Bill on Rights of Civilian Victims of War Still Hidden from Public Eye

Bill on Rights of Civilian Victims of War Still Hidden from Public Eye

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The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Veterans and Social Policy (Ministry) has refused to deliver the amended text of the Bill on the Rights of Veterans, Military Invalids, Civilian Invalids of War and Members of Their Families (Bill) to the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which the HLC demanded on the basis of the Law on the Free Access to Information of Public Importance. The HLC notes that, by doing this, the Ministry has not only violated the right to free access to information of public importance, but has also continued with the practice of hiding the process of passing a new law regulating the rights of civilian victims of war from the public eye and from all interested parties.

The Ministry stated in the letter addressed to the HLC that the working text of the Bill was forwarded to the European Integration Office in order for this Office to give an opinion on the text of the Bill, and that the Office had no remarks with this regard. The Ministry added that they would also send the text of the Bill to the other Ministries concerned, in order to obtain their opinions. Only after this will the final draft of the Bill be prepared and sent to the Government for adoption. Until that time, the Ministry considers the text an „internal working document“, to which the public has no access.

The Ministry has also failed to respond to the HLC’s question regarding who the members of the Working Group for drafting the Bill are. They have only stated that it included representatives of various sectors of this Ministry, and of the Secretariat for Social Welfare of the City of Belgrade, the Ministries of Health and Defence, the National Health Insurance Fund, and the Faculties of Law in Belgrade and Novi Sad.

We are calling attention to the fact that the interested public, including associations of civilian victims of war, have not been informed at all of the drafting process of the original Bill. The HLC sent in its remarks on the first draft of the Bill as part of the public debate, which was closed already in December of last year. However, the conclusions from the debate have never been published in accordance with the law. Finally, following the announcements in the media that the Bill could be passed by the end of the year, civil society organizations have reacted by demanding that the Ministry withdraw such a discriminatory text and draft a new Bill, which would respect the rights of civilian victims of war in line with international law and in accordance with the international standards laid down in matters of this kind.