News 04 Nov 13

Serbia Drops Kosovo From Court Network

A new, expanded network of Serbian courts will start working from January next year, but for the first time it will not include courts in Kosovo that will soon come under Pristina’s control.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian parliamentary speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic and justice minister Nikola Selakovic / Photo by Beta

“The new network of courts, which envisages increasing the number of basic courts from 34 to 66, is aimed at removing the current weaknesses and inefficiency, which meant citizens didn’t have proper access to justice,” Serbian justice minister Nikola Selakovic said at a parliamentary debate on the issue on Monday.

The legislation to establish the new court network also envisages an increase in the number of prosecutor’s offices from the current 34 to 58.

The proposed law also, for the first time, does not include courts in Kosovo. According to Selakovic these will be included in another special law.

This move comes after Belgrade and Pristina in April signed an EU-mediated deal aimed at normalising relations. The agreement says that the judicial authorities in Serb-dominated north Kosovo must be integrated into and operate within the Pristina-run legal framework, unlike before, when Belgrade ran its own courts in Kosovo.

According to the agreement, the appeals court in Pristina will establish a panel composed of a majority of Kosovo Serb judges to deal with all municipalities where Serbs form the majority.

Serbia’s opposition however expressed doubts about whether the new system would actually improve the functioning of the courts.

“These changes are only technical, and not substantial. You didn’t envisage anything concrete except changing the number of courts, which in overall will not affect the justice system, nor mean that we will get shorter legal processes before courts,” said Borislav Stefanovic from the opposition Democratic Party.

This new law is part of the recently-adopted five-year national strategy for the reform of the judiciary, one of Serbia’s efforts to implement rules imposed by the European Union during the integration process.

It takes account of problems encountered in the implementation of the previous strategy adopted in 2006, which was criticised by both domestic and international experts who blamed the previous Democratic Party-led government for allowing political interference in the justice system.

It is expected that these new laws will be adopted by parliament this month and come into force in January next year.

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