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Public Announcement: Reaction to the Draft Law on The Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations

An attack on the work of associations of citizens

The Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations represents discrimination against citizens who are financed by foreign donors and clearly shows that the intention of the authorities in Republic of Srpska is to limit the work of organizations that criticize their work

Associations of citizens sent an initiative to the Ministry of Justice to withdraw the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations, stressing in the comments on the Draft Law itself that it contradicts not only human rights standards, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Constitution of the Republic of Srpska, but is in direct contradiction with several valid laws in the Republic of Srpska, such as the Law on General Administrative Procedure, the Law on Administrative Disputes, the Law on Civil Procedure, the Law on Associations and Foundations, the Law on Accounting and Audit, the Law on Inspections, etc. Furthermore, this Draft Law represents a continuation of activities aimed at suppressing freedom of expression and association, which began with the initiative to criminalize defamation and insult, and continued through attacks on journalists, activists and NGOs.

The formulations offered by the proposed draft are foreign to domestic legal theory, imprecise, ambiguous or redundant. For example, the term “agent of foreign influence” appearing in the Draft Law is the first time in the legal history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the very formulation used in it is a clear indicator that the tendencies of this Draft are to pejoratively present the work of associations of citizens. We remind you that according to the Law on Associations and Foundations of Republic of Srpska, an association is “any form of voluntary association of several natural or legal persons for the purpose of promoting or achieving some common or general interest or goal, in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and the main purpose of which is not the acquisition of profit”.

The draft prohibits the performance of political activities that are so broad that they can prevent any activity of associations of citizens in the direction of improving legislation and achieving better protection of citizens, which is why associations are formed. By limiting “political activism” and “political activity” (e.g. submitting an initiative to propose a law) and introducing supervision over the type of activity that associations can carry out, and introducing direct control through inspection supervision, this Draft Law dangerously encroaches on constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms and leaves a great possibility for competent institutions to, by arbitrary interpretation of the law, prohibit the work of organizations which activities do not go well with the authorities in Republic of Srpska.

In public, the authorities try to present that there is no regulation in the field of work of associations of citizens, 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 Mediation, Information and Financial Services (APIF), that during the inflow of financial resources, it submits the basis for the inflow of funds to the bank so that the same can use them, and is subject to the controls of the Tax Administration in Republic of Srpska.

In addition to the imposition of double reporting obligations, the proposed Draft labels and discriminates against associations and foundations from the Republic of Srpska which activities and projects are financed by foreign governments and organizations, while the Draft Law excludes associations and foundations that are financed from public budgets, which are precisely the allocation mechanisms of financial resources is insufficiently transparent and a source of various political abuses, especially in the pre-election period.

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

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

The announcement is signed by:

Banjaluka Centre for Human Rights

Banjaluka Social Center

Center for Youth „KVART“

Center for Research and Studies – GEA

Center for Informative Decontamination of Youth, Banja Luka

Center for Environment

Society for Biodiversity Research and Protection

Foundation “United Women”

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Banjaluka

Genesis project

My Hercegovina

Youth Organization “Center“ Mrkonjić Grad

Perpetuum mobile – Institute for Youth and Community Development

SEMPER – Service for Media Professional Education and Development

Transparency International in BiH

Association of Citizens “Impuls“ Banjaluka

Association of Citizens “eTrafika“

Association of Citizens “UNSA Geto“

Association of Citizens “Hi Neighbour“

Association for the Promotion of European Standards and Improvement of the Business Environment

Association “Roma Girl – Romani cej“

Association of Citizens “Another Story“

Association of Citizens “Miko Network“

Association of Citizens “Heart in Hand“

Association for the Protection of Animals “Vardi”

Association of Citizens “ToPeeR“

Association “Women’s Forum“ Bratunac

Association “Stop Mobbing“

Association of Citizens “Worker’s Solidarity in Bosnia and Herzegovina”

Association of Citizens “Restart“

Association “Friends of Srebrenica“

Association of Citizens “Sharp Zero“

Association of Citizens “Future“ Modriča

Association of Citizens “The Path of Justice”

Association of Citizens “Roots“ Ugljevik

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