OSCE Mission organized regional expert conference

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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”. Some 60 experts and practitioners in the area of criminal justice from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia attended the event.

“The OSCE Mission-supported conference is dedicated to the status and rights of the most vulnerable participants in the criminal procedure – the victims of crime. In line with its mandate, the OSCE Mission has been helping Serbia further develop its strategic framework and capacity for establishing a fully functional national victim support network, in line with OSCE commitments and international standards,” said Sarah Groen, Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, at the opening of the conference.

‘In a modern world and modern pace of life and movement, an estimated 75 million people in the European Union, 15 % of its population, fall victim to crime every year. People falling victim to crime have a range of needs, varying from victim to victim, and therefore today's EU policy calls for the legal systems to ensure a victims-based approach as a minimum standard. This includes, amongst other areas, the need of victims and their families to be informed of their rights, provided social and psychological support and financial compensation. In Serbia, several positive developments have been noted in the area of procedural rights while other areas are delayed, as reflected in EC’s most recent Annual Report. Through projects such as the one we discuss today, the EU aims at encouraging Serbia to place greater emphasis on this area, including that victims are compensated in criminal proceedings’, said Leonetta Pajer, from the EU Delegation to Serbia.

The conference was an opportunity to examine all current issues related to victim support, and to assess the alignment of the criminal justice systems with international standards in Serbia and other countries in the region. The event also served to inform the participants on the current state of the implementation of Serbia's Strategy on the Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime 2020–2025, which the OSCE Mission supports through its activities under the “Support for Victims and Witnesses of Crime in Serbia” project, financed by the European Union.

Reiterating the importance of respecting fundamental victims’ rights – many of which are already enshrined in legislation in the countries in the region – the participants noted the progress in certain amendments to criminal law, but also stressed the importance of institutional capacity-building, as well as the need for further training of practitioners, all with the aim to put these rights into full effect.

The annual conference and the publication are part of the EU funded project, implemented by the OSCE Mission, with the focus on increasing respect for human rights and the effectiveness of the criminal procedure.

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