The Court of Appeal in Belgrade, with the support of a court expert and a lawyer, violates the rights of the child and the rights of minors who are warranted by ratified international conventions and laws of the Republic of Serbia, because by its acquittal sends a message to anyone who has sexual relations with girls of Roma origin that they will not be held responsible.
The Autonomous Women's Center, while respecting the free trial conviction regarding the evaluation of all the evidence of a particular case, expresses its concern about the personal attitude, beliefs and prejudices of a Belgrade Court of Appeal panel expressed in Judgment Kž1 - 392/2019 of 10.6.2019. based on which the perpetrator of the criminal offense of sexual abuse of a child resulting in pregnancy was acquitted, on the grounds that, in the judgment of this court, "the average member of the Roma population with similar subjective characteristics as the defendant in the circumstances of the event in question does not know that the described conduct is prohibited". By the acquittal of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, the judgment of the High Court in Pancevo K - 46/2018 of 22.1.2019. was reversed by which the offender was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
The Court of Appeal in Belgrade accepted the findings of a court expert (specialist in neuropsychiatry and child psychiatry) who stated that “the accused (22 years) and the victim (13 years) were members of the Roma national minority” and that the specific event was appreciated “as part of a sociological, cultural characteristics of the said ethnic community with regard to patterns of marital and family relations, which, inter alia, relate to early sexual intercourse and early establishment of a community of life“ ...
... and that the court expert "had the impression that the defendant did not know that he had committed a crime by engaging in sexual intercourse with the injured party", that the defendant "behaved culturally like most members of his community"
... as well as the opinion of the court expert that "the girl's emotional and social maturity was in line with the calendar age", from which the court concluded "that she had almost reached the age of 14, defined by the legislature as the average age at which most individuals reach physical and mental maturity for sexual intercourse, "and that the court expert "found no significant difference in mental and physical maturity between the defendant and the injured party. "
The same arguments were presented by the defendant's defense counsel, while it cannot be established from the reasoning of the verdict whether the deputy Appellate Public Prosecutor in Belgrade and the attorney-at-law of the minor injured party ex officio challenged the expert's finding based on the violation of the rights of the child and the rights of the minor victims in accordance with ratified international conventions and laws of the Republic of Serbia.
The Autonomous Women's Center wonders if the judges, court expert and lawyer who handled the case in the same way defended their view that "the defendant does not know in the circumstances of the event in question that the described behavior is prohibited because he behaved culturally like most members of his community" also when it comes to other crimes committed by members of a national minority, or to an attitude that applies exclusively to crimes of sexual abuse and violence against Roma girls. After this verdict, will other perpetrators who do not belong to the Roma national minority take the same view that Roma girls are not really children because they "enter into sexual relations early and start early communities of life"?
The Autonomous Women's Center finds it shameful that in the 21st century anyone, especially judges, experts and lawyers, thinks that any girl aged 13 "chooses" to be married and have a child. While the state of Serbia, before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, boasts that it is undertaking all activities to reduce forced marriages and early "marriages" of children, regarding which the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans' and Social Affairs announced changes to the Family Law, this case shows that, unfortunately, the consciousness of those who need to do protection has not changed.
The Autonomous Women's Center hopes that competent institutions, notably the High Judicial Council, the Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, the Protector of Citizens and the Lawyer Association of Serbia, will initiate proceedings within their jurisdiction against participants in this proceeding for violation of the child's right to protection from sexual abuse and protection from direct discrimination by a panel of judges, a court expert and a defense attorney, as well as the failure to act by a proxy of a minor victim - an ex-officio lawyer. We also hope that the Public Prosecutor's Office will file a Request for the Protection of Legality, and that the Ministry of Justice will pass a new Law on Judicial Experts, which will allow the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against court experts for violation of the law and removal from the expert list.
Most of all, we hope that the verdict will not discourage judges and prosecutors acting as first-instance bodies from continuing to protect children and holding adults, who are abusing their power, regardless of their national or ethnic origin, criminally responsible.