Serbian Democratic Forum
Berislavićeva 10
10 000 Zagreb
tel/fax:+385 1 426-826
e-mail:sdf_zg@zamir-zg.ztn.apc.org

The Serbian Democratic Forum was established in 1991, with headquarters in Zagreb, as the coalition of political forces of Serbs in Croatia. That was the time of strong confrontation of national ideologies in the area of the then Yugoslavia, threatening to turn into war conflict. Because of the number of Serbs in the Republic of Croatia and the reflection of such situation on relations between nationalities, there was the need for establishing an organisation which aimed at starting the dialogue inside the state and political institutions by its activities, in order to achieve permanent agreement on settling the relations between the Serbian and the Croatian nationalities and therefore to contribute to preventing of the war.

Unfortunately, it turned out differently. The war started, with all its consequences, so the Serbian Democratic Forum has spread its activities, trying to answer the needs of the present situation. Besides its engagement on war stoppage and searching the solutions which would permanently solve the Serbian position in the Republic of Croatia, because of the escalation of violating the human rights and inefficiency of the competent institutions in protection of these rights, the priority problem to work on was aiding citizens in the protection of their human, citizen and national rights. Therefore, inside of the Forum, at the beginning of 1992, The Central Office for Refugees, human Rights and the Rights of the National Communities and Minorities was established in Zagreb, and its task was to act on the protection of the physical and legal security of the endangered and to provide professional help to individuals in realising their constitutional and legal rights within state and administrative bodies. The Central Office became the place for turning of numerous citizens, of all nationalities, who either could not realise their rights through legal organs, or found great obstacles.

After the great refugee wave, after military-police actions "Flash" and "Storm", we mostly help the refugees to realise their right to return. SDF, in co-operation with the Office for Refugees and Displaced Persons, has received several thousands of demands by family members of fled persons for their return and SDF constantly pressures the Government's institutions to make the return possible and helps those who succeeded in getting return permits in realising their legal rights. It also develops the activity of collecting and distribution of humanitarian aid and helps the most endangered in that way.

During 5.5 years of SDF's work its activities spread as requested by current situation. Because of the discriminating laws being implemented in legal system of the Republic of Croatia and discriminating acting of some state and administrative bodies toward certain citizens' categories (lot of citizens have lost their apartments, houses and jobs; they had numerous troubles in getting different documents, the return of refugees is not possible), the crucial SDF activity is the human rights protection. Besides providing legal aid to citizens, different initiatives, suggestions and demands at competent state bodies for changing the laws and other regulations which restrict certain rights, violate equality in front of the law, and for solving the individual rights, are set in motion. Periodic reports on the form of violating human rights are made and delivered to state bodies of the Republic of Croatia and to international organisations' representatives. The press-conferences are organised in order to inform the public on actual problems in the area of realising human rights, personal security and property safety, analytical materials on the consequences of implementation of certain laws and other regulations on realising constitutional and legal rights are prepared.

The number of problems in the area of realising human rights, especially after including the areas which were under protection or temporary administrated by UN into legal system of the Republic of Croatia, and because of the notable number of the returnees, caused the need for territorial dispersion of SDF and its offices in order to provide legal and other aid, as fast and as efficient as possible. Branch offices are open for certain areas, and so are their offices in the places where the needs for providing help are the greatest.

Today, besides the SDF Branch Office for Zagreb area and the Central Office for Refugees, Human Rights and the Rights of the National Minorities in Zagreb, Serbian Democratic Forum has four branch offices: for Western Slavonia area, with headquarters in Pakrac, for Kordun and Banija area with headquarters in Vojnić, for Lika area with headquarters in Korenica and for Dalmatia area with headquarters in Knin. Currently, SDF prepares establishing two more branch offices for Eastern Slavonia and Baranja area.

Inside of the branch offices there are 12 offices: in Knin, Korenica, Plaški, Vojnić, Gvozd, Glina, Petrinja, Pakrac, Okučani, Slatina, Daruvar and Grubišno Polje.

Monthly, several hundreds of clients comes to SDF offices, where professionals help them in solving different problems: return of the houses, demands for renewal, renewal of pension right, realising the right on social welfare, tax exemption, acquiring different documents, convalidation of documents, communal problems and other difficulties which they encounter. The SDF offices are more and more approached by other nationalities as well.

In order to provide reliable information and legal aid on possibilities of realising their rights to refugees who are in FR Yugoslavia, the SDF Office in Belgrade was open, and soon the office in Banja Luka will be open as well.

In the area of promoting and protection of human rights, SDF co-operates with numerous national and international organisations, participates in seminars and round tables on realising constitutional, legal and basically, human rights. SDF is one of the establishers of the Co-ordination of Organisations for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in the Republic of Croatia and its member, besides 17 more organisations.

The motives of SDF work were, and are, to, together with numerous non-governmental organisations which work within Croatia, and all other institutions and individuals, contribute to building of Croatian state, which will be based on ideals of freedom of every single individual, regardless his/her religion and nationality, on tolerance among nations and religions, peaceful solving of contradicted ideas and interests, the state where all laws will be implemented, in which all will be able, without discrimination, to enjoy universally acknowledged human rights and citizens' freedoms and express and develop their national, religious or any other identity undisturbely.

The reward given to SDF for its contribution to democracy development by United States of America and European Union, besides acknowledgement for previous work, is also even bigger motive, in closer co-operation with other non-governmental organisations for human rights protection and other bodies and individuals, for continuing and strengthening its activities in strive for building democratic and civil society.

Centar za direktnu zaštitu ljudskih prava
Center for Direct Protection of Human Rights
1998