United Nations experts warned that Serbia’s anti-terrorism laws are being misused to target NGOs, the UN said in a press release.
“Human rights experts expressed concern that the Serbian authorities are using oversight powers designed to target the financing of terrorism to obtain banking information and information on financial transactions of more than 50 NGOs, media associations and other non-profit organizations,” the press release said and added that the organizations and media that have been targeted stand out for their work on human rights, investigation of war crimes, monitoring of the government’s work, and other forms of investigative journalism.
The press release named the experts as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor, andSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association Clément Nyaletsossi Voule.
“We fear that such use of the Serbian Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism interferes with and limits the freedoms of expression and association of people belonging to these groups, and their right to take part in the conduct of public affairs,” it quoted the experts as saying.
They warned that the unjustified use of this law risks intimidating civil society actors and human rights defenders, restricting their work and muffling any criticism of the Government”. The UN warned that the “broad and arbitrary implementation of the law against non-profit organizations as well as individuals is inconsistent with Serbia’s obligations under international law”.
“Targeting civil society is counter-productive to human rights compliant counter-terrorism efforts and undermines rather than enhances security,” it said.
“The Financial Action Task Force and regional bodies such as the Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL must ensure through their engagement and oversight that national legislation passed pursuant to the Task Force’s standards do not contravene States’ human rights obligations. We therefore call on the Serbian Government to guarantee that the use of anti-terrorism laws will not affect the activities of civil society and on their right to freedom of expression,” the UN experts said.
The UN report and press release was not reported by Serbian media until the Civic Initiatives NGO issued a statement about the report.