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 project worth EUR 1.500.000 is financed by the European Union and is implemented by the OSCE Mission to Serbia, as a partner selected by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia.

Marking the European day for victims of crime

The European Day for Victims of Crime is being marked in Serbia for the fifteenth time, and its goal is to make the consequences which the victims of crime suffer visible to the broader public and to encourage society to protect the rights of victims more efficiently and fully. “The behaviour toward victims is truly a test for all of us, and that was recently shown in the case of the kidnapping of little girl Monika K, which was a multi-level test both for public authorities, as well as for many other parts of society, primarily the media,” said Nataša Novaković from the OSCE Mission to Serbi, which is, as a partner of the Ministry of Justice, implementing the project “Support for Victims and Witnesses of crime in Serbia”, financed by the European Union. She stated that the consequence of sensationaliast reporting in this, as well as in many other cases, represented secondary victimization of the victim, and that humane, democratic societies could not allow that. The fact that 75 million people in Europe become victims of crime on an annual level is concerning, but also reminds the states that each society needs to dedicate more attention to this issue. One of the responses to the growing crime rates is the EU Directive on rights of victims, said Una Kelly, Programme Manager at the judicial department of the EU Delegation to Serbia. “European standards require the effective recognition of, and respect for, the rights of victims with regard to their human rights, in particular respect for their security, dignity, privacy and the family life of victims, and to recognise the negative effects of crime on victims” – said Kelly. Citing the many examples in which the media violated the Codex and the right to dignity of victims with their reporting, journalist Tamara Skrozza said that the Complaints Commission of the Press Council, which she is a member of, received as many as 14 complaints about the reporting about the kidnapping of little Monika, which is a record since this self-regulating body had been established. Displaying horrific images, publicizing terrible details about the condition of the victim and exploitation of the emotional state of the victim or her family is in breach of both professional and ethical codices, Skrozza said, but also noted that the guilt was not just on journalists, but often on those who disclose such information to the media. Codices are not violated just by reporters, but also by people from the judiciary, court experts, and even representatives of other state institutions, says therapist Biljana Slavković, who sees that as a sign that assuming professional responsibility is essential in all segments. “Insufficient awareness in the public comes from insufficient knowledge, and being informed about rights represents the best path to their fulfilment,” – said Dr Milica Kolaković Bojović, an expert working on the drafting of the National Strategy on improving the position of victims. This was also demonstrated by the initial public opinion survey carried out within the auspices of the project “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” which showed that the citizens of Serbia had an insufficient understanding of the problem of support for victims and witnesses, the rights they have and the ways to enjoy them, and also that they had a low level of awareness regarding victims of severe crimes. All this was taken into consideration in the creation of the National Strategy which, alongside the establishment of the National Victim Support Network, includes the definition of contact points in the police and the judiciary, where victims will be able to receive all basic information about the rights and support they are entitled to, introduction of audio-video equipment which will ensure the ability to make statements without direct contact between the victim and the accused, and a series of mechanisms which will contribute to creating a comprehensive system of support for victims and witnesses of crimes.  

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Presentation of guidelines for damage compensation

The possibility of exercising the right to compesation in criminal proceedings is one of the preconditions for establishing a criminal justice system that focuses on the needs of victims of crime. This is why considerable attention at this year's ‘Judges’ Days,’ the Annual Conference of Judges of the Republic of Serbia, was also dedicated to the presentation of  “ Guidelines for the Improvement of Court Practice in Procedures for Compensation for Victims of Serious Crimes in Criminal Procedure.” The drafting and publication of the Guidelines was supported by the OSCE Mission to Serbia as part of the project “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia,” which is implemented by the OSCE Mission to Serbia as the elected partner of the Ministry of Justice, and funded by the European Union. “These Guidelines, as well as a number of other activities carried out through the three-year project ‘Support to Victims and Witnesses of Crimes in Serbia,’ are aimed at raising standards in respecting victims' rights in criminal proceedings in Serbia and bringing it closer to European and international standards” - as stated by Nataša Novaković, the Human Rights and Criminal Justice System program manager of the OSCE Mission to Serbia. The Chair of the Working Group in charge of drafting the Guidelines, Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Radmila Dragičević Dičić, said that these Guidelines are a result and a good example of cooperation between judges and prosecutors. She emphasized that the judges of the civil departments have made a major contribution to this work, and have translated their extensive knowledge and experience into a practical handbook that will assist prosecutors and criminal judges to secure the right of victims of serious crimes to compensation. Recalling that the prerequisite for the realization of the property claim of the victims is their right to be informed, Tamara Mirović, Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor, pointed out that the public prosecutor, as usually the first body which a victim makes contact with, has a direct obligation to provide all the necessary information, in a comprehensible and accessible manner. Supreme Court of Cassation Judge, Ljubica Milutinović, stressed the importance of resolving the issue of compensation to the victim in criminal proceedings, wherever there are conditions. In this respect, she emphasized the important fact that, in addition to the general instructions and explanations, these Guidelines contain three practical additions: a model order for an expert witness, a model part of the operative part of the judgment in which a claim is decided, and relevant examples from case law of civil departments in the case of compensation for damages incurred as a consequence of a criminal offense.

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Presentation of draft strategy

Each year, 75 million in people become victims of violence, rape and robbery. Every victim that receives support has a chance to continue their lives with as few consequences as possible, experts say, which is why the government needs to establish a victim support system. Serbia has prepared the Strategy for Protection of Victims and Witnesses of Crime, and it has also prepared a draft Action Plan for the first three year of the strategy’s implementation. State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice Radomir Ilic underscores that this is only some of the data which illustrates how important the victim protection system is, and that protection of victims of crime was not defined only by the Chapter 23 Action Plan, but that it is primarily a responsibility of the state. He notes that this is the reason why the Ministry of Justice set the creation of a Strategy for Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crimes for the 2019-2025 period as one of its priorities, and that important support in this process is being provided by the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the EU Delegation to Serbia through the “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” project. Ilic highlights that the Action Plan accompanying the Strategy contains three basic goals – formation of the national support network, improvement of rights of victims and witnesses of crimes, as well as active work on raising awareness about the rights of victims and witnesses.  Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia Andrea Orizio says that promoting local management over the reform processes and their sustainability are the key principles on which the OSCE Mission to Serbia bases its work.  “The OSCE Mission is glad to be performing its advisory role in order to help the host country strengthen the efficiency of the mechanisms for protection of victims of crime. In order to reduce the risk of repeated and secondary victimization, as well as the fear from retribution and intimidation, the draft Action Plan prescribes specific activities which the relevant stakeholders need to undertake,” Orizio noted. Representative of the EU Delegation to Serbia Leonetta Pajer and Deputy Republic Public Prosecutor Zorica Stojšić also spoke at the conference. The creation of the Strategy for Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime, along with the accompanying Action Plan, is a part of the broader project of the Ministry of Justice titled “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” implemented in cooperation with the OSCE Mission to Serbia, and which is funded by the European Union.

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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:

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