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News 17 May 16

Report Laments Failings in Serbian Judiciary

A member of Serbia's Anti-Corruption Council, Jelisaveta Vasilic, told at a presentation of a report on the judiciary in Serbia that the country's courts are still in a poor state.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Photo: Beta

"Despite the small positive steps that have been made in the judiciary, the government continues to violate the presumption of innocence, citizens have no equel access to justice and the lack of transparency is omnipresent," Vasilic said on Monday.

The Anti-Corruption Council to which she belongs is an advisory body to the government of Serbia which contains six experts from the fields of law and finance and which submits annual reports on the state of judiciary.

According to Vasilic, the government had not replied to this, or to many other previous, reports.

"We have a mild optimism because unlike the last report, when nothing was done concerning our recommendations, some things have been done. For example, old cases have been solved... and all courts now have presidents, which was not the case in the past," Vasilic said.

According to her, Serbia has the highest number of courts and judges per capita in Europe, but courts are still slow to solve cases.

She noted that, according to a report of the Council of Europe, judges in Europe process twice as many cases as their counterparts in Serbia.

"One of the many reasons for the poor state of the judiciary is copying the laws of the European Union," she added.

"More than 80 per cent of bills are also adopted by urgent procedure without public debate, which is extremely bad practice.

"We as a Council make suggestions or objections to laws that have some sort of flaw but we never get any feedback from the government", Vasilic continued, recalling the problems over the botched reform of the judiciary in 2009.

During that reform, hundreds of judges and prosecutors were deselected and only returned to their jobs after a decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia in 2012.

Lack of funds is one reason for the failings of the justice system in Serbia, according to the State Council member,Miroslava Milenovic and there is a need to establish an independent budget for the system.

"We have come into a situation where the accounts of the courts and prosecutors are blocked and we do not know what happened. Was there abuse of spreading money or there was of lack of funds? We do not know," Milenovic said, adding that when the judiciary system is threatened, the state is also endangered.

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