BRUSSELS – European Union believes that the restrictive measures introduced to lower the risk of the spread of COVID-19 cannot endanger basic rights and freedoms, including the right to protest peacefully, European Commission Spokesperson Ana Pisonero stated.
In a written response to N1 television, Pisonero said that the “protection of human rights must be the main priority”.
“The Government must establish the necessary measures to fight the risk of COVID-19 on the basis of scientific and epidemiological data”, she said, adding that the measures cannot endanger people’s rights and freedoms.
“Restrictive measures must be limited to what is absolutely necessary. This also includes the right to protest peacefully, which is the basic right in the democratic societies”, said Pisonero.
She added that at the same time, it is necessary to maintain the public order and the democratic institutions.
Thousands of citizens gathered in front of the National Assembly in Belgrade on Tuesday night following the announcement of President Aleksandar Vučić that the new weekend-long curfew will be imposed this week due to rise in COVID-19 cases. After a smaller group of protesters tried to enter the country’s parliament, clashes with the police ensued, resulting in a series of tear gas bombs and arrests, during which both the protesters and the policemen were reportedly hurt.
The protest was triggered by dramatic changes in Serbia’s policy on COVID-19 pandemic, with the government removing virtually all restrictions and sending messages that virus has weakened in the weeks prior to the 21 June election, followed by the proclamation that the situation is close to a calamity only two weeks later, as well as surfacing of reports by investigative journalists claiming that the true number of cases and deaths has been hidden from the public for weeks, if not months.