– Analysis of judicial practice for 2015 –
Within its activities aimed at improving the status of the victims of human trafficking, ASTRA has been monitoring steadily the position of the human trafficking victims through annual analyses of the judicial practice in Serbia for five years. The continued monitoring and analysis of the judicial practice in 2015, through observing court proceedings and analysing court judgments, represents the continuation of efforts to improve the position of the human trafficking victims in court proceedings. The monitoring of the situation in practice, with a special focus on the position of victims in the court proceedings, leads not only to a better understanding of the problem, but also provides the basis for further activities so as to correct the existing inadequacies and detect key areas in the existing legislation in need of improving, or activities directed toward more consistent implementation of the present norms.
The analysis of judicial practice in 2015 shows inter alia the following:
- The average duration of the first-instance proceedings – analysed in relation to the time period from indictment to first instance judgment – is 2 years and 4 months (the maximum length of a court proceeding was five years and the shortest 2 months). It can be noticed that the average duration of a proceeding is almost six months longer than the previous year, and that the improvement in efficiency concerning the duration of the proceedings seen in 2014 was missing this time – during 2015, only 26% of the proceedings lasted up to a year, while the percentage for 2014 was 60%.
- High percentage of acquittals was observed in 2015 (52%). Namely, conviction was made for all crimes in 48% of the cases which is less than in the previous years’ data (during 2014, convicting judgment was pronounced in 59% of the cases, during 2013 in as much as 76% of the cases),
- As for the amount of punishment imposed for the crime of human trafficking, most of the defendants received a 3 to 5 years prison sentence (84%), one to three years sentence was given in 5% of the cases, while in 11% of the cases the sentence was more than five years of imprisonment. The average prison sentence for this crime is four years and six months, the highest concurrent prison sentence being eight years, and the lowest two years. When comparing the penal policy with the data analysis for the previous years, the conclusion is that, although the average sentence imposed for 2015 was somewhat higher than in 2014 (3.9 years), the percentage of prison sentences of over five years is in constant decline (27% for 2013, 14% for 2014, 11% for 2015), while the percentage for the three to five years sentences is on the increase.
- The majority of victims filed compensation claims (only 5 of them did not) in criminal proceedings, but in all the cases the court directed them to litigation, most often without any particular explanation or in certain cases with the explanation that the court did not have evidence to support solid basis even for a partial judgment in the criminal proceedings.
The results so far indicate that a comprehensive approach to the protection of the victims’ interests and rights is impossible to achieve without conforming to the international standards in this domain, consistent application of the present legislation, and the participation of all involved in the procedure. Despite the progress achieved at the legislation and institutional levels, the improvement of co-operation between the competent authorities and non-governmental organisations, as well as the relevant training provided, the case law still fails to fulfil the basic standards in the rights protection as guaranteed by the ratified international documents, especially concerning the field of victim’s privacy protection, the safety and protection of the victim, the hearing of the victim in the court proceeding, and the right to compensation. The insufficient implementation of the existing legislation which may improve the victims’ rights protection, as well as the shortcomings in the certain aspects of the present legal framework, still represent one of the basic problems in practice.
Even though providing an efficient system for the protection of the human trafficking victims as well as readily available mechanisms for them to exercise their rights have got to be among the priorities in the process, especially having in mind the gravity of the consequences suffered by the victims of human trafficking, the realisation of rights and protection of the human trafficking victims still fails to reach its full scale. Based on the presented results of the judicial practice analysis for 2015, it can be deduced that court proceedings still lack the victims oriented approach, due to which the victims in the position of injured parties are still treated exclusively as the ’sources’ of information, i.e. information about the crime. Such an approach indicates that, despite a certain progress and conducted trainings, there is still a level of misunderstanding of the vulnerable position of the human trafficking victims which, along with lenient penal policy and the inability of victims to obtain damages, calls into question the degree of the victims’ rights realisation.