Victimology Society of Serbia- Conference report

On 27-28 November 2014 the EFRJ participated in the fifth Annual Conference of the Victimology Society of Serbia in Belgrade entitled “Victims’ protection: International law, national legislation and practice”.

The special focus  of this year’s conference on European legislation is linked to the accession negotiations of Serbia to the European Union. Serbia is in the process of looking into the harmonization of its national legislation and policies with the EU acquis and specifically with the European standards that contribute to better protection of victims.

Prof. Marc Groenhuijsen (INTERVICT, Tilburg) addressed the evolutions in international and European policies concerning the protection of crime victims. He pointed out how the 2012 Victims Directive is a strong and ambitious legal instrument, which was adopted despite a lack of compliance with the former and less ambitious European legal instruments, such as the 2001 Framework Decision on  the standing of victims in criminal proceedings. He warned for the risk of ‘victim fatigue’ on the part of officials responsible for the operation of the criminal justice system. Prof. Momčilo Grubač (emeritus from the Law Faculty of Union University, Belgrade) reflected on the state of affairs for the crime victim in the legislation and practice of the Republic of Serbia. He pointed to the lack of restitution awarded through criminal proceedings and the non-existence in Serbia of a compensation fund for victims of violent crimes.

Two plenary presentations were dedicated to restorative justice. EFRJ research coordinator Katrien Lauwaert spoke  about EU policies on victims of crime in restorative justice. Building on the work done by the Council of Europe, the EU has introduced provision about RJ in its legislation on victims of crime, first in the 2001 Framework Decision and more recently in the 2012 EU Directive on establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (Victims Directive). The Directive focuses strongly on safeguards for victims participating in restorative justice processes in order to protect them from secondary victimization. Other equally important elements for victims, such as the possibility of self-referral and the availability of RJ for all types of crime and at any stage of the criminal proceedings are not addressed. Probably we need more development and awareness at the national level before there is sufficient political support  for a more elaborate EU instrument on restorative justice processes. Sunčana Roksandić Vidlička (Faculty of Law, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg) presented  the experience of Croatia with victims of sexual violence in war time and restorative justice. She paid special attention to a Draft law which is currently discussed in Croatia and which addresses victims of wartime sexual violence.

Sanja Ćopić (Victimology Society of Serbia) presented her team’s work in the European ALTERNATIVE project, in which the EFRJ is also a partner. Her paper was entitled “Conflicts, victimization and justice in the intercultural context of Serbia”.

Besides the major topic of European Victim legislation, many other themes were discussed in about 50 presentations. The conference was attended by around 100 participants from Serbia, neighboring countries and other parts of the world, who engaged in intensive and inspiring discussions.

Below, two pictures, one of the conference team and one of the session in which Dr. Katrien Lauwaert presented.