Press Release On the Proposal of the Law on Public Peace and Order
NGO ASTRA – Anti Trafficking Action is concerned regarding the Proposal of the Law on Public Peace and Order which is on the agenda of the First Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly of Serbia.
Namely, in Article 12, Paragraph 3 of the Proposal of the Law on Public Peace and Order (”Begging“), it is provided that whoever organizes begging or uses children or minors for begging shall be punished with a fine in the amount of RSD 50,000-100,000 and imprisonment of 30-60 days.
Such definition of begging includes the elements of crime of human trafficking as provided in Article 388 of the Criminal Code of Serbia, with the imprisonment of 3-12 years for perpetrators, while if the offence is committed against a minor the offender shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than five years.
The criminal offence of human trafficking as defined in the Criminal Code of Serbia, with begging explicitly stated as one form of exploitation (whereby if the offence has been committed against a child or a minor it should be treated as the graver form of the offence) is in accordance with the most important international instruments in this area which the Republic of Serbia has signed and ratified (specifically the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children accompanying the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime – Official Journal of FRY – International Treaties, no. 6/2001 and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human beings – Official Gazette of RS -International Treaties, no. 19/2009)).
We want to remind that the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia files a few criminal reports for human trafficking for the purpose of forced begging every year, where victims are almost exclusively children. Further, in the first nine months of 2015, the Center for the Protection of Trafficking Victims – a state authority in charge of identification – identified six children forced into begging, which accounts for 20% of all victims identified in this period.
In the Law on Public Peace and Order which is currently in force and which was adopted in 1994, forced and organized begging is prescribed as an administrative offence. Now, the legislator has missed another opportunity to revise this inconsistency.
In light of the above-said, we are calling on the Members of Parliament and relevant Parliamentary Committees not to adopt this article of the Proposal of the Law on Public Peace and Order. The adoption thereof would not only lead to the non-compliance with the international obligations of the Republic of Serbia, but the victims of this serious crime, especially children, would be reduced to persons injured by an administrative offence and consequently they would be denied necessary assistance. The adoption of this Article of the Proposal of the Public Peace and Order would also have an adverse effect on the process of EU integration of the Republic of Serbia (human trafficking is a subject of examination within the negotiating chapter 23), while the Republic of Serbia would be the only state in the world which gives a possibility for trafficking in human beings to be treated as an administrative offence.
 (1) Whoever by force or threat, deception or maintaining deception, abuse of authority, trust, dependency relationship, difficult circumstances of another, retaining identity papers or by giving or accepting money or other benefit, recruits, transports, transfers, sells, buys, acts as intermediary in sale, hides or holds another person aimed at exploiting such person’s labour, forced labour, commission of offenses, prostitution, other forms of sexual exploitation, begging, pornography, establishing slavery or slavery-like relation, the removal of organs or body parts or service in armed conflicts, shall be punished by imprisonment of three to twelve years.
(2) When the offense specified in Paragraph 1 of this Article is committed against a minor, the offender shall be punished by the penalty prescribed for that offense even if there was no use of force, threat or any of the other mentioned methods of perpetration.
(3) If the offense specified in Paragraph 1 of this Article is committed against a minor, the offender shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than five years.