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18 December 2023 – Today in Belgrade, in the organisation of the European Policy Centre (CEP), the presentation of the Report on the Monitoring the State in the Judiciary for 2022 was organised as a part of the project Open Doors of Judiciary. Seven key areas of the report were presented, and the areas were presented by – Milan Filipović, Director of research at YUCOM, Jelena Pejić Nikić, Senior Researcher at Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP), Damjan Mileusnić, project coordinator and researcher in Partners Serbia, Robert Sepi, legal adviser in Transparency Serbia, Marina Matić Bošković, President of the Programme Council in Association of public prosecutors of Serbia. The presentation of the Report was moderated by Dušan Protić, programme manager at CEP, who also presented two of the areas.
The preparation of these reports aims to show an objective picture of the state of the judiciary from a systemic point of view. This report is the third in a row, making it possible to compare the situation to previous years. The report is unique in its methodology and consistent during all monitoring cycles, Protić explained.
The first area – Legal aid – was presented by Milan Filipović, who said that the situation and grades in the first area remained the same due to unchanged legislation and practice. He also stated that the main problems in providing legal aid stem from the Law on free legal assistance.
“The biggest weakness of the mentioned law is the absence of a definition of free legal aid”, said Filipović.
The second key area – Access to data and transparency of courts and prosecutor’s offices – was presented by Damjan Mileusnić and Jelena Pejić Nikić. The most important observations in this area are that out of 31 analysed courts, only 29 have accessible websites, while the courts in Brus and Raška do not have them at all. As many as 80% of courts in Serbia regularly update their websites – once a month. The biggest problems in the field of transparency of court work are the lack of professional biographies of judges on the internet and the fact that most of the pages are not available in the languages of national minorities and adapted to blind and visually impaired persons.
The results collected within the third area – Access to courts – were presented by Dušan Protić. He emphasised that all or most of the standards for the three sub-indicators are related to financial, physical, and linguistic accessibility to the courts, which have been normatively met. Practical shortcomings in this area are reflected in the lack of litigation conducted in the languages of national minorities or with the help of adequate translators.
Dejan Petković presented findings from the fourth area – Judicial efficiency – and it was established that there were no significant changes compared to last year’s monitoring cycle.
“Court decisions should be published on court websites, and criteria for keeping court statistics should also be improved.”
Robert Sepi stated that one of the key changes in the fifth area – Ethics in the Judiciary -was the abolition of the first election, i.e. the permanence of the judicial function became a constitutional category. Another important change is the abolition of the competence of the National Assembly through the first election and the reduction of political influence during the election of judges.
“The centre of gravity of the struggle for the independence of the judiciary has been transferred to the field of work of The High Court Council.”
Marina Matić Bošković analysed the sixth area – Access to justice in wrongdoing. She emphasised the improvement of the defendant’s condition in the proceedings, while the rights of the defendant in the proceedings and the rights of the damaged are still insufficiently protected. As recommendations in this area, she singled out amendments to the Criminal procedure code, which would prevent two actions – the notification of the defendant that a criminal complaint has been filed against him and the notification of the damage that the defendant in his case has been released.
“Strengthening the independence and greater integrity and quality of work of public prosecutors can only come about through normative changes, i.e. changes to the Law on the public prosecution and the Law on the High Council of Public Prosecutions”, emphasised Matić Bošković.
Dušan Protić also presented Access to Legal Services. He stated that in this monitoring cycle, there was a drop in standards that impacted the decreased evaluation of public executors’ work. The main reason for this change is the dissatisfaction of citizens who are in the role of debtors in this type of procedure.