This article is an integral part of the Coalition prEUgovor report on progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 for the period from May 2015 to October 2015.
Numerous issues remain to be tackled in order to harmonize Serbian legislation, anti-trafficking mechanism and victims’ protection practice with standards and values of European Union. This section of the report addresses the three above mentioned areas and assesses progress made by the Republic of Serbia in implementing anti-trafficking and human rights policies relevant for Chapters 23 and 24.
Even though human trafficking is penalized in national Criminal Code, Serbian legislation and its implementation remain flawed when it comes to protection of victims of THB and their rights. Serbian judiciary has not improved with regard to its efficiency in prosecuting trafficking cases. Court proceedings are still very long, victims' testimonies remain the main piece of evidence, and little is done to prevent secondary victimization and protect victims’ safety during and after trials. Non detention, non-prosecution and non-punishment clauses protected by the international and European law were not fully implemented in practice. A certain number of trafficking cases are still prosecuted as facilitation of prostitution, even when alleged prostitutes are minors; also, there are cases of victims being convicted of crimes which are direct consequence of their being trafficked. Case study presented bellow illustrates grave consequences and further suffering such a system inflicts on trafficking survivors.
Insufficient efforts were put in meeting the EU standards in relation to protection of rights of victims of human trafficking. Major issues remain the lack of specific indicators for identification of victims and the lack of minimum standards for assistance provision, which makes monitoring and quality control of these processes impossible. Although international legislation guarantees rights of crime victims, including those of THB (the new Directive 2012/29/EU guaranteeing the right to timely information, translation and understanding; the rights related to participation in court proceedings which include the right to a hearing, compensation, protection, etc.), the national legislation only recognizes the right of victims to compensation that is not being exercised in practice. Although Serbia signed the European Convention on the Compensation of Victims of Violent Crimes CETS No. 116 in 2010, it is still not ratified. Compensation Fund does not exist and eleven years after trafficking in human beings was criminalized in national legislation only one victim was compensated for the damages suffered after a lengthily and costly litigation. For this reason, Serbian anti-trafficking NGO ASTRA initiated a policy changing initiative aimed at introducing changes to the Criminal Code that would oblige criminal courts to decide on victim’s compensation claim within criminal proceedings and thus prevent secondary victimization, waiting and unnecessary costs of civil proceedings (for gaps in current procedures please see the case study below). This initiative was supported by over 100 CSOs, justice sector professionals, relevant state institutions representatives and other stakeholders, as well as by the head of EU Delegation in Serbia. It was followed by drafting of Criminal Code amendments that are going to presented to the Ministry of Justice this autumn. State’s response to this initiative remains to be seen.
State’s readiness to cooperate and use capacities of CSOs in order to secure better functioning of national anti-trafficking mechanism has not improved. Serbian authorities did not ensure civil society involvement in the implementation of national policy for victim assistance, and victims were seldom referred to NGO assistance providers. As the State provides limited resources for assistance (only 8.42% of funds available to Center in 2013 were allocated for victims’ assistance, and the rest was used to pay state officials employed in the Center and cover operational costs of this body), this raises the question of whether and how were other victims supported after identification.
More than a year after the beginning of public hearing, the Anti-Trafficking Strategy and the National Action Plan have not yet come on the agenda for adoption, although these two documents were initially drafted to cover the period starting from 2013 (the last NAP expired in 2011).
- Adopt Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking and National Action Plan
- Accept the initiative to change Criminal Code by which criminal courts would be bound to make decisions on indemnification claims for compensation of damages in criminal proceedings.
 United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, (Palermo, 2000); Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, CETS No. 197 (Warsaw, 2005); EU Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (Directive 2011/36/EU).