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Announcement of the Human Rights House Banja Luka: Strong Opposition to the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations

The Human Rights House Banja Luka hereby once again expresses its strong opposition to the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations (Draft Law). The inclusion of the Draft Law on the agenda of the Fifth Regular Session of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska is another step to shape discrimination against certain associations in the Republic of Srpska through laws, which clearly shows the government’s intention to limit the work of organizations that criticize their work.

In the previous period, member organizations of the Human Rights House submitted initiatives to withdraw the Draft Law from the parliamentary procedure. At the same time, they submitted comments on the Draft Law itself, which not only contradicts human rights standards, international instruments for the protection of human rights and the Constitution of the Republic of Srpska, but is also in direct contradiction to several valid laws in the Republic of Srpska, such as the Law on General Administrative Procedure, Law on Administrative Disputes, Law on Civil Procedure, Law on Associations and Foundations, Law on Accounting and Auditing, Law on Inspections, etc.

Furthermore, this Draft Law represents a continuation of activities to suppress freedom of expression and association, which began with the criminalization of defamation, and continued through attacks on journalists, activists and associations.

The draft prohibits the performance of political activities that are so broad that they can prevent any activity of associations in the direction of improving legislation and achieving better protection of citizens, which is why associations are formed.

The draft law directly encroaches on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution and leaves a great possibility for competent institutions to, through an arbitrary interpretation of the law, prohibit the work of organizations whose activities are not in accordance with the attitudes of authorities in Republic of Srpska.

The authorities are trying to present to the public that there is no regulation in the field of association work, that associations do not work transparently and that they are not accountable to anyone. However, this is absolutely untrue, legal regulations exist and associations are obliged to submit various reports to the institutions of the Republic of Srpska, and each association, as a legal entity, has the obligation to submit a final financial report to the Agency for Intermediary, Information and Financial Services, that during the inflow of financial of funds, submits the basis for the inflow of funds to the bank so that it can use them, and is subject to the controls of the Tax Administration in the Republic of Srpska.

Finally, the institutions of the Republic of Srpska government are financed through international projects, from the same sources as the associations, including the European Union, USAID, various international development agencies, and the question arises why the institutions are not declared agents of foreign influence when get funds from abroad?

Therefore, it is clear that the purpose of the Draft Law itself is to send a message to citizens that associations are the enemies of the state, and it represents only one step in a series of multi-year attempts by the authorities in the Republic of Srpska to limit freedom of speech, assembly and association and shut down criticism in all ways and methods characteristic for totalitarian regimes.

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