Hate crime in criminal legislation – an efficient way for the prevention and reduction of violence
Duration: January 2013 to April 2013
Sponsor: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
About the project: the project “Hate crime in criminal legislation – prevention and reduction of violence in Serbia” was implemented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Fights (YUCOM) and the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
Project’s objective: Support from interested parties to the introduction of the concept of hate crime in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia and development of an efficient network for this concept.
Meetings between YUCOM and GSA and representatives of the political parties seating in Parliament
Meetings are held with the objective of lobbying for the adoption of the mentioned provision, for the sake of improving legislation and securing broad support.
Presentations, i.e. debates on the topic of incorporating hate crime in criminal legislation with the objective of preventing and reducing violence were performed in three cities: Subotica, Novi Pazar (multi-ethnic municipalities) and Kruševac (due to the recent racist attacks of local hooligans), with the support from local NGOs. Debates were attended by representatives from local NGOs, the police, prosecution office and courts as well as the media. YUCOM and GSA representatives introduced the activities that have led to the adoption of the concept of hate crime. They then elaborated on the nature, comparative regulation and adoption of this concept as well as activities related to advocacy for a successful and effective adoption of the legal concept of hate crime in Serbia.
During these debates it was also discussed about possible challenges in the implementation phase, including between others, the conduct of state statistics in the criminal field, for the purpose of following up reported and processed criminal cases related to hate directed against the victim’s personal feature(s). These statistics would provide a basis for conducting analysis and implementing quality strategies related to the fight against violence in society. This includes then increasing the rate of reported cases, in which local citizens’ associations may play a key role. Finally, it encompasses due process and conviction of criminal cases motivated by hate directed against the victim’s personal feature(s) (from the police to an adequate sanction via prosecution and court proceedings).
Discussions were the place of an intense debate on this sensitive topic, and the organizers have insisted on bringing the topic closer to the participants. Details from the debates may be found here:
An efficient network has been set up with the task of creating appropriate mechanisms to apply hate crime-related provisions and following the entire process. The network members include representatives from NGOs, state institutions, parliamentary political parties and experts. The network will follow the implementation of hate crime-related regulation after the adoption of the draft law amending and completing the Criminal code by the National Assembly.
The partners have released a booklet with a view to further introducing the project’s ideas to the citizens and public sphere.
A final conference “Incriminating hate crime – a good way towards prevention and reduction of violence” took place on 16 April 2013 at the Media Centre in Belgrade.
As planned, a press conference was held at the close of the project, presenting its findings and conclusions as well as the next steps needed towards a successful application of the hate crime principle in criminal law. At the conference the following persons made a statement:
Gordana Stamenić, state secretary from the Ministry of Justice and State Administration,
David McFarlane, British vice-ambassador in Belgrade,
Aleksandar Vasiljević, representative from the police administration of the Ministry of the interior,
Milan Antonijević, director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM),
Mirjana Bogdanović, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).
A video recording of the whole conference may be found here: http://www.mc.rs/inkriminacija-zlocina-iz-mrznje—dobar-nacin-za-prevenciju-i-smanjenje-nasilja.4.html?eventId=8946
Media cover of the project
During the period January-April 2013 many printed and electronic media in Serbia reported on the project “Hate crime in criminal legislation – prevention and reduction of violence in Serbia”. In most cases the initiative was presented to the public as a positive shift towards reforming criminal legislation in Serbia.
INITIATIVE FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF HATE CRIME IN CRIMINAL LEGISLATION IN SERBIA
In the beginning of February 2012 YUCOM and GSA presented to the heads of all parliamentarian groups and the majority of state institutions the initiative to update the draft law amending and completing the Criminal code in the form of a concrete proposal including a draft of individual articles of the Criminal code with relevant accompanying comments and explanations. GSA and YUCOM considered that the introduction of the principle of hate crime in the Criminal code would essentially contribute to improve the situation in Serbia and that, in considering the proposal, specific attention should be drawn on the perception of the situation in Serbia and the application of mechanisms as efficient as possible in line with the real needs and further strategy.
In the course of public advocacy for this initiative, YUCOM and GSA secured the support for introducing hate crime in the Criminal code from institutions, politicians and political parties but also from other citizens’ associations and international organizations.
In October 2012, the Ministry of Justice and State Administration of the Republic of Serbia opened a public debate on the working version of the law amending and completing the Criminal code. In article 54a of this version, hate crime is defined for the first time: hate by reason of the victim’s racial, religious, national or ethnical belonging, sex, sexual orientation or sexual identity, as a motive to commit criminal offences is provided for as an aggravating circumstance in determining the sentence except where this circumstance does not characterize a criminal offence as provided for by law. YUCOM and GSA submitted commentaries on the working version of the draft law within the requested deadline. As official initiator of the draft law amending and completing the Criminal code, the Government referred it, including article 54a, to the National Assembly in December. The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the draft law on 24 December 2012 by a majority vote, and the law entered into force on 1st January 2013. This law codifies hate crime in Serbian domestic legislation for the first time.
The proposal for completing the law amending and completing the Criminal code may be seen HERE (PDF)
It is obvious that, through a constant and initiated campaign, partner organizations YUCOM and GSA had an impact on the adoption of the principle of hate crime during the changes brought to the Criminal code of the Republic of Serbia in December 2012. We remind that article 54a of the Criminal code of the Republic of Serbia prescribes hate crime as a “specific circumstance for the purpose of determining the sentence for a committed criminal offence motivated by hate.”