22 July 2014, 07-00-289/2014-02
CITY SECRETARIAT FOR COMMUNAL AND HOUSING AFFAIRS
CITY OF BELGRADE
NINA JANDRIĆ, secretary
Kraljice Marije 1/XIII-XIV
Dear Ms. Jandrić,
On 8 July 2014, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality received an electronic letter in which one citizen pointed to the discriminatory content of graphite printed on the wall in the “Students’ Park” in Belgrade, expressing a discriminatory attitude towards the members of the Roma national minority. A photograph of the graphite, which reads “Gypsies as turnips!” is attached to this letter.
As you probably know, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality is an autonomous and independent state body with the authority to act in all cases where the principle of equality has been violated or when the general prohibition of discrimination has been violated.
The competence of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality has been broadly defined, in accordance with international standards, in order to enable them to effectively and efficiently fulfill their role. One of the Commissioner’s core competencies is to receive and consider complaints about discrimination, to give opinions and recommendations in specific cases of discrimination and to impose statutory measures. In addition, the Commissioner is authorized to propose a reconciliation procedure, as well as to initiate legal proceedings for the protection against discrimination and file misdemeanor reports for acts of discrimination prescribed by anti-discrimination legislation. The Commissioner is also empowered to alert the public to the most common, typical and severe cases of discrimination and to recommend to public authorities measures for the achievement of equality.
Commissioner firstly notes that the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in Section II, Art. 4, guarantees to the members of national minorities equality before the law, prohibiting any discrimination. By ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, member states, including Serbia, have committed to ban and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and guarantee everyone’s right to equality before the law regardless of race, color or national or ethnic origin.
The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, by the provision of Art. 76, guarantees equality before the law to members of national minorities and prohibits any discrimination on the grounds of belonging to the national minority, while the provision of Art. 81 prescribes that the Republic of Serbia encourages the spirit of tolerance and intercultural dialogue and undertakes effective measures to promote mutual respect, understanding and cooperation among all people living on its territory. Provision of Art. 21 prescribes that everyone is equal before the Constitution and the law and that every form of discrimination is prohibited, on any ground, and in particular based on race, gender, nationality, social origin, birth, religion, political or other belief, property status, culture, language, age and psychological or physical disability.
The constitutional prohibition of discrimination is elaborated in more detail by the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, which in Art. 4 prescribes that everyone is equal and enjoys the same position and equal legal protection, regardless of personal characteristics, and that everyone is obliged to respect the principle of equality, i.e. the prohibition of discrimination. Provision of Art. 2 para. 1 item 1 prescribe that discrimination and discriminatory treatment will mean any unjustified making of a difference or unequal treatment or omission (exclusion, restriction or giving priority) in relation to persons or groups as well as to members of their families or close persons, in an open or concealed way, and based on race, color, ancestry, citizenship, nationality or ethnic origin, language, religious or political beliefs, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, financial status, birth, genetic characteristics, health, disability, marital and family status, previous convictions, age, appearance, membership in political, trade union and other organizations and other real or presumed personal characteristics. Provisions of Art. 24 of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination prohibit the discrimination of national minorities on grounds of nationality, ethnic origin, religious beliefs and language.
Also, the provisions of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination expressly prohibit the expression of ideas, information and opinions that encourage discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or group of persons due to their personal characteristics, in public media and other publications, at conferences and places accessible to the public, by printing and by displaying messages or symbols, and otherwise.
The Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities prohibits any form of discrimination on a national, ethnic, racial, linguistic basis, towards persons belonging to national minorities.
Printing these graffiti and messages of similar content, constitutes discrimination of members of the Roma minority, which is one of the most vulnerable social groups. I also point out to the fact that the Roma are one of the marginalized and stigmatized social groups and that they face daily threats, harassment and other problems. I believe that all social actors must support and take all measures, within their respective competencies, so that everyone can enjoy on an equal basis all rights guaranteed to citizens of Serbia without discrimination, and take adequate measures against all those whose actions violate anti-discrimination regulations.
Bearing in mind the regulations and standards that the Republic of Serbia committed to, I RECOMMEND that you take all necessary measures, in accordance with your authority to remove the controversial graphite off the wall in the “Students’ Park” and prevent further harassment of members of the Roma minority.
COMMISSIONER FOR THE PROTECTION OF EQUALITY
Dr. Nevena Petrušić