First Judgment Awarding Compensation for Victim of Trafficking in Serbia Issued & Executed
February 2014 – The Court of Appeal in Novi Sad confirmed the judgment of the Novi Sad Basic Court in civil proceedings ordering four persons, previously sentenced for trafficking in human beings, to jointly compensate the plaintiff, who was victim of human trafficking, with an amount of RSD 1 million on account of non-material damages. The compensation in the amount of RSD 800,000 on account of mental anguish for offended honor, reputation, freedom, rights of personality and dignity shall be paid out in monthly installments, together with an amount of RSD 200,000 on account of fear suffered. The court also ordered the defendants to reimburse the litigation costs in the amount of RSD 327,375. Since litigation costs were covered from ASTRA’s budget for legal aid to trafficked persons, with plaintiff’s consent the reimbursed funds will be paid to a separate account and used for the provision of sustainable legal aid and access to compensation for other trafficking victims.
Although trafficking in human beings was criminalized in Serbia back in 2003 and right to compensation is guaranteed by both domestic legislation and international documents which Serbia signed, this is the first case in our country that the victim actually received compensation (in other two cases, the defendants were never paid the agreed amount). This is a clear indicator that Serbia does not have an efficient compensation system and that trafficked persons, having escaped from the exploitation chain, are faced with numerous violations of their rights by the system which is supposed to protect them. To change such a situation, it is necessary to set up an efficient and sustainable fund for the compensation to victims of violent crimes, as well as to fully use legal possibility of awarding compensation in criminal proceedings.
In this particular case the possibility of compensation in criminal proceedings was not used, but the victim was referred to litigation. In effect, the girl who was sexually exploited for years had to relive traumatic events by giving testimony and facing her traffickers in criminal trial which lasted for four years. Being referred to three-year long civil proceedings afterwards, in spite of neuropsychiatrist and psychologist’s examinations conducted during the criminal proceedings, which indicated to PTSD and other consequences of human trafficking, instead of avoiding secondary victimization, the victim was once again put in the situation that her trauma was questioned and she had to sit in the same room with the persons who trafficked her. The fact that she had to be waiting for more than seven years to access justice and enjoy her right to compensation and that she thus had no possibility to put an end to her traumatic experience significantly slowed down victim’s recovery.
In order to set up an efficient system of compensation of victims in Serbia, an initiative was made, within the Balkans ACT Now! Project which ASTRA has been implementing since 2012, to change legislation and set up the compensation fund aimed at adequate protection of rights guaranteed to the victims of this sort of crime. In the coming months, a group of experts will be working on the draft legislation. A media campaign will accompany this legislative action seeking to acquaint broader public with the rights of victims of human trafficking.