The 54th Session of the Human Rights Council
11th September-14th October 2023
Item 6: Universal Periodic Review Serbia
Joint Statement of Association Ma’onah for Human Rights and GICJ
3rd October 2023
Delivered by Juliet Wishner / GICJ
We thank the countries who have contributed to the UPR of Serbia.
Conflict is no excuse for not implementing recommendations aimed at promoting rights, nor is it justification for not taking action to promote sustainable peace. When reconstructing a society, particularly one that was at arms with neighbours, it is essential to rebuild trust, empathy, and humanity. All residents of Serbia deserve a life based on morality and justice, regardless of their ethnicity. As recently demonstrated in the surge of military escalation, it is essential to take steps to prevent future conflict.
Crimes against humanity do not begin with violent actions, but rather with words deployed in pursuit of hate towards others, encouraging dangerous sentiments that are allowed to fester. We commend Serbia for supporting Recommendation 131.9 and committing to prevent nationalistic hate speech, and urge them to redouble efforts to fight ethnic intolerance. Further, there must be an emphasis on educating the next generation so they are able to break the cycle of violence that has continuously plagued this region.
Serbia repeatedly noted that reparations are paid between two states, refusing to support recommendations calling for reparations in accordance with international law. Providing justice to individuals is not conditional on reciprocity: both Kosovo and Serbia independently have a duty to provide justice to victims of grave human rights violations, regardless of the other’s actions. War crimes must be investigated and prosecuted on all sides of the conflict as a basic principle of humanity.
Association Ma’onah and Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) commend the steps taken so far by Serbia to build a less hateful society, but acknowledge that there is much further to go. It is an injustice to those who perished during the previous conflicts to allow hate speech to persist unchecked, and not provide reparations to victims and families. Building sustainable peace is not a painless task, but an absolutely necessary one.