Project Title: Free Elections Through Freedom of Assembly
Duration: March 2016 – August 2016
Partners: Board of Human Rights Niš, Board of Human Rights Valjevo, Board of Human Rights Negotin, Board of Human Rights Bujanovac, Citizen Forum Novi Pazar, Center for Civil Society Development Zrenjanin, Užice Center for Human Rights and Democracy and Sandžak Board of Human Rights Novi Pazar.
Donor: Open Society Foundation Serbia
About the project:
The goal of the Free Elections Through Freedom of Assembly project is two-fold: 1) protection of the freedom of assembly in pre-election period as the prerequisite for free, fair and democratic elections through timely education of users, monitoring of pre-election conventions across Serbia by independent monitors, providing legal protection in cases of violence against freedom of assembly, immediate notification of public on dealt infarctions and requests to relevant authorities to take measures against them; 2) after the elections and based on received results, an evaluation of the influence of the new Law will be made, formulating conclusions and recommendations for the improvement of the legislative framework, considering that harmonization with international standards is already envisioned with the Action Plan for Chapter 23.
Instead of the law that was proclaimed as unconstitutional in 2015, a new Law on Public Assembly came into force in 2016 that recognized a part of the complaints expressed by NGOs at a public debate. As the early parliamentary elections are being held concurrently with local and provincial elections, freedom of assembly will be the main instrument of spreading the messages of political parties, syndicates and citizens in the coming period.
These activities are a precondition for fair, free and democratic elections, and as such it is necessary for its users to be timely informed and educated on the new legal framework – which national or local bodies can impose restrictions on freedom of assembly, the process for registering assemblies, police authorizations and penalties according to the new law. A special problem that will be pointed out is frequent violence during the pre-election period.
This action is necessary due to the selective restrictions and duties obligated on organizers, that are not recognized as infarctions, but rather greatly influence the time or place of an assembly. With this in mind, a team of monitors was formed that will, in line with OSCE standards and with prepared questionnaires, gather data in line with principles of independence and objectivity. Taking into account the importance of the election process, a system of early warning was formed for possible breaches of freedom of assembly and violence that will contribute to preventing systemic breaches across Serbia.
Monitoring of protection and exercise of rights is required in order to show the necessity of amending the Law through concrete examples, as well as its harmonization with national and international legal frameworks, as prescribed by the Action Plan for Chapter 23.