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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations: to respond appropriately to hate crime and to abolish de facto segregation of Roma children in public schools

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations (Committee) adopted the Concluding Observations on the combined II-V periodic report of the Republic of Serbia on the implementation of the International  Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/SR.2604), at its 2604th session held on 1 December 2017. Previously, in cooperation with the organisations SKRUG, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, European Network on Statelessness and European Roma Rights Centre, Praxis submitted to the Committee a written contribution related to the outstanding problems concerning the prevention of racial discrimination in Serbia, with a focus on hate crimes and discrimination against members of the Roma national minority and stateless persons as a particularly vulnerable group of foreigners.

Referring to the allegations from the written contribution submitted by Praxis and partner organisations, the Committee was concerned by indications that hate speech remained under-reported and by the absence of comprehensive statistics on investigations, prosecutions and convictions for acts of racist hate speech and incitement to racial hatred. The Committee advised Serbia to pursue its efforts to enforce Article 54a of the Criminal Code, notably by ensuring that all reported incidents, investigations, prosecutions,sanctions and remedies relating to racist hate crimes were recorded. The sanctions imposed on perpetrators should be commensurate with the gravity of racist hate crimes, while victims should obtain full redress. It was also recommended to designate within law enforcement services contact persons for racist incidents, provide training to them on conducting investigations, and ensure they engaged in regular dialogue with targeted groups in order to ensure adequate reporting of racist hate crimes. The Committee requested from Serbia to provide detailed statistics, disaggregated by ethnicity, on the number and nature of racist hate crimes reported, prosecutions and convictions, and redress provided to victims. The Committee also requests statistics on the number of such cases that were still pending at the Public Prosecutor’s Office and before the courts.

The Committee urged Serbia to put an end to de facto public school segregation ofRoma children and ensure access to quality education for Roma children, including through anti-racism and human rights training for school staff, awareness-raising efforts targeting parents, and increased employment of Roma teachers.  The Committee also recommended that the State party took measures to avoid the so-called “white flight” from schools where Roma were enrolled, including by developing effective mechanisms with a view to preventing further de facto segregation in schools.  The Committee further recommended that Serbia enshrined the desegregation of schooling in its national policies to ensure its sustainability, and provided adequate funding for its implementation, in line with Sustainable Development Goal on ensuring that by 2030, all girls and boys completed free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education. 

In addition, the Committee pointed to the problems of trafficking in persons, housing and status of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. The Committee recommended to Serbia to ensure that individuals with insufficient means to pay for legal representation had the legal right to free access to legal recourse for acts of racial discrimination. The Committee recommended to the State party to provide, free of charge, clear information to members of vulnerablegroups, in a language they understood, concerning their rights under the Conventionand complaint mechanisms for acts of racial discrimination. The Committee also recommended that Serbia continued to consult and engage in dialogue with civil society organisations concerned with human rights protection, in particular those working to combat racial discrimination, in thepreparation of the next periodic report and in follow-up to the present concluding observations. 

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