YUCOM and GSA present state institutions with initiative to include hate crime in the Criminal Code

Belgrade, 03.02.2012

Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) presented state institutions today with the Initiative for supplementing the Bill on Amendments and Addendums of the Criminal Code (CC) of the Republic of Serbia which (Bill) was brought before the National Assembly on January 31. Initiative for supplementing the Bill which was drawn by these two organizations proposes to include the concept of hate crime in the CC and contains its definition, addendums to certain articles of the Criminal Code by which the motive of hatred would be regarded as an aggravating circumstance, increasing the punishment for such acts, as well as the justification of this initiative.

Hate crime is, according to this proposal, defined as any criminal act from the Criminal Code committed against any individual or group of individuals motivated by hatred based on race, colour, ethnic or national origin, religion, political or other opinion, language, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, health status, disability, education, social status, descent, asset, or some other personal characteristic. This definition is in keeping with international standards and OSCE – ODIHR definition of hatred and hate crime.

Acts which this initiative comprehends are those of murder, serious and light bodily injuries, rape, criminal acts against property, as well as against general safety of people and property. It is important to mention that criminal acts which define hate crimes exist in criminal codes of numerous member countries of the European Union, as well as in countries of the region such as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

YUCOM and GSA emphasise that there has been talk in the public for several years about the need to introduce the concept of hate crime in the criminal code. These two organizations, among many others, have advocated its introduction on every possible occasion, and this was also demanded at many protests. In October 2011, at a meeting with Slobodan Homen, state secretary of the Ministry of Justice, and Nenad Đurđević, director of the Directorate for human and minority rights, GSA received assurances that these amendments will be soon brought before the National Assembly. Amendments of the Criminal Code were announced at that time, while representatives of the Government continued to give assurances that the legislation is being drawn up.

For this reason YUCOM and GSA were very disagreeably surprised when the Government brought to the National Assembly a Bill on Amendments and Addendums of the CC without a single change regarding hate crimes. This also raises a question whether this issue was even on the table during the creation of the Bill by the Ministry of Justice. This is why YUCOM and GSA decided to form their own working group, to compile the text of the proposal of amendments and addendums which would include the concept of hate crime into the CC in a proper and comprehensive way, and to send this initiative to all relevant political factors. 2

YUCOM and GSA also addressed a letter to institutions, in which they invite them to show unequivocal political will to take measures for reducing the high level of violence in the society, which would include among other things adopting this initiative in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.

The letter also states that adopting this proposal would considerably contribute towards reducing and preventing violence, as well as breaking the so-called spiral of violence, which would benefit all citizens of Serbia, i.e. the society as a whole. Furthermore, these alterations of the Criminal Code would stop the current practice where criminal acts committed out of hatred are left in a legal vacuum, i.e. that the real motive of the perpetrators – especially the motive of hatred – is not reflected through all the phases of the procedure, from police investigation to the final judgment and sentencing. 

In addition, the letter also states YUCOM and GSA’s conviction that Serbia stands at a crossroads regarding the need for urgent reaction by the state and society to the increase of hatred and violence, and that any further delay in implementing concrete measures could lead to unforeseeable consequences. These two organizations expressed their expectation that state institutions will also recognize this need and that this initiative will find a wide consensus among all relevant political factors and be supported by a high number of authorized proposers.

The initiative has been sent to the President of the Republic of Serbia, the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly, the Minister of Justice, the Minister for Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration and Local Self Government, leaders of all MP groups as well as independent MPs, the Ombudsman, Commissioner for Protection of Equality, the Republic Prosecutor and the presidents of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation. According to procedure, those who have the right to propose bills are MPs, the Government, 30,000 voters, the Assembly of AP Vojvodina or the Ombudsman. YUCOM and GSA will speak in the next few days with the representatives of parliamentary political parties to ensure that the proposed initiative enter parliamentary procedure.

Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)

::: The Initiative to amendment the draft Law on amendments to the Criminal Code ::: (pdf download)
::: The letter addressed to state institutions regarding the Initiative ::: (pdf download)