azcThe First Basic Court in Belgrade issued an announcement stating that the final verdict from May 15th 2018 did not in fact give full custody to the father of the underage girl from Mirijevo.

After the announcement issued by the Basic Court in Pirot in the murder case of Sanja M.[1] the Autonomous Center for Women was stunned to see the same mistakes repeated by the Basic Court in Belgrade, which they had issued with the intention of sending a message to the public as soon as possible noting how they bare no responsibility, but had in fact just basically bragged about doing nothing.

Judges in family court proceedings are under obligation to be guided by the best interest of the child, and have the right to investigate facts and evidence which may not be brought forth directly to them, and have the right to make decisions not requested in the lawsuit if they believe them to be necessary for the protection of a child or the domestic violence victim.

The judge in this case where it was requested that both parents be stripped of parental rights had a legal right to make a decision to give the father full custody as well as to decide on what visitation model the mother would be awarded, seeing as she didn’t strip the mother of visitation rights. The judge had previously been given results and opinions by a commission of experts noting that they deemed the father to be an adequate parent.

By not deciding to give full custody to the father, this family court judge produced a situation where she had given the child over to the father without actually giving a verdict to that effect.

We all know that in order to enroll a child into school parents must provide a birth certificate, and we can all assume if the said certificate notes that one of the parents has been stripped of parental rights that the school or kindergarten will request one parent provide them with a verdict stating they have full custody. Given those facts it’s no surprise the father in question had avoided all educational or other institutions where he may have been required to provide said verdict.

On the other hand, the City Center for Social Welfare failed in their duties (maybe through lack of knowledge) by stating in their announcement that the court had reached a verdict giving the father full custody, even though this is not true. This was a failure on their part to understand the consequences of such a judicial decision for the life of a child. There is no data to show that the father was instructed to start new judicial proceedings in order to be given an official verdict granting him full custody.

The whole state system bears responsibility for what this girl lived through, starting with the police, centers for social welfare, courts, prosecutors, medical and educational institutions, as well as local administrations, but also all institutions that are responsible for educating professionals who work on such cases.

The Autonomous Women’s Center no longer expects the High Court Council and the Supreme Court in Serbia to take measures which they’ve been empowered to take so as to investigate not just family court judges involved in this case but also all judges who work on family law cases and who have for years been mocking provisions of the Family Law.

We also no longer expect future family court judges to complete the 5 day training at the Judicial Academy in the manner that said training was organized when the Family Act came into force, instead of the current nonexistent training and pro forma exam.

We no longer expect that all relevant ministries will review conduct in this and other similar cases, and improve record keeping so as to establish an early warning system for possible child abuse and neglect cases.

As long as all relevant actors in the system of protection of children and victims of violence are only concerned with how fast they can issue statements denouncing any responsibility, and take no responsibility for their lack of action or wrong course of action, we will only see repetition of cases where women and children are abused and murdered in Serbia.

For the Autonomous Women’s Center
Vanja Macanovic

[1] AWC Press Release: React Before the Crime, Not After It!