Support for victims and witnesses of crime is one of the special priorities of the Ministry of Justice, in line with Serbia’s commitment to secure access to justice, in which the victim is at the centre of the criminal proceeding. The National Strategy for Improving the Position of Victims in Criminal Proceedings is dedicated to this goal, which is being implemented according to clearly defined action plans.
It is a fact that millions of people become victims of crime ever year, but citizens all over the world, including Serbia, know little about rights of victims and have an insufficiently developed understanding of the position of the victim. In addition to that, surveys show that victims have a low level of self-recognition as victims, and that society’s empathy toward victims is low or purely declarative, without true understanding.
Exercising the right to compensation is one of the important rights of victims of crimes and Serbia needs to continuously work to improve this. For that purpose, the “Guidelines for improving court practice in compensation proceedings for victims of serious crime in criminal proceedings” have been created, and their implementation was discussed by representatives of the judiciary at a roundtable organized by the OSCE Mission to Serbia.
Improving the position of victims and witnesses of crime includes their position in the criminal proceedings themselves, which attorneys of victims play an important role in. Within the “Support for victims and witnesses of crime in Serbia” project, and in accordance with the National Strategy for Improving the Position of Victims in Criminal Proceedings, during 2022, the OSCE Mission to Serbia organized a series of trainings for lawyers for the process role as attorneys of victims.
The rights of victims and presentation of Ministry of Interior’s mandatory instruction for dealing with victims – are in the centre of two-day instructional seminars for police officers of the Ministry of Interior, which are organised by OSCE, as the chosen partner of the Ministry of Justice, within the “Supporting victims and witnesses of crime in Serbia” project.
Attorneys of victims have a very important role in exercising the rights of victims of criminal acts. The law guarantees the right to hire a representative from among the lawyers’ ranks, and in order to have that right, every authorized body with which the victim came into contact is obliged to inform them of it at first contact, be it the police, the court or a specialized non-governmental organization.
In most cases, the police are first point of contact for victims and witnesses of crime. This additionally points to the need for continuously improving the behaviour of police officers in contact with victims and witnesses of criminal acts. The national strategy for improving the position of victims and witnesses with the accompanying Action Plan therefore includes a series of normative improvements, as well as continuous education of all providers of assistance and support to victims, including the members of the police.
OSCE Mission to Serbia and EU Delegation mark European Day for Victims of Crime by contributing to Serbia’s better treatment of victims
Access to justice, with the victim being at the focus of judicial proceedings, is a commitment accepted by Serbia, and within the scope of the "Support to Victims and Witnesses of Crime" project funded by the European Union and implemented by the OSCE Mission to Serbia – it has achieved significant progress in the last four years.
A victim-centred approach when it comes to criminal proceedings is an approach also accepted by Serbia. In line with the National Strategy and accompanying Action Plan, Serbia is making progress in improving the positions of victims and witnesses, and substantial support in the process was provided by the EU and OSCE Mission in Serbia through the “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime” project that has already been implemented for four years.
OSCE Mission to Serbia, with support of European Union, organizes regional expert conference on achievements and challenges in improving victims' rights
A regional expert conference on achievements and challenges in improving victims’ rights, organized by the OSCE Mission to Serbia with the support of the European Union, took place today, in Belgrade. The conference provided an opportunity to promote experience sharing between scholars and practitioners from the region with similar jurisprudential practice, and to present the findings of the publication of academic and research papers titled “Victims of Crime and Legal Instruments for the Protection of Victims”.
This year, the milestone sixtieth regular annual conference of the Serbian Association for Criminal Law and Practice will be dedicated to criminal law protection of victims, justice during the coronavirus pandemic, and the Law on Juvenile Criminal Offenders and Criminal Protection of Juveniles after 15 years of application.
Higher Court in Niš: Using videoconferencing equipment for testimonies will insure more justice for the victims
Unfortunately, committing a crime against someone is usually not the last trauma for the victim. They often go through secondary victimization, lack of understanding from the society, as well as long and grueling court proceedings that require multiple testimonies. This is why equipping special rooms for testimonies and providing video-conferencing equipment will ensure that a vulnerable witness is able to testify outside the courtroom, without having to see the defendant. This is an important step towards establishing rights for victims and witnesses.
The Government of the Republic on Serbia had on 22 April 2021 adopted a decision on the establishment of a Coordination Body for Support to Victims and Witnesses in Criminal Proceedings, whose goal is the continuous monitoring and improvement of support for victims and witnesses of crimes in criminal proceedings. The foundation of the coordination body is a part of the implementation of the Action Plan for the implementation of the National Strategy on the Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime adopted in July last year.
Human trafficking cases are the most numerous ones this year at the Higher Court of Novi Sad where victims were awarded the sensitive witness status and the opportunity to testify via videoconference link during court proceedings. The same is true for the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Novi Sad where as many as 12 proceedings for human trafficking have been initiated this year with a larger number of damaged parties. This indicates a trend observed in both Serbia and Vojvodina, as well as worldwide, of increased number of human trafficking cases during the coronavirus pandemic.
Testifying via video-link during criminal proceedings has been made a reality in the justice system of the Republic of Serbia as of March 2021 with the introduction of modern videoconferencing equipment. One of the five Higher Courts where this equipment has been installed is the Higher Court in Novi Sad, which will organize a media webinar to present how videoconferencing testimony works during criminal proceedings at this court.
European Day for Victims of Crime - Higher courts received equipment for victims to testify via videoconference
The European Day for Victims of Crime in Serbia is marked this year by a concrete step forward in terms of the protection of victims and witnesses of criminal acts within the court procedure. The first five higher courts in Serbia received videoconferencing equipment and specially equipped rooms in which the testimony of victims and witnesses will be possible via an audio-video link.
On the occasion of the European Day for Victims of Crime marked on February 22, the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the EU Delegation handed over equipment for videoconference testimonies of victims and witnesses to five courts in the country, with the aim of strengthening the national system for supporting victims and witnesses.
Serbia is part of the global campaign “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” campaign this year as well, which is conducted from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) until December 10 (Human Rights Day) by over 1,700 organizations in over 100 countries every year.
Violence in the circumstances of the pandemic represents an exceptional challenge in terms of providing adequate support to victims, and in order to improve the situation, it is necessary to establish more intense cooperation between system institutions, as well as between all segments of society, for more transparent operation, harmonization of criteria and linking of databases, as well as to pay special attention to the position of women, children and other particularly vulnerable categories of victims.
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić stated that restrictions on movement due to the coronavirus have resulted in an increase of violence against women, and that steps need to be taken in order to ensure that homes do not become a place of fear again.
EU to earmark EUR 14.2 million for social housing and active inclusion of vulnerable groups in Serbia
In Belgrade, the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the first Safe House in Serbia has been marked, and Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Darija Kisić Tepavčević stated that all government institutions need to work as a team in order to identify domestic violence on time, and punish the perpetrators.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the lives of the whole world, and since physical distancing became one of the main protective measures, communication is becoming more and more important. However, that means that a part of the “new normal” includes a greater share of long-distance communication, and therefore all forms of activities need to be adapted.
In half of the reports on violence against women, the media revealed the identity of the survivor, or the victim, or members of her family, and reports used sensationalist or stereotypical terms for violence, victim or perpetrator in as many as 40 percent of cases, shows the Analysis of Media Reports on the Issue of Violence against Women.
European Commission presented the first strategy within the on rights of victims of crime, the goal of which is to ensure that all victims of crime can completely rely on their rights, regardless of where in the EU the crime was committed. Also, all countries that are candidates or future candidates for membership in the European Union are especially encouraged to implement EU regulations regarding rights of victims.
Serbian Government adopted the Strategy for Preventing and Protecting Children from Violence for the 2020-2023 period. This new document, realised with support by UNICEF, puts the focus of all activities on systematically preventive work of all institutions, but also control of realisation of defined measures.
For three years now, Serbia has been marking May 18 as the National Day of Remembrance for Women Victims of Violence, but despite amended laws and tougher penalties, there is still no developed work on prevention, and the media largely continue to create an atmosphere in which violence is tolerated.
The Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings noted in a statement on April 2 (CIO.GAL/44/20) that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on human trafficking is deeply worrying. Without urgent and targeted action, this health and economic crisis threatens to become a trafficking crisis.
VIENNA/COPENHAGEN/WARSAW - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called on governments today to take measures to protect women and children, given the worrying increase in domestic violence due to recommendations in many countries to stay at home and in isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In three quarters of cases of domestic violence, the victims are women, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Justice. In January this year, 1,750 cases of domestic violence were registered, and since the beginning of the implementation of the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence, which entered into force on June 1, 2017, until the end of January this year, more than 132,600 cases of domestic violence have been considered.
European Day for Victims of Crime, 22nd February - “BEHAVIOUR TOWARD VICTIMS – A TEST FOR ALL OF US”
More efficient court proceedings, exercising of rights of victims of serious crime and improvement of court practice in the field of compensation of damage to victims of serious crime, were main topics of the expert meeting held in Novi Sad within the framework of the “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” project.
Within the framework of the “16 days of activism against violence against women” campaign, from November 25 to December 10, branded orange buses will circulate across streets of Belgrade, Novi Sad, Niš and Kragujevac carrying messages “Open your eyes, report violence”, “Maybe your sister endured violence”.
By improvement of court practices, victims of severe crime will be able to exercise their right to compensation of damage easier than before, when they were diverted to protracted litigation. This will be secured by the implementation of “The Guidelines for improvement of court practices for compensation proceedings for victims of serious crime in criminal proceedings” developed by the Supreme Court of Cassation Working Group, with support from the OSCE Mission in Serbia.
Pursuant to the working draft of the National Strategy for the Exercise of the Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime and Action Plan, OSCE Mission to Serbia coordinated and created two more expert groups within the framework of a 3-year project “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia”, funded by the European Union, to work on working drafts of necessary amendments and modifications to criminal law and judicial laws and related by-laws.
During the first six months of this year, 65 victims and potential victims of human trafficking have been identified in Serbia, Director of the Center for Human Trafficking Sanja Kljajić told Tanjug news agency. She specifies that victims were identified in 53 of those cases, with 19 cases of sexual exploitation and 19 of labour exploitation.
Presentation of guidelines for the improvement of court practice in procedures for damage compensation for victims of criminal offenses
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 annual conference of judges of the Republic of Serbia “Judge Days – 2019” will be organized by the Supreme Court of Cassation from 10th to 12th October in Vrnjačka Banja. The topics of the conference are: Judiciary today, Laws and their application and Current disputed issues in the court jurisprudence.
The right to free legal aid will be enjoyed around 600,000 citizens as of 1st October. It will only be provided by attorneys and legal departments of self-government units. The cases will be sent from municipal offices to attorneys from a list. Assistant Minister of Justice Čedomir Backović told RTS that this was the first systemic law on free legal aid in Serbia.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development announced that it would hire 74 counselors for violence prevention in schools in the upcoming school year. These counselors will go through additional training on regulations and procedures in the field of protection from violence, rights, responsibilities and obligations of employees and children, students and parents.
In the first half of this year, sixteen victims of trafficking, including eight minors, who were victims of sexual exploitation and forced marriages, were registered in Serbia - announced IBS SA (Office for Combating Human Trafficking) regarding July 30 - World day against trafficking in human beings.
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.
Niš – From 2012 to May 2019, SOS phone in Serbia received 36,770 calls from 5,589 clients who reported some form of human trafficking and abuse. In their reaction to those calls, 504 victims of human trafficking were identified. Of that number, 34% were children – this is some of the data that Maria Anđelković, CEO of Astra NGO, revealed during the media workshop organized in Niš by the OSCE Mission to Serbia within the “Support to victims and witnesses of crime in Serbia” project.
Competent bodies in Serbia have discussed 88,188 reported cases and have carried out 23,176 plans of protection and support to victims within 22 months since the application of the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence began, announces the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia on the occasion of the Remembrance Day for Murdered Women Victims of Violence.
Novi Sad – In addition to informative, the media also occupy a significant educational role, and the sensitization of public largely depends on the reporting style. Hence, greater cooperation with the media, as well as improvement of their knowledge of rights and support to victims are an important part of the implementation of the “Support to victims and witnesses of crime in Serbia” project. To this end, after the Belgrade event, the second media workshop was held in Novi Sad. It was attended by media representatives from several cities in Vojvodina.
Belgrade – Knowing the rights of victims, including the right to support, is the first step towards claiming them. The role of the media is extremely important in this matter – this is one of the messages of the very first media workshop on ways to improve reporting on victims and witnesses of crime, which was held in Belgrade within the “Support to victims and witnesses of crime in Serbia” project.
Belgrade – Approximately 85 percent of women in Serbia think that violence against women is a common practice and that it is common, and nearly one third (29%) agree that domestic violence is a private matter that should be handled within family, according to the OSCE Survey on Well-being and Safety of Women in South East and Eastern Europe, that has been presented today in Belgrade.
State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, Biljana Popović Ivković, announced that new measures will be introduced as part of the “Improvement of Women’s Safety in Serbia” project for protecting victims of domestic violence – a system of bracelets for victims and perpetrators of violence, the Internal Ministry of Serbia announced.
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.
Every year, approximately 1,500 people in Serbia commit suicide, which puts our country at the 13th spot in Europe, and in order to save lives, a national SOS suicide prevention line was opened at Dr Laza Lazarević Clinic for Mental Disorders.
People who are having suicidal thoughts or their family members can call 011/7777-000 and they can speak with psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.
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.