Roma Secure National Minority Status in Serbia and Montenegro

07 May 2002

In February 2002, the Romani community in Serbia and Montenegro has secured the status of national minority through the new federal Law on the Protection of the Rights and Liberties of National Minorities. The new law, adopted by both houses of the Yugoslav Parliament on February 26, explicitly bans discrimination on national, ethnic, racial and linguistic grounds, in Article 3. Furthermore, Article 4 envisages measures for equality of minority members and the majority population: This article specifically mentions Roma and declares that, "the authorities will introduce legal acts and take measures […] in order to improve the situation of persons who belong to the Romani national minority." Roma are the only group explicitly mentioned in the law; lawmakers, acting on advice from a number of international bodies, had drafted an earlier bill with no groups at all mentioned, since listing minorities may exclude some groups. However, the ERRC and others persuaded drafters that, in light of the particular stigma on Roma and the existence of discourses holding that Roma are not an ethnic group but rather a social category, explicit inclusion of Roma in the law would be important. The law envisages the formation of a Federal Council on National Minorities, including the representatives of national minorities. National minorities also have the right to form their own National Councils, according to Article 19. Additionally, the state has committed itself to establishing a fund in support of social, economic, cultural and general development of national minorities, according to Article 20. In case of violations of minority rights, individual minority members, and also the National Councils, can claim damages with relevant courts. The National Councils and the Federal Council also have the right to file complaints with the Federal Constitutional Court in cases of apparent violations of constitutional rights and liberties of minorities.

(B92, Beta, ERRC, Politika)


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