What is controversial about the new Draft Law on Internal Affairs, how it was written and which provisions entail dangers for citizens’ rights and the further politicisation of police work – these are questions to which the new prEUgovor brief alert offers answers and solutions for improvement.
The Draft Law on Internal Affairs from December 2022 represents a slightly improved version of its last year’s predecessor. However, it still contains solutions that point to three dangerous trends: greater restrictions on the citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms, increased surveillance of the population versus fewer opportunities for public oversight of the police, and further politicisation of the police force.
This is the most extensive and most important of the six draft laws from the field of internal affairs that have been submitted for public debate in December 2022. After civil society organisations appealed, the Government of Serbia first extended the deadline for public debate and then decided to withdraw the Draft Law on Internal Affairs. Representatives of the parliamentary opposition joined the civil society organisations’ advocacy against bad solutions, while members of the European Parliament also intervened.
Although the Draft Law on Internal Affairs regulates matters that are important for the respect and protection of human rights (Chapter 23) and crucial for the implementation of police reform (Chapter 24), the Draft’s already brief explanation does not refer at all to Serbia’s obligations from these two Chapters’ Action Plans. The current Law on Police was adopted in 2016 and has already been amended twice. The prEUgovor coalition notes that the proposed statutory solutions continue the worrying trends that were observed in the security sector of the Republic of Serbia in the previous period.
The members of the prEUgovor coalition will monitor the further process of drafting this and related laws and provide detailed comments and suggestions for improving disputed provisions. The initial recommendation to the MoI was to start from scratch due to the Draft’s numerous and essential shortcomings. However, the Government insisted that such an option was not acceptable to them. In this brief alert, the prEUgovor coalition will briefly point out which provisions are especially problematic and give recommendations, appealing to the MoI and the public of Serbia to pay particular attention to them in the coming period.
Some of the disputed provisions were discussed at the meeting the representatives of the civil society held with the Prime Minister, Ministers of Internal Affairs and European Integration, and representatives of the MoI and the Ministry of Justice on 23 January 2023 within the framework of the NCEU. The revised Draft Law on Internal Affairs was presented on that occasion; some of the most problematic provisions were eliminated or changed, and there was a demonstration of readiness for a mutual exchange of arguments. The Prime Minister suggested that the dialogue on the Draft be continued during the following month, after which the official public debate on this act would be reopened.