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    • Why Trials Last Long: A Local Perspective from Knjazevac

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    • Date: 07 October 2019

      The answers to the citizens' questions about the duration and course of trials, as well as the work of the court in Knjazevac were the focus of the thematic open door held on 7 October 2019 in the Basic Court in Knjazevac.

      BCSP Researcher and moderator of the event Sasa Djordjevic  shared with the participants the results of a 2014 survey in which judges, prosecutors and attorneys answered the question of why trials lasted long.

      "Nearly 90% of prosecutors say this is due to obstruction by the parties in the proceeding, which is what 79% of the judges surveyed also think. Lawyers have a different picture - 74% of lawyers think this is due to a mistake by the court or court staff,” Djordjevic highlighted.

      Slobodan Stamenkovic, a judge at the Basic Court in Knjazevac, stated that the length of the proceedings is influenced by many factors, such as the type of dispute, the complexity of the proceedings, the number of parties involved in the dispute, the claim, the presentation of evidence, as well as cooperation with other relevant state bodies such as the police and the Post Office. Stamenkovic noted that new judges often receive hundreds of cases in the first days since they start working.

      The insufficient number of judges the state always justifies by the lack of funds for judges' salaries, but often pays high fees when it loses disputes over the violation of the right to a trial within a reasonable time, Stamenkovic pointed out. He concluded that the money could be used to employ new judges who would systematically deal with the reduction of old cases.

      Goran Sandicfrom the Belgrade Center for Human Rights talked about the role of civil society organizations in protecting citizens' rights. He identified two forms of support that civil society organizations provide: free legal aid and research. Free legal aid is of great importance for citizens who do not know or have insufficient knowledge of their rights and need professional help. Through research, civil society organizations analyse the work of the judiciary and make recommendations for more effective protection of citizens' rights, Sandic said.

      Mirjana Pavlovic, Acting President of the Basic Court in Knjazevac, referred to the long tradition of the Court in Knjazevac, which dates back to 1808. Pavlovic emphasized that during the existence of the municipal court, it had 9 judges and over 50 court staff, but the number of judges and court staff in the previous years has decreased dramatically. At the same time, the number of cases remained the same, or even increased.

      Despite the insufficient number of judges and court staff, the court in Knjazevac is achieving excellent results, which is why in October 2018 it was recognized by the Supreme Court of Cassation for its contribution to improving the efficiency and quality of the judicial system of the Republic of Serbia. Pavlovic noted that she receives parties every Thursday, and in addition there are bulletin boards and a court website. Finally, Judge Pavlovic urged citizens and other judges to use mediation more often to resolve disputes.

      The project „Constituencies for Judicial Reform in Serbia“ aims to strengthen citizens' trust in the work of judicial institutions by improving communication between citizens and the judiciary. The project is being implemented by a coalition of 12 human rights and democracy development organizations, as well as professional judicial associations.

       

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