UN Human Experts Alert: Anti-terrorism Laws are being Misused to Crack down on Civic Space in Serbia

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During this summer, the Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering at the Ministry of Finance in Serbia has compiled a list of CSOs, media, and individuals requesting the banks to inspect all their transactions in the last year. With this step, the Administration activated the law’s mechanism to investigate organizations’ possible participation in “money laundering” or terrorist financing. In a reflection, BCSDN member Civic Initiatives called the Government to stop abusing the mechanism for preventing money laundering and terrorist financing by intimidating organizations critically oriented towards Government’s actions. In the statement, supported by Serbian CSOs, they claim that in the past, appropriate procedures were adopted in the framework of fulfilling the obligations of the Republic of Serbia towards the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Council of Europe Committee MONEYVAL, contributing to the global efforts in combating terrorist financing.

In this regard, the human rights experts addressed their concerns about using surveillance powers by the government to obtain banking and financial information on transactions of over 50 NGOs, media associations, and individuals. In a statement, they noted that the unjustified use of the Serbian Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism interferes with the citizens’ freedoms of expression and association and disrupt their right in the conduct of public affairs.

Recalling states’ obligation to adopt national legislation to combat the financing of terrorism in compliance with international law, they argue that the use of the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing is inconsistent with Serbia’s obligations under international law. Civil society plays a crucial role in undermining the factors leading individuals to be drawn to terrorism and violent extremism. Targeting civil society contradicts fundamental human rights and endangers security in either country.

Eventually, the experts called on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and regional bodies such as MONEYVAL to ensure that national regulations are adopted in accordance with FATF standards are in accordance with the human rights obligations, and emphasized the need of the Serbian Government to guarantee that the use of anti-terrorism laws will not affect the civil society operations and the citizens’ basic human rights.

BCSDN supports its member Civic Initiatives and the Serbian CSOs against the abuse of the mechanism for preventing money laundering and terrorist financing by intimidating organizations, media and individuals in Serbia.

Following the current circumstances, BCSDN encourages Serbian CSOs to apply for funding provided through the Call for the Ad-hoc grants*.

 

 

*BCSDN provides rapid funding to CSOs in the Western Balkans to support CSOs in: addressing immediate challenges to the civic space in their countries, facing pressure to the civic space, incidences of hate speech, hostile attacks to organizations, or trying to react towards the changes of a law that affects their work. Read more about this opportunity here: http://www.balkancsd.net/regional-cs-hub/regional-cs-ad-hoc-support-grants/

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