Marking the national Day of Remembrance for Women Victims of Violence, the Autonomous Women’s Center appeals to women and men members of parliament not to adopt the draft amendments of the Criminal Code envisaging the prison sentence of 30 to 40 years to be replaced with life in prison.

Members of parliament are currently considering draft amendments of the Criminal Code based on which the existing prison sentence from 30 to 40 years will be replaced with the sentence of life in prison.  If the draft amendments of the Criminal Code are adopted, perpetrators of the criminal act of aggravated murder could either face a prison sentence of up to 20 years or life in prison. This means that there would not be any sanction between the 20-year prison sentence and life in prison.

The Autonomous Women’s Center believes that such a legal solution will lead to a softer sanctioning of perpetrators of aggravated murder, and not to stronger penalizing. Bearing in mind the penal policy of courts in Serbia, as well as the fact that judges, in deciding on sanctions, mainly take into consideration alleviating, and only in a negligible number of cases aggravating circumstances, it can be anticipated that after the adoption of these amendments, judges will increasingly pronounce prison sentences up to 20 years.

Data of the Republic Statistical Office for 2017, show that of 51 valid sentences for the criminal act of aggravated murder, prison sentences between 30 and 40 years were pronounced in only third of the cases. Data of the Women against Violence Network also indicate that only three of eight cases of femicide tried before Serbian courts in the previous 2 years, ended with valid prison sentences of 30 to 40 years pronounced. Based on monitoring of the penal policy to date, we express concern that future cases will end in prison sentences of 20 years, rather than life sentences.

The Autonomous Women’s Center proposed to the Ministry of Justice to ensure the possibility of pronouncement of a prison sentence from 20 to 40 years, in order for judges to have the possibility of individualization of criminal sanctions for each concrete case of aggravated murder, however the proposal was not accepted.