"Serbia has to strengthen human rights implementation", says Commissioner Hammarberg in his report

[11/03/09] Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human rights, today published a report on his visit to Serbia, highlighting that “despite progress, a number of obstacles remain to the effective implementation of human rights standards.”

Assessing the country’s human rights situation, the Commissioner proposes a set of practical recommendations for improvements in relation to the judiciary, the fight against discrimination, human rights activists, police behaviour and conditions of detention.

“Lengthy civil and criminal proceedings and non-enforcement of domestic judgments remain issues of concern” says Commissioner Hammarberg. “There is also a need to strengthen the enforcement of anti-corruption measures and ensure a more transparent and independent appointment of judges and prosecutors.”

Furthermore, Serbia has to make progress in the field of discrimination and protection of minorities and vulnerable groups. “The authorities must adopt and apply a general anti-discrimination law covering all forms of discrimination. In particular, the Roma situation should be addressed urgently as they are the most discriminated and marginalised minority in the country suffering from social exclusion and often enduring inhumane living conditions.”

Although the protection of persons with disabilities has been improved, the Commissioner observes that they remain stigmatized, continue to suffer from widespread prejudice and lack access to education and employment.

In addition, the Commissioner expresses concern about the hostile environment for human rights activists, in particular those who address the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, the issues of transitional justice and war crimes. “Discriminatory statements made by political figures and the media go largely unpunished. Human rights activists in particular are victims of intolerance, hate speech and threats, sometimes resulting in physical attacks. Such instances must be condemned from the highest political level and sanctioned appropriately.”

Finally, the Commissioner sets out recommendations to improve police behaviour, conditions of detention, reinforce the Ombudsman institutions, enhance the fight against trafficking in human beings, and strengthen media freedom and access to information.

Based on a visit to Serbia from 13-17 October 2008, the report, together with the Government’s response, is available on the Commissioner’s website.

Read the report

Media contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Stefano Montanari, +33 6 61 14 70 37; Stefano.montanari@coe.int