Optional Protocol finally in Serbia
After more than five years of advocacy of A11 Initiative for ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which provides for the international protection of economic, social and cultural rights to the citizens of Serbia, the National Assembly has adopted the Draft Law on Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at at the session completed on September 6, 2023, thus making this treaty part of the legal order of the Republic of Serbia.
The Optional Protocol is an instrument related to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
UN Committee or „Strasbourg“ for economic and social rights
Ratification of this international instrument gives the citizens of Serbia the possibility to seek the protection of these rights before the United Nations Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights when they are unable to receive it before the national courts.
By way of illustration, one could say that, with respect to the protection of economic and social rights, the above-mentioned UN Committee is what the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is for the protection of civic and political rights.
Erosion of social and economic rights in Serbia
We have been witnessing buildup of the problems related to exercise and protection of economic and social rights for years which resulted in an increase of inequality, discrimination of the most vulnerable and reducing the economic and social rights to charity.
Reports of independent institutions for human rights, such as the Ombudsman and the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, point to these trends.
Forced evictions, low social welfare, work exploitation, inadequate protection at work, waiting lists for medical check-ups that practically prevent exercise of the right to health, access to education by vulnerable social categories – all these are the issues related to exercise of economic and social rights.
At times when these rights cannot be protected before the national courts, the citizens will be able to refer the violations of these rights to the United Nations Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by filing motions and when all the national legal remedies have been exhausted.
Which countries in the region have signed or ratified the Optional Protocol?
The Optional Protocol has been in force since 2013. To date it was signed by 51 country and ratified by 26 countries. The number of countries signing and ratifying it is on the rise. In our region, Slovenia and Northern Macedonia have signed this instrument, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro have already ratified it.
The ratification of the Optional Protocol completes the system of human rights protection in Serbia and asserts that economic, social, and cultural rights are of the same importance as the civic and political rights.