18. Sep 2015, Number: 021-02-256/2015-02
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
Maja Gojković, President
Trg Nikole Pašića 13
Dear Ms. Gojković,
In accordance with my legally prescribed competencies to monitor the implementation of laws concerning the prohibition of discrimination and to recommend measures to achieve equality, I take the liberty of drawing your attention to the fact that all state bodies and other relevant social actors should take all necessary measures within their competence to secure that citizens of Serbia could enjoy their guaranteed rights, without discrimination, and take adequate measures against all those who violate anti-discrimination regulations by their actions.
The reason for this address are complaints to the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality filed by civil society organizations and individuals, against a member of the National Assembly, for standpoints and statements made at a session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. The complainants consider that the Member of Parliament statements are discriminatory and disturbing, that they offend the dignity of persons of same-sex orientation, creating a degrading and offensive environment in relation to them.
The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia prohibits any discrimination on any ground and guarantees freedom of opinion and expression to all citizens of Serbia, as well as the freedom to receive and distribute information and ideas, through speech, writing, image or otherwise. It is stipulated that freedom of expression can be restricted by law, if that is necessary, inter alia, for the protection of the rights and dignity of others. In this specific case, the complainants have referred to the provisions of the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination that prescribe a general prohibition of discrimination, its promotion and implementation by public authorities, and prohibition of harassing and degrading actions aimed at, or constituting a violation of the dignity of a person or group of persons on the basis of their personal characteristics, and especially if it creates fear or hostile, humiliating and offensive environment.
In accordance with the Law on the National Assembly and the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly , a member of the National Assembly is obliged to respect the Constitution, the Law and the Rules of Procedure, and while performing his/her parliamentary duties, as well as by his/her overall behavior, to guard the reputation and respect the dignity and order at the sessions of the National Assembly, committees and parliamentary groups, to address other members with respect, without offensive expressions and without giving out facts and assessments related to the private life of others, as well as to perform other obligations prescribed by law. Also, when taking the oath, a deputy commits, inter alia, to perform his duty in a dedicated, honest, and conscientious manner, faithful to the Constitution, as well as to defend human and minority rights and civil liberties.
With highest regard for the National Assembly as the supreme representative body and the bearer of the constitutional and legislative power in the Republic of Serbia, yourself as its chairwoman, and the fact that the work of the National Assembly is public, I am confident that we share the values that are crucial for the development of every democratic society, and that the freedom of speech, expression and information cannot be an excuse for any form of discrimination and disparagement based on a personal characteristic, nor for the promotion of prejudices and the creation of a hostile and offensive environment for specific groups of people. We are aware of the importance of the addresses of members of the National Assembly, who transmit messages on a daily basis and shape the public opinion, which cannot support prejudices, stereotypes and other unacceptable social patterns.
Bearing all this in mind, it is of particular importance that the future amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly ensure compliance with the principle of prohibition of discrimination, proclaimed by the Constitution and the law, and to introduce disciplinary responsibility for disrespecting the prohibition of discrimination. Since the Code of Conduct for Members of the National Assembly is in the process of drafting, I recommend that consideration be given to the possibility of integrating this principle into the text of the Code, because the protection of human and minority rights, to which Members of the National Assembly are bound, implies not only opposing anyone who violates human rights and the prohibition of discrimination, uses hate speech and incites violence, but also an awareness of the danger of discriminatory attitudes they themselves might express in the National Assembly or outside it.
At that, state officials and public authorities have a special responsibility and a very important role in spreading tolerance, promoting the right to diversity and creating a society in which all rights will be respected without discrimination.
Bearing in mind that the protection against discrimination of all citizens of Serbia and the promotion of equality is one of the priorities of the entire society and therefore of the National Assembly, I believe that only joint work on building a culture of tolerance, inclusiveness and nonviolence can contribute to the suppression of this unacceptable social phenomenon.
COMMISSIONER FOR THE PROTECTION OF EQUALITY
 Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 22/09), Article 33, paragraph 1, item 7 and 9.
 The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 98/06)
 Law on the National Assembly, (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 9/2010)
 Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, No. 20/2012)