The “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” project will establish a comprehensive national system for information, help and support for victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system in Serbia. The project will contribute to the rule of law and strengthen the judiciary in the Republic of Serbia for the purpose of aligning closer with international and European legal standards.

The establishing of this system is in accordance with the international standards and European Union acquis and has been planned in the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 within Serbia’s EU accession.

The three-year project is financed by the European Union with EUR 1.500.000. The project is implemented by the OSCE Mission to Serbia, as a partner selected by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia.



Victims’ rights to be improved

The OSCE Mission and the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, held a conference in Belgrade today to mark European Day for Victims of Crime. The organisations presented the draft 2019-2025 National Strategy on the Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime. The draft Strategy was developed by the Ministry of Justice Working Group, with expertise and technical support from the OSCE Mission to Serbia. It is part of the three-year project Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia, funded by the European Union with an amount of 1.5 million euros. “We remain hopeful that this new national strategy on crime victims’ rights, and the subsequent action plans, will help to strengthen and consolidate the victims’ rights system across Serbia, for the benefit of all Serbian citizens,” the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Mateja Norĉiĉ Štamcar, stated at the event. The National Strategy aims to advance the legal and institutional framework for guaranteeing victims’ rights, in line with European and international standards. The strategy and its action plan foresee the establishment of a Nationwide Support Network, encompassing the judiciary, the police, social care and health care institutions, as well as civil society organizations that will provide victim and witness support. “According to the European Commission data for 2017, 15% of the population of the European Union have been victimized by a crime, amounting to as many as 75 million people. It is the duty of the state to secure support for anyone who has had the misfortune of becoming a victim. This support should correspond to their needs and allow them to overcome, or at least diminish the trauma of victimisation. With this in mind, the development of a National Strategy on the Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime has been set as a priority, and the Ministry of Justice approached this task in a dedicated, responsible and efficient manner,ˮ stated the State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice Radomir Ilić. Ilić pointed out that the Action Plan for Chapter 23 defined setting up a victim and witness support system as one of the most important tasks. “Taking into account that this area requires a single approach by judicial institutions, by other state authorities and civil society organisations which the victim comes into contact with, the need to establish one coordinated support system has been identified. That would provide the victim with access to unified, accessible and quality support services. On the other hand, it would ensure the best use of existing human as well as financial resources,ˮ stated the State Secretary. He emphasized that the establishment of the Network of Victim and Witness Support Services on the entire territory of the Republic of Serbia will be the most challenging step in the implementation of the Strategy, but also a step that will bring the greatest benefit to citizens compared with the present situation. “Effectuating this Strategy will provide precise data on the number and structure of support providers and the programs they offer, as well as follow-up of such data. Having precise data will ensure better planning of assets necessary for the system to function,ˮ said Secretary Ilić. “The draft National Strategy and the public debate are crucial steps in building an effective and fully functional national victim support network,” said the Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Ambassador Andrea Orizio. Orizio said that the goal is to introduce mechanisms to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward by reducing the risk of secondary victimisation and by eliminating fear from retaliation. “The OSCE Mission to Serbia is working in close partnership with Serbian stakeholders to set up an efficient institutional framework, in line with international standards. With that in mind, the Mission has provided assistance to Serbian institutions, in particular to the Ministry of Justice, to address the model of victim and witness support in Serbia in a systematic way, building on and improving existing capacities,” said Orizio. In addition to Working Group members, the conference was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for European Integration, the Supreme Court of Cassation, the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Judicial Academy, other government institutions, civil society organizations, as well as representatives of other international organisations and diplomatic missions. The presentation of the National Strategy’s basic outline and underlying principles was followed by a discussion on the draft text, as part of the public debate prior to its adoption by the government. The National Strategy will be accompanied by a corresponding action plan for the first three years of its implementation. The European Union is the largest donor to Serbia having provided over 4 billion euros of support to the country over the past 19 years. (source: europa.rs)

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Introduction to the Swedish model of support for victims

Members of the Working Group for drafting the National Strategy for Support for Victims and Witnesses visited Sweden at the beginning of December, in order to learn about the functioning of one of the most developed and comprehensive systems in this field. The three-day visit to Stockholm was organized by the OSCE Mission to Serbia, as the partner selected by the Ministry of Justice for the implementation of the three year project “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia”, financed by the European Union. The members of the working group discussed the manners of operation of various institutions in the victim and witness support systems and the modalities of cooperation between them with the representatives of the Swedish Ministry of Justice, police, services for providing support for victims and witnesses in state institutions and the judiciary, as well as with the representatives of the NGO sector. They also had a meeting with HE Ambassador of Serbia to Sweden, Dragan Momčilović.

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Support for victims and witnesses at „Judge Days”

The “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” project was presented at the annual meeting “Judge Days”, held in Vrnjačka Banja, which gathered 1500 judges from all over Serbia. The goal of this three-year project is to establish a comprehensive national system of support for victims and witnesses; it is funded by the European Union with EUR 1.5 million, and the project is implemented by the OSCE Mission to Serbia. “The creation of the National Strategy for Rights of Victims of Crime is one of the most important elements of this project,” said Nataša Novaković, program manager of the OSCE Mission to Serbia. She underscored that the key components of the project would be the improvement of the strategic and legal framework, strengthening capacities of state institutions and providers of support for victims and witnesses, development of IT in this field, and raising awareness in the general public about the existence, importance and role of victim support services in Serbia. The project will include cooperation of a series of state, judiciary, professional institutions as well as NGOs, with a crucial role played by the Supreme Court of Cassation and the other courts all over Serbia.

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The rule of law is a continuing duty

The OSCE Mission to Serbia and the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia launched today in Belgrade a three-year project entitled Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia. The project aims to assist Serbian institutions in establishing a nationwide support service for victims and witnesses of crime in line with international standards and with Serbia’s strategic goal of EU accession. One of the most important project activities will be the drafting of the National Strategy for Victims’ Rights and its accompanying action plan. The project is being implemented by the OSCE Mission to Serbia and entirely financed by the European Union to the value of EUR 1.5 million. Sem Fabrizi, the EU Ambassador to Serbia, stressed that "The EU's policy has put an increasing focus on support for victims and witnesses of crime at the centre of its legal and social services response in this area. In the framework of chapter 23 [of the EU accession process], the EU is glad to support Serbia in aligning its legislation on victims and witnesses of crime with the EU standards. Today, together with the highest Serbian institutions, we have launched an important project funded by the EU which will be of significant and direct help for the people of Serbia." The Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Andrea Orizio, said that everyone could become victims of crime at some moment of their lives. “We are working in partnership with the Serbian institutions to set up an effective national victim support network, which places victims’ needs and their rights at the very heart of the criminal justice system in Serbia." “Serbian citizens will be able to receive assistance and information from their very first contact with the responsible authority after having suffered or witnessed a crime, as well as support and guidance throughout the criminal proceedings and even after their conclusion,” said Orizio. The project was presented to state officials, experts, judges, prosecutors, police officials and civil society organizations. It is part of the European Union’s and OSCE’s support to Serbia’s reform of its criminal justice system and alignment with international and EU standards on victims’ rights. In addition to improving the legislative framework in this domain, the project will assist state institutions in strengthening their capacities, developing IT solutions to facilitate networking between service providers, educating a network of volunteers and raising awareness of the role of victim support services in Serbia. (source: osce.org/sr)

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