MINELRES: ERT: Serbia adopts comprehensive anti-discrimination law

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Apr 9 12:13:42 2009


Original sender: Equal Rights Trust <equalrightstrust1@response.pure360.com>


Serbia enacts first far reaching anti-discrimination law amidst the
clamour of conservative opposition  
 
London, 6 April 2009  
 
On 26 March 2009 the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia voted
to approve the Anti-Discrimination Bill (the Bill) submitted by the
Government. The vote marked the end of an 8 year process which had begun
with the first draft of the Bill in 2001. The new law prohibits
discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or
other grounds. 

Although the drafting and approval of the Bill faced a number of
challenges, in particular from conservative and religious groups, it
received new impetus in spring 2008 following the establishment of the
Ministry for Human and Minority Rights. The Ministry of Human and
Minority Rights and the Coalition against Discrimination – an alliance
of NGOs – were responsible for drafting the final version of the Bill
which was due to be discussed in the National Assembly in early March
2009. 

Pressure by religious and conservative groups regarding issues such as
religious conversion and “free expression of sexual orientation” forced
the Government to temporarily withdraw the Bill from the legislative
agenda in early March 2009. This step drew international concern from
various quarters including the Council of Europe. On 8 March 2009,
speaking on the situation in Serbia, the Council of Europe Human Rights
Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg stated: 

“[T]he adoption of a domestic anti-discrimination law against
discrimination is not only natural, but also necessary next step in
order to stop discrimination at a national level and harmonise national
legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights.”  

A few days later, the National Assembly restored the Bill to the
legislative agenda and voted to adopt the Bill by a narrow majority. 

The passing of the law is an important step towards guaranteeing the
human rights and equality standards which are a precondition for
Serbia’s accession to the European Union. In the parliamentary debate,
the Minister for Human and Minority Rights Svetozar Ciplic stated that
the Bill’s adoption would establish a comprehensive system of protection
against discrimination, placing Serbia on a par with other European
Union countries in this
area.

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