We Call on the Government of the Republic of Serbia to Respect the Obligations Assumed Under the Documents of the Council of Europe
In reaction to the news about the activities of the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, the Center for Democracy Foundation would like to remind the public that by ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights, the Republic of Serbia has agreed to ensure, without discrimination, respect for freedom of assembly and association vital to the unhindered functioning of civil society. We would like to remind our readers that Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe monitors the conditions under which civil society organisations work and the recent negative developments that have taken place in certain member states. On several occasions, concerns have been expressed in terms of the increased pressure and the imposition of new legal restrictions on the work of civil society organisations.
Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 226 (2018) entitled “New Restrictions on NGO Activities in Council of Europe Member States” calls Council of Europe Member States to fully adhere to the rights to freedom of association.
Serbia, as a member of the Council of Europe, is obliged to provide for conditions in which NGOs can seek, receive and use transparent financial assets and other resources, either domestic or foreign, without discrimination or unjustified obstacles. Also, the country is obliged to provide civil society with an environment in which it can work unhindered, and to work without any interference (judicial, administrative or tax-related), or the initiation of intimidating campaigns against NGOs or the intimidation of civil society activists.
The latest news on the list of civil society organisations, independent media and media workers, compiled by the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, has reason to cause the democratic public concern and the harsh reaction of the public. There is no doubt that institutions must be able to exercise their authority in order to defend society in the fight against crime and terrorism. However, it is completely unacceptable to abuse legal mechanisms as a means of applying pressure on individuals and organisations that are not considered to be within the control of the Government or as a warning against their activities that shed light on corruption and obvious violations against the human rights of Serbian citizens.
Civil society organisations act in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Serbia and the exceptionally strict and transparent rules of their donators, based on the clearly established rules and international standards of the UN, Council of Europe and the European Union. Civil societies and the freedom of association and the freedom to act within a civil space, are the measures of freedom of any society. We call upon state authorities to refrain from resorting to activities aimed at preventing the free work of NGOs and the media.
The Foundation provides its support to organisations which have, for years now, contributed to the democratisation and European integration of Serbia, and which, as a result of these types of lists, now feel under threat. The transparent and legally based work of institutions is a necessity, but we emphasise that it is the responsibility of the institutions to apply the law equally to everyone, and to recognise and resist possible political and illicit pressure which may come from government authorities.
Center for Democracy Foundation
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