European Policy Centre Presents First Report to Begin Tracking Progress in Judicial Reforms

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European Policy Centre  Presents First Report to Begin Tracking Progress in Judicial Reforms
USAID's Acting Mission Director speaks at the event
USAIS Serbia

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Belgrade – On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, the European Policy Centre – CEP, with the support of the USAID, organized a conference "Presentation of the Baseline Monitoring Report on Judicial Reform in Serbia for 2020".

The report presented  is the work of 12 civil society organizations and professional associations in Serbia, and examines the key issues and problems faced by citizens in access to justice during the last year. The report is the first of its kind and covered seven key areas: legal aid, access to data and transparency of courts and prosecution offices, access to courts, judicial efficiency, ethics in the judiciary, access to criminal justice and access to judiciary services.

"We wanted to understand and analyze the reasons for citizens’ low trust in the judicial system, through research of their individual experiences. Citizens are generally of the opinion that they will not be able to defend their rights before the court, that the courts are subject to the influence of individuals and that they apply the rights selectively. "Citizens feel that the doors of the courts are mostly "closed" for them - that's why we called this project the Open Doors of Justice" said Srdjan Majstorovic, President of the Governing Board at CEP.

The survey showed that the notary public offices are doing especially well in diligent provision of their service. It was determined that the request for action by the notary public was submitted without any difficulty (84% of respondents agreed with such an assessment), that the requested action was scheduled within a reasonable time and that the notary public staff were fully professionally trained to perform the service (92% in agreement) as well as having kind and accommodating reception upon admission to the notary public office (100%). "The area of provision of ​​judicial services was evaluated the best, more precisely the work of notary public, where score 4 was given" said Majstorović.

Most of the findings in the analyzed areas were rated with an average grade, 3 out of 5. During the preparation of this report, the research team concluded that the lowest rated is penal policy in the area of ​​access to criminal justice. The very application of penal policy for individual crimes by the courts, uniformity towards all defendants, as well as other factors led to a score of 2 out of a maximum of 5 as methodologically envisaged.

The rule of law is the central topic of several cycles of judicial reform in Serbia, a process that has been running almost continuously over the past two decades, with several stages marked by significant legislative, personnel and institutional changes. The realization of this principle, among other things, implies an independent judiciary, non-selective application of law, exclusion of undue influence on the work of judicial bodies, as well as a number of elements that are constitutive and necessary for the functioning of an independent judiciary in practice.

Shanley Pinchotti, acting director of the USAID mission in Serbia, said that the great contribution of this report is that the situation was for the first time analyzed from the perspective of citizens, and not from a bird's eye view - what are the individual problems that citizens face. "In order to build a relationship of trust between citizens and the judiciary as a whole, it is necessary to remove the feeling of legal uncertainty and strengthen the belief that the court enforces the protection of citizens' rights and freedoms, stops and arbitrariness, and cements the rule of law."We believe that such approach and this report will give visible and tangible results" said Pinchotti. "We hope that the competent institutions will study the report and be guided by it in the further phases of the reform of judiciary in Serbia," she added.

The Baseline Monitoring Report is available here

Last updated: September 30, 2021

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