The conference “Incrimination of hate crime – a good way to prevent and decrease violence” was held

Belgrade, 16.04.2013.

Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) today in Media Center in Belgrade held a conference that initiated activities to promote the importance of incrimination of hate crime in the Criminal Code (CC) of the Republic of Serbia (RS).

inkriminacija-zlocina-iz-mrznje-dobar-nacin-za-prevenciju-i-smanjenje-nasilja

At the end of December 2012 the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Amendments to the CC of the RS, by which is through the article 54a introduced hate crimes based on race, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity as a special that. necessarily aggravating circumstance for sentencing. After that YUCOM and GSA, as organizations that have initiated these changes in CC, launched a project that will be implemented in several cities in Serbia, which just aims to promote the importance of incrimination of hate crime and the future necessary steps in application of article 54a of the CC.

At today’s press conference speakers were: Ms. Gordana Stamenić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration; Mr. David McFarlane, Deputy Head of Mission of the British Embassy in Belgrade; Aleksandar Vasilijević, representative of the Uniformed Police Directorate at the Ministry of Interior; Milan Antonijević, Director of YUCOM; and Mirjana Bogdanović, Executive Director of the GSA. The conference was attended by representatives of institutions, councils of national minorities, the non-governmental organizations dealing with the rights of minority groups, as well as representatives of international organizations.

mirjana-bogdanovicWhile opening the conference, Mirjana Bogdanović said that the adoption of hate crime made a big step towards decreasing and appropriate sanctioning violence. She reminded that we gathered so far in the Media Center in the process of lobbying for the introduction of hate crime in CC to point out the need to adopt this proposal, but since the end of December last year it came through now we move in a campaign to promote the importance of this legal solution and the need for its proper implementation.

gordana-stamenicGordana Stamenić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration, said that Serbia made another step in the protection of human rights by introduction of the institute of hate crime in the CC, but that with an adequate legal framework and functioning of the institutions is also necessary to work on raising awareness among citizens about the problem of hate crime. State Secretary spoke about how important is implementation of this law so that it can achieve its purpose and that it is important to keep statistics on the number of cases, the motives for crimes’ execution, and who were the victims, explaining that the statistics of such crimes would show which social groups are most vulnerable and would significantly contributed to the prevention of violence through the development of strategies based on such data. She emphasized that the implementation of this legal solution, aside from repressive, must also have preventive effect on potential perpetrators. Stamenić indicated as a problem the fact that very small number of victims report hate crimes, and that the training of people in the institutions where the crimes reported on how to properly support victims would encourage more frequent reporting of such crimes.

david-mcfarlaneDavid McFarlane, Deputy Head of Mission of the British Embassy in Belgrade, stated that Serbia has done a lot in terms of anti-discrimination legislative and protection of victims of hate crimes but now there’s necessity to put efforts to these laws’ implementation. He said it was good that the institute of hate crimes was introduced by the amendments to the CC, not only to clearly punish crime that was committed with the motive of hatred, but also because state sends a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated. McFarlane praised the work of the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration stating that the incrimination of hate crime is only part of the wider work of the ministry in the process of judicial reform.

aleksandar-vasilijevicAleksandar Vasilijević from the Uniformed Police Directorate at the Ministry of Interior said that the Ministry is working continuously since 2003 on the development of training for police officers, modern police practices and procedures, as well as the development of work and cooperation with the community and that statistics on hate crimes will play an important role there. He estimated that the introduction of article 54a of CC significantly complemented the normative framework to combat violence and crimes motivated by hatred, but by itself it is not enough, but there must be work on its implementation through, inter alia, adequate keeping of statistics of this crimes, adding that the police would have less work to do if there will be work on raise awareness of citizens on the unacceptability of violence and hate crimes. At the end of his speech Vasilijević praised the cooperation of the police with the Gay Straight Alliance and other organizations.

milan-antonijevicMilan Antonijević, Director of YUCOM, said that all should work to ensure that the hate crimes be reported and to talk about them all over Serbia, not only in Belgrade, as well as that list of grounds covered by article 54a of CC should be expanded to more personal characteristics such as, e.g. a disability. According to him, the accent should be placed on regional cooperation because of the connection of the groups which are responsible for committing hate crimes, recalling on several examples of previously conducted such crimes that could not be adequately sanctioned for lack of incrimination of hate crimes as aggravating circumstances.

Introductory presentations were followed by discussion in which the participants actualized difficult position of Roma population. A representative of the National Council of the Roma national minority reminded to some cases of hate murders of Roma in recent years and drown attention of the audience that when it comes to hate crimes we cannot speak only about LGBT community, as well should be spoken about other minority groups, including Roma. Ministry of Justice State Secretary and Ministry of Interior representative accepted this remarks and explained that in the opening word is the most talked about LGBT because one of the conference organizers is GSA, and Mirjana Bogdanovic emphasized that GSA insisted in the process of lobbying that this legal solution not be linked only with the LGBT community, but also other minority groups, and may be refer to members of the majority population on any grounds. She also added that the GSA was dissatisfied when the colleagues from other organizations have attempted to link the question of the adoption of hate crime only with the LGBT community adding that GSA has the full knowledge that this legal decision is important for other minority groups and society as a whole and the GSA hopes that their involvement in the process of its adoption has contributed to all and not just the LGBT community.

YUCOM and GSA will hold in next period a similar promotions in other cities, such as Novi Pazar, Subotica, Kruševac.

Source: Agencies, GSA
Photo: Media Center Belgrade, GSA

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