12 Nov UN human rights experts warn that Serbian anti-terrorism laws are being misused to intimidate civil society organizations

Beograd, 12. novembar 2020. godine

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs * concluded in a statement issued on November 11 that the Serbian government had abused its anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing mechanisms in order to intimidate civil society actors and human rights defenders, restrict their work and muffle any criticism of the Government.

Regarding the “List” case, i.e. the official note that the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering sent to all commercial banks, asking them to provide the Administration with documentation related to all financial transactions for 57 organizations, media and individuals, a group of organizations called on institutions to immediately cease the abuse of the mechanism for the prevention of money laundering and financing terrorism for the purpose of intimidating organizations, the media and individuals and informed all relevant international institutions about this case.

Regarding the appeal sent by the organizations to the international bodies, the UN experts issued a release stating that, although the states have the obligation to pass laws in order to suppress the financing of terrorism, the measures they adopt must be in accordance with international law, especially human rights law. According to experts, such a wide and arbitrary use of the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, which targets civil society organizations, media and individuals, is not in line with Serbia’s obligations under international law, as it jeopardizes the right to freedom of expression and association of civil society.

Through working with citizens and communicating with the state, civil society plays an important role in channeling social discontent, thus contributing to the prevention of terrorism and violent extremism. Experts therefore underlined that such targeting of civil society is counterproductive, and that it undermines rather than enhances security.

In conclusion, the experts called on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and regional bodies such as MONEYVAL to ensure that national regulations adopted in accordance with FATF standards do not conflict with the human rights obligations of states, and called 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 Experts: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Ms Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association.