News 24 Oct 12

Serbia to Adopt Amnesty Law

The Serbian parliament will pass an amnesty law on Wednesday, aimed at easing the overcrowding in Serbian prisons.

Marija Ristic
BIRN
Belgrade

According to the Serbian Minister of Justice, Nikola Selakovic, the aim of the amnesty law is to lower the number of prisoners in the already chronically overcrowded Serbian prison system.

“Under this law out of 8,000 prisoners currently serving their sentence 3,600 of them will be released early. This means that immediately after the law is passed, around 1,000 of prisoners will be released. When it comes to the economic side of this decision, the state budget will save 127 million dinars,” Selakovic said.

However, during the parliamentary debate on Tuesday the opposition harshly criticised the proposed law.

The former Minister of Justice, Snezana Malovic, from the opposition Democratic Party, fears that under the new law some notorious criminals would be released.

Responding to Malovic’s remarks, Vladimir Cvijan, one of the lawmakers who proposed the law, claimed that the opposition wants to spread fear among citizens.

“Can we please stop spreading fear among citizens that criminals and killers would walk the streets? This is not true,” Cvijan argued.

He explained that the new law would affect only those sentenced to three to six months in prison, while those sentenced to 30 or 40 years or for organized crime would not be amnestied.

Bojan Djuric, an opposition Liberal Democratic Party MP, doubts that the new law will solve the current problems, pointing to the unstructured approach of the authorities and judiciary towards criminal matters.

“Without any doubt some hardened criminals, sentenced for serious and violent offences would be released. You have to bear in mind the flaws that currently afflict criminal procedures in Serbia,” Djuric noted.

The problems with the Serbian prison system were emphasised by the latest EU progress report on Serbia, published on October 10.

‘’The prison system continues to face serious problems due to overcrowding with over 11,500 prisoners for some 5 to 6,000 places. Further efforts are needed to improve living conditions, healthcare and provide adequate treatment programmes for prisoners. Alternative sanctions need to be introduced on a larger scale," the report reads.

"There are not enough frontline prison staff. An efficient probation system remains to be introduced,” the report concluded.

 It is expected that the law will be passed during the parliamentary session on Wednesday, despite the objections of the opposition parties.

 

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