Conference “Right to a Fair Trial within Reasonable Time and the Compensation for the Violation of the Right: Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and National Courts”

Belgrade, 18 April 2018

 

Dear President of the Supreme Court,

Distinguished Judges and,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues

I have great pleasure in welcoming you all on behalf of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe has a long standing co-operation with Serbian judiciary, since its accession to the Organisation, which, by the way, happened today, 15 years ago, on 3 April 2003.

In all these years, the Council of Europe has been supporting reforms in the area of the judiciary in Serbia, assisting the authorities in bringing the legislation and practice closer to the Council of Europe standards. Such compliance does not only stem from Serbia’s obligations under the CoE treaties, but is also one of the requirements for the eventual EU accession.

We can observe a significant progress in Serbia in addressing the issues highlighted in the judgments of the ECtHR. I would like to use this opportunity to Congratulate the Serbian authorities on their continuing efforts to execute the Court’s judgments.

The CM is currently supervision execution of 72 cases in respect of Serbia. The number of cases subject to supervision in respect of Serbia is steadily declining over the years (in 2015 there were nearly 250 execution cases pending in respect of Serbia).  This encouraging trend is a result of the authorities’ continuing efforts to comply with the Court’s judgments.

I would like to note, with particular satisfaction, the role played by national courts in this process. As an example I will mention the issue of inconsistency of judicial practice first highlighted in respect of Serbia in 2010 judgment  Vinčić. Since that time, a serious efforts have been made to find solution, which led to the creation of a new harmonisation mechanism, capable of overcoming the inconsistencies in the adjudication of civil claims brought by many persons. The 2016 Cupara judgment these efforts were subsequently assessed by the European Court which noted that Serbian legal system provides now for an effective mechanism. In the same vein, the CM decided to close the supervision of Vinčić group of cases in April 2017. It is particularly important for us that the Council of Europe was supporting the creation of the mentioned mechanism through one of its co-operation projects.

Coming to the topic of today’s Conference, I should mention that the key outstanding issue concerning the judiciary touches upon the ineffective remedy for excessive length of domestic proceedings (Jevremović group) in the CM’s focus since 2007.  Apart from the core question of excessive length of proceedings, it is now crucial to ensure the adequate level of compensation, in particular within the context of the Constitutional Court position. I am pleased to see in the agenda that today’s event provides for a platform for an exchange between the Constitutional Court and courts of general jurisdiction.

The Conference should also facilitate the understanding of the Court’s standards and the execution requirements in respect of effective remedies for excessive length of proceedings.  I believe that one of the outcomes will be the alignment of Serbian judicial practice on this point with the Court’s indications, which will pave the way for the bringing the supervision of Jevremović group by the Committee of Ministers to an end.

I believe that my colleague Katarina Nedeljkovic will get into more details on this matter.

I also see our Conference as an outstanding occasion to enhance the Council of Europe cooperation with the main actors of the legal and judicial system of Serbia, including the Supreme Court. I am grateful to President Milojevich for co-hosting our conference. I am also delighted to see other legal authorities represented today at a high level.

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The right to a fair trial within reasonable time is an essential part of the right to a fair trial under Article 6 par. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the ECHR). In 2015, the  Republic  of  Serbia  introduced  legislation  in  order  to  provide  for  an  effective  remedy as  determined  by  Article  13  of  the  ECHR concerning  the  right  to  a  fair  trial  within  a  reasonable  time. Back in the time, the Council of Europe worked closely with the authorities, in particular, with the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that the legislation is in line with the ECHR approach and best practices of our Member States. However, discussions  and  first  decisions  have  shown  that the  application  of  these  new  provisions  has  been  met  with  some  challenges. Those challenges are not unique, and other Member States have experienced them and some found appropriate solutions. We see our objective, including through this Conference, to facilitate the domestic dialogue on possible solutions for Serbia and, where necessary, to be part of it.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues

I would like to recall that this Conference is organized in the framework of the project “Support to Effective Remedies and Mutual Legal Assistance”, which is a part of the Council of Europe/European Union Joint Programme entitled “Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey”. I would like to thank the European Union for its support to the Council of Europe actions in Serbia and in the region in general.  

My Directorate General – the Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law – is implementing three full-scale projects in the legal and judicial areas besides a number of ad hoc events being organized on a regular basis for the benefit of all legal professionals, and I believe that our support in the future would be beneficial for Serbian authorities in the context of the ongoing constitutional reform, and in particular, the judicial reform. We have put a lot of efforts to strengthen the judicial system in Serbia, and believe that the path was chosen correctly. Today it is our common goal, together with national partners, to ensure that new reforms lead to a truly independent and effective judiciary and do not undermine what has been done so far. I confirm that we are ready to work closely with national partners, with our expertise at your disposal.

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Dear President of the Supreme Court,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The level and the intensity of cooperation we have achieved so far essentially translate our common commitment towards the same principles and values, which remain the same to all European States and should be the main basis of their inherent unity. The Council of Europe was created almost 70 years ago on the ashes of WWII with a primary aim to cherish and safeguard this unity. Achieving a common understanding of the fundamental rights and freedoms through legal means and cooperation is an important part of this collective exercise.

I see our current intensive cooperation with the Serbian legal community as an integral part of the pan-European cooperation within the Council of Europe. No doubt it will be beneficial for Serbia as it be for Europe as a whole.

I wish you all a successful Conference !