The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Serbia

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Extracts from the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Serbia

2.3. Constitutional Provisions on the Use and Protection of the Language

In the Republic of Serbia, under Article 10, paragraph 1, of the Constitution, the Serbian language and the Cyrillic script are in official use.

Paragraph 2 of the same Article of the Constitution sets out that official use of other languages and scripts is to be regulated by the law, based on the Constitution.

The above provisions of Article 10 are not the only provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia on the use and protection of languages.

In Article 21, paragraph 2, the Constitution prohibits discrimination, on any ground, stipulating that discrimination is prohibited in particular on specific grounds (race, sex, national affiliation, social origin, birth, religion, political or other opinion, culture, etc.), which explicitly include the language.

Under Article 202, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, differentiation based on the language in the constitutional-legal system of the Republic of Serbia is not permitted even in the case of measures providing for derogation from human and minority rights during the state of emergency or war.

Article 199, paragraph 1, of the Constitution stipulates that everyone has the right to use his/her language in the proceedings before a court of law, another state body or organisation exercising public powers, when his/her right or duty is decided on while paragraph 2 sets out that lack of knowledge of the language of the proceedings may not be an impediment for the exercise and protection of human and minority rights.

The above provision is also related to Article 32, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, under which everyone is guaranteed the right to free assistance of an interpreter if he/she cannot speak or understand the language officially used in the court.

The use of the language is also regulated by the constitutional provisions on habeas corpus. Under Article 27, paragraph 2, of the Constitution, a person who has been deprived of liberty by the state bodies is to be promptly informed, in the language he/she understands, of the reasons for the deprivation of liberty, of the charges against him/her, as well as of his/her rights, while under Article 33, paragraph 1, of the Constitution, every person accused of a criminal offence has the right to be informed as soon as possible, in conformity with the law, of the nature of and reasons for the charges against him/her, as well as of the evidence collected against him/her, in detail and in the language he/she understands. The above provisions of the Constitution do not guarantee the protection and use of one’s own language, but the right of every person, including foreign nationals, to be informed in the language they understand of the reasons for the deprivation of liberty and other relevant data in the pre-trial investigation and in the criminal proceedings.

In the constitutional-legal system in the Republic of Serbia, the language is a value which is also protected by means of the institute of asylum. Under Article 57, paragraph 1, of the Constitution, an alien who has a well-founded fear of persecution, inter alia, on the ground of his/her language, is entitled to take refuge in the Republic of Serbia.

The use and protection of minority languages is specifically regulated by Article 79 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which deals with the rights to the preservation of specific features of persons belonging to national minorities. Pursuant to that Article of the Constitution, persons belonging to national minorities are entitled, inter alia, to:

  • use their language and script;
  • in those communities where their populations are sizeable, have procedures also conducted in their own language, by the state bodies, organisations vested with public authority, bodies of autonomous provinces and local self-government units;
  • education in their language in public institutions and institutions of autonomous provinces;
  • use their name and family name in their own language;
  • in those communities where their populations are sizeable, have traditional local names, names of streets and settlements and topographic signs written in their own languages as well;
  • full and impartial information provided in a timely manner in their own language, including the right to express, receive, send and exchange information and ideas;

The same Article of the Constitution also guarantees to persons belonging to national minorities the right to establish private educational institutions and their own media, without specifying the language of instruction and/or public information, which provides freedom to persons belonging to minorities to use minority languages in private educational institutions and in the media.

5. The Implementation of Measures to Promote the Use of Minority Languages in Public Life in Accordance with the Obligations from Article 2. Paragraph 2.

5.1.

Article 8.

Education

With regard to education, the Parties undertake, within the territory in which such languages are used, according to the situation of each of these languages, and without prejudice to the teaching of the official language(s) of the State:

Selected Paragraphs and Subparagraphs:

a) (iii) to apply one of the measures at least to those pupils whose families so request and whose number is considered sufficient; or

(iv) if the public authorities have no direct competence in the field of pre-school education,  to favour and/or encourage the application of the aforementioned measures

b) (iv) to apply one of the measures at least to those pupils whose families so request and whose number is considered sufficient;

c) (iv) to apply one of the measures at least to those pupils who desire that or, if that is applicable, whose families so request and whose number is considered sufficient;

d) (iv) to apply one of the measures at least to those pupils who, or where appropriate whose families, so wish in a number considered sufficient;

e) (ii) to provide facilities for the study of these languages as university and higher education subjects;

f) (iii) if the public authorities have no direct competence in the field of adult education, to favour and/or encourage the offering of such languages as subjects of adult and continuing education;

g) to make arrangements to ensure the teaching of the history and the culture which is  reflected by the regional or minority language;


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