Initiative for Assessment of the Constitutionality of the Law on Free Legal Aid

Initiative for Assessment of the Constitutionality of the Law on  Free Legal Aid

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On 25th December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center submitted to the Constitutional Court of Serbia an initiative for assessing the constitutionality and compliance of the Law on Free Legal Aid (ZBPP) with the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, generally accepted rules of international law and ratified international conventions. The HLC considers the legal solutions foreseen in the ZBPP on the one hand deny equal access to justice to citizens, since they exclude a wide range of persons who could be users of free legal aid, whilst, on the other hand, they narrow down the circle of providers of free legal aid, leaving a large number of Serbian citizens without adequate legal protection.

At the end of November 2018, the National Assembly adopted the ZBPP, although its actual implementation was postponed until 1st October 2019. The debate on various proposals of this law lasted for over a decade, and one of the biggest obstacles to its adoption was the disagreement between bar associations in Serbia and citizens’ associations regarding the issue of who can provide free legal aid. For this reason, the HLC considers one of the most controversial provisions of the ZBPP to be  Article 9, which provides that free legal aid can only be provided  by lawyers, local self-government units and  organizations providing free legal assistance in the fields of protection against discrimination and asylum. The organizations dealing with issues that do not include protection against discrimination and asylum cannot provide free legal aid, but free legal support exclusively, as reflected in administrative matters such as, for example, filling in  forms.


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Draft Law on War Veteran and Disability Rights retains provisions that discriminate against civilian victims of war

Draft Law on War Veteran and Disability Rights retains provisions that discriminate against civilian victims of war

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On Friday 21 December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) submitted to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Veteran and Social Affairs (Ministry) its comments on the Draft Law on Veteran and Disability Benefits (Draft Law). In the comments the HLC points out that the public consultation process that preceded the preparation of the draft law was non- transparent and that the text of the Draft Law, instead of improving the position of civilian victims of war, maintains the discriminatory provisions contained in the law currently in effect, as a result of which civilian victims of war are put in an unfavourable position in relation to military victims of war.

In early August 2018, the Ministry established a working group to draft a law which would comprehensively regulate the rights of war veterans. Only members of war veteran and disabled servicemen associations were invited to participate in the working group. Associations of civilian victims, gathered around the Alliance of Serbian Associations of the Families of Missing Persons from the Territory of the former Yugoslavia, as well as interested experts in the field and other stakeholders were excluded from the process. Moreover, apart from announcing that the working group had been set up, the Ministry did not publish either of the two versions of the Draft Law on its website for comments. It was from the website of the Association of Disabled Wartime and Peacetime Veterans of Serbia that the HLC got hold of the Draft Law dated 9 December 2018. By not publishing the Draft Law on its website and not including associations of war-disabled civilians and civilian victims of war in the consultation process, the Ministry made it impossible for those interested parties to contribute their views on the proposed legislation.

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Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes and presentation of Regional Judicial Cooperation in the Prosecution of War crimes: Analysis and Improvement Recommendations

Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes and presentation of Regional Judicial Cooperation in the Prosecution of War crimes: Analysis and Improvement Recommendations

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On Thursday, 20 December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its “Third Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes”. Opening the discussion on the report, Ivana Žanić from the HLC pointed out that the main obstacle to gathering information for the preparation of this report has been the fact that the Working Body, which should monitor and report on the implementation of the National Strategy, was established after a year and a half of delay. So far, they have published a total of four reports, which together cover the period up until September 2018. Apart from the fact that the reports of the Working Body were late, they have often also been confusing and difficult to understand, and some their estimates of the implementation of the activities both arbitrary and illogical.

The author of the Third Report, Višnja Šijačić, pointed out that the HLC’s findings show that 33 months since the adoption of the National Strategy, there has been no progress in the field of war crimes prosecution. The delay in the implementation of the Strategy is a dominant factor, war crimes trials continue to be unreasonably long, and no progress has been made in the field of the procedural rights of victims, while the number of missing persons has not been reduced at the expected rate. She pointed out that in the period covered by this report there was no progress in terms of improving society’s attitudes towards war crimes or war crimes trials. On the contrary, the past few months have seen an expansion of the promotion of convicted war criminals in the public, and the denial of genocide in Srebrenica.

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