In its report, Council of Europe acknowledges that Serbia has made a lot of progress in many areas, but also adds that a lot still needs to be done on combating hate speech and providing better protection for national minorities.
The Serbian authorities should finally come clean about the genocide in Srebrenica, they should eradicate racism among football supporters, and pay more attention to the violence against the Roma people and the LGBT population – the report compiled by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) says.
The report goes on to say: “The high levels of homo- and transphobic violence regularly become visible at LGBT Pride Parades. Violence against Roma is recurrent and the prosecution and sentencing of genocide and other racist war crimes is progressing slowly. High-ranking persons are not prosecuted and many terrible war crimes remain unpunished. Due to the resulting impunity, people belonging to different communities live in fear of a new wave of such hate crime.”
The report also highlights the difficult position of the Roma children in Serbia and says that only 6% of Roma children are enrolled in pre-school; only 46% complete the compulsory eight-year primary education and just 13% secondary education. “Only half as many Roma girls as Roma boys attend and complete secondary school. The figures for Roma living in settlements and in particular of those displaced from Kosovo1 are even worse. The efforts to improve the distressing housing conditions of many Roma are far too small in size and 72% of all Roma settlements are still informal”, the report underlines.
As far as the hate speech goes, the ECRI’s report cites information that, in the period between 2011 and 2016, criminal charges were pressed against 216 individuals. 207 charges concerned the victim’s national or ethnic origin, five their religious affiliation, one their citizenship and one their sexual orientation. Most offences target Roma and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) persons.
The ECRI’s report also talks about the so-called online violence and says that hate speech is increasingly disseminated via the Internet. “Various interlocutors informed ECRI that hate speech targeting vulnerable groups on Internet forums and in social media is on the rise. The MIA’s High Technology Crime Department found, for example, that 30 people had threatened the organisers of the 2015 Pride Parade and posted hate speech on social networks. Anti-semitic and islamophobic postings are also frequent. In many cases, hate speech of this sort can be posted anonymously, which hampers criminal investigation”, the report highlights.
Hate speech quite frequently happens at football games too, the report warns. “ECRI is particularly concerned about the activities of football fan groups, which are involved in unlawful and criminal activities.52 According to the observers, there are strong links between violent football fan groups and far-right organisations which, in turn, have ties with nationalist politicians and organised crime”.
As one of the remedies for this situation the report says that “the authorities should introduce and strengthen compulsory education at all school levels on human rights, the right to equality and the prohibition of hate speech and discrimination.” The ECRI also welcomes the initiative by the Serbian Parliament to adopt a code of conduct, which will prohibit the use of hate speech by its members and provide for sanctions if breached.
“Finally, the police, in particular the High Technology Crime Department, the LPD, journalist’s associations, NGOs and other stakeholders should regularly monitor hate speech on the Internet and ensure that cyber hate speech and hate speech in other media is reported to the competent bodies”, the report goes on to say.
(Newsweek, ECRI, 16.05.2017)
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