exhaustive provisions against racial discrimination in the area of civil and administrative law. The Law on Churches and Religious Communities and its implementation do not allow all religious communities living in Serbia to fully enjoy their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Criminal Code is still too seldom applied to persons who commit racist offences against national or ethnic minorities, religious minorities or antisemitic offences. The situation of Roma, Ashkalis and Egyptians displaced inside the country remains precarious and steps must still be taken to provide them, inter alia, with the identity papers they need in order to exercise their rights such as the right to housing, education and employment. The steps taken by the authorities to improve the situation of Roma in general in several areas (access to health care, housing, education and employment) must be backed by more human and financial resources.

Long-term measures are needed to establish a climate of mutual respect between the different ethnic and religious groups, especially those living in the autonomous province of Vojvodina.

In this report, ECRI recommends that the Serbian authorities amend the Law on Churches and Religious Communities to bring it more closely into line with international and European standards in this area. It also recommends that they ensure that the perpetrators of racist acts are brought to justice, and that they provide the judiciary with initial and ongoing training in the legislation on the subject. ECRI recommends that the Serbian authorities provide the Office for Human and Minority Rights as well as the Ombudsman with the human and financial resources they need to perform their tasks. Concerning antisemitism, ECRI recommends that the Serbian authorities combat this phenomenon in all its forms. It also recommends that they adopt a legal framework for ethnic data collection in compliance with international and European standards in this area, notably so that they can measure the effectiveness of some measures taken to resolve the problems facing Roma. ECRI calls on the authorities to take steps to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of racist acts and acts committed against religious minorities in the autonomous province of Vojvodina and to conduct campaigns to promote tolerance in that region.

29 April 2008

The full report is available here.