Two years of crisis: June 2020 – June 2022
Crisis situations require a focused, reactive approach. The two-year epidemiology and safety crisis and the gravest crisis of the democratic Parliament (which is supposed to bring Serbia closer to the European Union) thus far forced the YUCOM team to pay closer attention to and intervene in the work of all branches of government.
The parliamentary elections of 2020 were held without an intense campaign, due to and in the midst of the corona virus epidemic, and boycotted by the majority of opposition parties. The month of June saw the formation of a single-party Parliament which called for the announcement of extraordinary elections in 2022, but also marked the beginning of large spontaneous protests caused by dissatisfaction with the manner in which the pandemic was handled, as well as the downfall of institutions. YUCOM saw the protests as an obligation to inform citizens about their rights in case they are asked to present an ID or detained. The forceful response of the police to the protests took us to Belgrade prisons, for the purpose of preventing torture and completing one of our missions, together with the team of the Protector of Citizens and other non-governmental organizations.
The shortened mandate was accompanied by the accelerated activities of the single-party Parliament and ministries to amend the Constitution and other regulations within Chapter 23. The Constitution, the Law on the Referendum and the People’s Initiative, the Law on the Protector of Citizens, the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination, Criminal Code, are only one segment of the legal framework which has undergone amendments or where changes were attempted. Non-governmental organizations, including YUCOM, acted as opposition with regard to the process of drawing up laws during this period.
The amendments to the Constitution which took place since September 2020 in the Parliament were discussed with the Venice Commission, citizens and the media. By doing so, we attempted to provide support to the experts and to ensure citizens have the right to a fair trial, an independent and impartial court and an effective investigation. At the beginning of 2022, amendments to the Constitution were adopted by referendum, which marked a new chapter in the process of monitoring reforms of the Serbian judiciary.
Debates on new regulations were not organized due to epidemiological risks. YUCOM did, however, take the initiative and organized hybrid events – public debates on relevant laws. The Law on the Protector of Citizens was adopted in the fall of 2021 following a public debate that we organized with the help of the UN Mission to Serbia. The law was adopted while considering numerous reproaches which we presented at the public debate, as well as at the meetings with the working group, where we were invited as representatives of the National Convention.