Institutions should not push citizens into conflict

Human Rights House Belgrade and Belgrade Center for Security Policy strongly condemn the call issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs inviting citizens to report violence and roadblocks. We appeal to the institutions to refrain from pushing citizens into conflicts, because that makes them accomplices in the potential endangerment of those who want to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights. We remind the Ministry that it has an obligation to enable the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed by the Constitution, even when the gathering is not notified. In accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and international standards, even a gathering that blocks roads is a peaceful assembly that the police are obliged to protect.

The obligation of the police is to prevent violence, and not to further escalate the tense situation and create an atmosphere of confrontation. Instead of enabling citizens to express their views, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with its actions, encourages the violent disruption of peaceful gatherings and the use of excessive force. The call of the Ministry deepens divisions in society and the right guaranteed by the Constitution becomes the privilege of one group of citizens, while citizens with different attitudes cannot even count on physical security. Calls to report registration plates of citizens who will take part in non-violent protests on Saturday at 2 pm, Minister Vulin’s statement that the police will use violence, announcements of phantom organizations calling for the destruction of private cars of protesters and the Serbian President’s call for police to retreat on Saturday, contributes to a feeling of fear, legal uncertainty and heating up the already heated atmosphere in society.

We remind that the Constitution of Serbia explicitly prohibits political parties from directly exercising power and subordinating it to themselves. The police should keep the peace and security of all citizens, and not deal with them on the orders of political parties. The institutions of the Republic of Serbia should protect the legal order, and not put themselves in the function of political struggle and preserving the power of government representatives.

We demand that the Ministry of the Interior and the competent institutions, in accordance with their legal powers, enable citizens to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly and to work on de-escalating the tense situation to which they have contributed with their actions.