Today, after 2:00 p.m, The Youth Initiative for Human Rights received verbal notification from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia regarding the ban on all events within the “Miredita, Dobar Dan” festival. The ban was formally communicated as an order to cease the gathering, initially verbally and then in writing, encompassing all the activities associated with the festival, both public events and those intended solely for participants. 

With this order, the MUP violated the Constitution of Serbia, specifically freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as well as a number of laws, including at least two articles of the Law on Public Assembly due to the application of disproportionate measures. Placing the burden on the organizers instead of addressing the hooligans and failing to ensure the gathering runs counter to the legal and constitutional order of the Republic of Serbia, as well as the standards and practices upheld by the European Court of Human Rights.

A hateful campaign launched against the “Mirëdita, Dobar Dan!” festival in Serbia was led precisely by those whose responsibility it is to protect people and promote peace and normalization. Representatives of state institutions, particularly the Minister of Culture (Nikola Selakovic), Minister of Family Welfare and Demography (Milica Djurdjevic-Stamenkovski), Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia (Aleksandar Vulin), the Mayor of Belgrade (Aleksandar Sapic) and Minister of Interior (Ivica Dacic), who are responsible for maintaining order, were among the first to incite hatred, intolerance, and foster hostilities, which fundamentally led to the official banning of the festival.

The “Mirëdita, Dobar dan” is not the enemy of the state, but the hooligans whom it has sided with, and for whose sake it has failed to fulfill its own obligations. The fundamental duty of the state is to ensure the freedoms and rights guaranteed by law, and to appropriately sanction those who infringe upon or organize against these freedoms and rights of citizens.

During our presence in the area where the festival was supposed to happen under police supervision, hooligans managed to place a padlock on the back entrance, effectively creating a situation where people are being held hostage in full view of MUP members who claim they cannot intervene.

By banning the festival, the Ministry of Interior and the Government of Serbia have once again demonstrated that freedom of assembly applies only to hooligan groups, not to festival participants and guests. During the notification of the ban, the organizers were ordered, under threat of consequences, to ensure that all participants leave Serbia, even though the ban itself implies they are no longer festival participants but free individuals. The bus carrying participants was stopped at Bubanj Potok, and they were prohibited from entering Belgrade. Organizers were instructed to return the bus to Kosovo under police escort, a directive carried out around 2:30 p.m.

This ban constitutes a violation of freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression. It also extinguishes any illusions that this government prioritizes a peaceful resolution to the Kosovo issue or Serbia’s European integration.

Yesterday and today, various hooligan and neo-Nazi groups such as Delije Sever, Peoples’ Patrol, Group 451, and Zetropa Serbia were allowed to freely occupy “Dorcol Platz”, the designated cultural space where the festival was scheduled to begin. Yesterday, the outer walls of “Dorćol Platz” were defaced with threatening chauvinistic messages aimed at festival guests. The incident was promptly reported to the police and subsequently removed by the organizers.

Part of the participants of the festival arrived in Belgrade in the previous days, they were directly affected by this ban. The state chose to side with those who wrote messages such as “Get out!” and “You are not welcome!” on the premises of “Dorćol Platz” during the night of June 25th and 26th.

Today, a group of about 150 united hooligans, who look uniform, stopped the traffic in Dobračina street and blocked the entrance to “Dorćol Platz” so that none of the guests and festival organizers, as well as employees in this area, could enter or leave the yard from 12:00 p.m. “Dorcol Platz”. An insufficient number of members of the MUP were in the area, and the MUP did not send reinforcements, leaving the impression that there was no will to hold the festival at all.

This illegal and violent action by a hooligan group is happening at the same time that the Initiative’s office received bomb threats today, and images of thugs ready to use cold weapons to deal with us have been circulating on social media. Citizens who were near Dorćol Platz received an explanation from members of the police that it was a peaceful protest against the festival, which absolutely does not correspond to the factual situation, but rather coordinated and organized hooligan groups.

In that situation, the MUP, instead of guaranteeing the safety of citizens during rallies that carry a message of cooperation and peace, once again sided with the hooligans, as in the case when the police defended the mural of Ratko Mladić in 2021. Despite this, we will appeal against the ban decision and demonstrate its baselessness. This ban is the result of a campaign by Serbian authorities against freedom of speech and the promotion of artistic creativity, involving direct participation by members of state structures.

We also express deep regret on this occasion and share profound concern for the state of society characterized by violence, hatred, and intolerance — a model of behavior that officials and institutions fail to recognize as contentious and perilous. Meanwhile, citizens advocating for peace and reconciliation face sanctions. We are troubled by the ongoing misuse of laws governing public assembly and the failure of state authorities to fulfill their legal responsibilities. We also believe that the international community’s support for this festival in Serbia and Kosovo has been lacking in the past few days. It is concerning that missions promoting reconciliation, democracy, and freedom of speech remained silent at a time when these fundamental values were publicly and directly violated.

For several weeks now, we have been combating misinformation in the public sphere, striving to reach as many people as possible and clarify the festival’s content. Due to a coordinated campaign and the harm caused by certain individuals, officials, and the media through spreading misinformation and inciting hatred, we have initiated criminal proceedings. By banning the festival that promotes artistic freedom, institutions violated their stated policy of normalizing relations with Kosovo. After a decade of hosting the festival “Miredita, Dobar Dan!” the message of reconciliation and the urgent need to create space for communication between the two societies for peace-building is now more crucial than ever.

Together with our partner organizations and the citizens who have been sending us messages of solidarity and support in the last 15 days, we will not cease our efforts to continue expanding the space for cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo.

Civic Initiatives
Youth Initiative for Human Rights