BELGRADE – Serbian Government’s proposed amendments to the Law on Police threaten to erode legal standards achieved so far.
Changes to the 2016 Law on Police come too soon and without a satisfying rationale, but share a wider tendency of increasing discretionary powers of politicians, it was concluded at the panel discussion “Security Sector in Serbia on the Path of Legal Erosion and Increasing Politicization”, held on 1 of February in Belgrade, Serbia, organized by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP).
Proposed law amendments came in parliamentary procedure in November, but still haven’t been discussed by the MPs. Although it was noted that the proposed amendment also contains several positive solutions, their three main flaws prevail, which led BCSP to oppose their adoption in the National Assembly.
Some of the most notorious proposed amendments extend exceptions to the employment in the Ministry of Interior through open calls and internal competitions for application and widen the range of persons which may be subject to security checks without proper justification. Moreover, the chance to subject the police more effectively to the Public Prosecutor during an investigation under the Criminal Procedure Code is missed, said Saša Đorđević from the BCSP.
“We are witnessing a step backward since proposed legal solutions allow the Minister of Interior to define positions that don’t require an open call for applications in the Act on systematization, which remains classified. Furthermore, no obligation to justify such a decision is prescribed”, explains Đorđević.
If proposed changes were to be adopted, almost anyone could be subject to security checks, and even without being notified about it afterward.
“Not only are individuals in the vicinity of persons under security protection too widely and unclearly defined, but also the number of persons that enjoy security protection may be increased on the recommendation of the Bureau for Coordination of Security Services, currently chaired by the Minister of Interior. Moreover, rules on security checks for members of the Internal Control Sector threaten to erode its independence”, said Đorđević.
Research of the Association of Public Prosecutors of Serbia showed that Public Prosecutor had to intervene in the vast majority of cases to have its order finally implemented, mostly without receiving proper justification for the delays that sometimes last over a month. BCSP, therefore, suggests that the law should make Public Prosecutor’s order obligatory and exclusive for the police during the criminal procedure.
The panel discussion also pointed to flaws of other recently proposed law amendments in the security sector, primarily the Law on the Security Information Agency, Law on Defense and Law on the Armed Forces of Serbia, as well as Draft Law on Personal Data Protection.
“Not only are new legal solutions bad but are proposed to be adopted in bulk, as if small and insignificant compared to the greatly publicized debates on constitutional reforms and Internal Dialogue on Kosovo. However, they are very important and must not be exempt from the scrutiny of the European Union, whose fresh new Enlargement Strategy is soon to be published, added Predrag Petrović, executive director of BCSP, in his final remarks.
By: Jelena Pejić (BCSP) / Photo: Media Centre Belgrade