The Human Rights House (the House) calls on all political parties currently negotiating the formation of the future government not to ignore civil society organisations (CSOs) views’ related to the formation of the cabinet. Member organisations of the House call on the Prime Minister elect and those parties negotiating the make-up of the future cabinet to organize a meeting with representatives of CSOs who are requesting the formation of a Ministry of Human Rights. We further request that they take into account suggestions made by CSOs regarding the competencies of human rights-related bodies that may be created by the future government.
More than 100 organisations have thrown their support behind the initiative to create a Ministry of Human Rights, including the Coordinating Body of Missing Persons Societies and the national councils of all national minorities. A letter advocating the initiative has been sent to leading politicians in the country.
The Ministry of Human Rights in the future Serbian government would encompass all competencies related to the protection and advancement of human rights, the rights of national minorities, the rights of endangered groups, rights and role of religious communities as well as post-conflict issues in the region. Through this ministry Serbia would recieve a complete institutional framework in which human rights would be more efficiently advanced and protected. In the previous cabinet human rights protection was shared by a number of ministries and other executive bodies. Gender equality and refugees were handled by the Ministry of Labour, asylum seekers by the Commesariat for Refugees, the protection of religious minorities by the Ministry of Religion and the Diaspora, whereas WWII-era mass graves were being dug up by the Ministry of Defence.
Establishing a body that would have the authority to deal with all these issues would send a message that human rights are one of the most basic values of Serbian society. The ministry would have a political and technical capacity to suggest strategies and policies in the field of human rights protection, to coordinate activities with other ministries and to execute specific measures and activities directed at improving the position of minority and marginilized groups, and strengthening human rights culture in Serbia.
Taking into account the views of CSOs is a basic tenet of a democratic society. Ignoring the views of CSOs and independent institutions dealing with human rights, in the midst of forming a new government would harm its integrity even before its formation. Human Rights House is calling on parties forming the future Serbian government to demonstrate in practice the democratic principles they invoked during the election campaign.
17th July 2012.