Thursday, August 22, 2019

Advocacy

Initial premise of the Autonomous Women's Center is that policies, in order to fight against violence against women, at the local and national level should be consistent with international standards and good practices in this field. In accordance with the strategic goals, that the Convention of the United Nations and the Council of Europe should be implemented well by the state and that in the process of joining the European Union we must respect the human rights of women, Autonomous Women's Center consistently monitors the implementation of and advocates for a comprehensive, coherent, relevant, specific, efficient and effective national policies against violence against women.

pravda justiciaBased on international documents and twenty-five years of experience of working with women and children victims of domestic, intimate partner and sexual violence, the Autonomous Women’s Center submitted to the Ministry of Justice its comments on the working text of the National Strategy on the Rights of Victims and Witnesses of Crime for the period from 2019 to 2025.

AWC believes that the working text is a proper basis for further work on the promotion of victim’s rights, but that the lack of data on the number of victims, whose situation and rights this document seeks to improve, resulted in the fact that some of the envisaged principles and postulates have not have been appropriately developed or not adjusted to the current state of the justice system of the Republic of Serbia.

AWC would like to remind that the criminal justice system in Serbia does not recognize the term “victim”, but only the term “injured party”, and these two terms are not synonymous. This terminological inconsistency is present throughout the working text of the Strategy, and none of the strategic goals envisages the introduction of the term of “victim” into the criminal justice system of the Republic of Serbia.

Even if we were to accept the Working Group’s Standpoint that the notions of “victim” and “injured party” are synonyms, when it comes to the rights of injured parties and what is envisaged in Art. 50 of Criminal Proceedings Code, the Autonomous Women’s Center would like to remind that injured parties in Serbia lack a whole set of rights, including the following:

  1. the right to be accompanied by a Person of trust,
  2. the right to have a copy of an indictment, submissions by defendant and other participants in the proceedings without prosecutor/judge’s permission and court tax for copying
  3. the right to appeal on the acquittal
  4. the right to receive original judgment of the second instance court
  5. the right to be summoned to a hearing before the second instance court if held
  6. the right to be summoned to a hearing for the acceptance of a plea agreement
  7. the right to request victim’s opinion on a proposal plea agreement or deferred prosecution
  8. the right to receive decision of the court / prosecutor's office on a plea agreement or deferred prosecution

It is our opinion that if the Republic of Serbia wishes to fully achieve this activity from the Action Plan for Chapter 23, as it is described, all issues of concern should be addressed in the very Strategy, which would later serve as a basis for legislative and policy amendments.

Besides general comments, the Autonomous Women’s Center also submitted comments concerning sections on victim and witness support services, establishment and strengthening of the national network of victim and witness support services, support and assistance measures and services provided to victims and witnesses of crime, as well as on monitoring and evaluation.

All comments of the Autonomous Women’s Center are available in PDF format at this link.