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Ronaldo [1] was born in December 2020 in Belgrade, at the Clinical Centre of Serbia. Ronaldo’s mother Bukurije Osmani [1] is not registered into birth registry books. She was born in Podujevo and moved to Belgrade where she entered cohabitation. The Free Legal Aid Service of Zemun Municipality in April 2021 initiated, on behalf of Bukurije, a procedure before the Third Basic Court in Belgrade for determining the date and place of her birth. This procedure is still ongoing.

Since Bukurije is undocumented, Ronaldo’s personal name could not be determined by his parents before the registrar. A procedure for determining the child's personal name was initiated before the Social Welfare Centre (SWC) Zemun in late January 2021.

Since a decision was not issued within the legal deadline, an urgency letter was sent to the competent authority in late April. However, the Social Welfare Centre Zemun continued not taking any action in this procedure, and the Ronaldo’s father went to the SWC towards the end of May to get the information about the status of the case. On that occasion, he was told that they had been waiting for the lawyer’s opinion, but that most likely it would not be possible to conduct the procedure until the mother obtained an ID card. In mid-July, the father went to the SWC again, where it was confirmed to him that the procedure would not be conducted until the mother received her ID card.

The instruction of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, sent to the social welfare centres in 2014, stressed that the right to personal name was guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Constitution and the Law on Family, and that personal name must be determined also to children of undocumented parents. The instruction specifies that even in such situations, parents must be allowed to participate in the procedure if their identity can be guaranteed by a third party with a personal document or if they are personally known to an official.

In July 2021, an appeal was filed for failing to issue a decision within the legal deadline. However, the second instance body - the Ministry of Family Welfare and Demography also significantly exceeded the prescribed deadline and a decision on the appeal is still pending, although it had to decide within two months of receiving the appeal.

Such actions of the Social Welfare Centre violate the right to registration in birth registry books and the right to personal name of the children of undocumented parents, also depriving them of many other rights that cannot be exercised without birth certificates, including the right to health care and social protection.

 

[1] These are not their real names

The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has expressed deep concern over the large number of children that cannot be registered in birth registry books and persons that are unable to register permanent residence at the addresses of social welfare centres, due to which their access to social services is limited.

The Committee therefore called on Serbia to take urgent measures to remedy this situation and to provide undocumented persons with access to social protection and health care, education and other social services. 

In this regard, the Committee called on Serbia to urgently review the regulations governing registration in birth registry books in order to enable all children born in Serbia to be registered in birth registry books, as well as to allow internally displaced persons from Kosovo living in informal settlements to register permanent residence at the addresses of social welfare centres. The Committee attached special importance to these recommendations, requesting Serbia to report on its compliance with them in a much shorter period compared to the majority of other recommendations.

This is, among other things, emphasized in the Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the Third Periodic Report of Serbia on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee issued almost identical recommendations to Serbia in 2014 as part of the Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of Serbia, but the state did not comply with these recommendations even eight years later. This year's Concluding Observations recommend that Serbia should take measures to address also other issues related to access to socio-economic rights that Praxis has pointed out to the Committee in its report.

As regards access to free legal aid, the Committee expressed concern about the inadequate provision of free legal aid by local self-governments and the unclear legal procedure for providing free legal aid by civil society organisations, which makes it very difficult to provide assistance to those most in need, and issued recommendations to eliminate these shortcomings. The Committee also stressed that it was necessary to raise awareness of the public, especially marginalised groups, about the availability of free legal aid and the procedure for exercising rights.

As regards social protection, the Committee called on Serbia to remove discriminatory requirements, i.e. the requirements that may have a discriminatory effect on the exercise of the right to social assistance and parental allowance (such as mandatory vaccination and school attendance), while pointing out to the necessity of simplifying the procedures for exercising rights.

The Committee also expressed concern over the fact that persons without registered permanent residence were denied access to health care, although this was contrary to the law, and recommended that the state should provide all citizens with access to primary health care.

The Committee also stressed that the state should take all measures to eliminate child marriages and sensitise the public to the harmful consequences of this practice, as well as to ensure that the legal provision stipulating 18 years as the minimum age for marriage was applied without exception. 

Praxis reiterates that undocumented persons and members of the Roma national minority in Serbia face many obstacles that hinder or prevent their access to socio-economic rights, but also expresses its satisfaction for the fact that almost all of its recommendations for resolving these problems were included in the Committee’s Concluding Observations. Praxis also calls on the competent authorities to implement the recommended measures without delay, thus improving the situation of these people, who are among the poorest and most disadvantaged citizens of Serbia.

Medina [1] was born in Pristina in 2003. Under the Republic of Serbia’s Constitution and laws, Pristina is in Serbia. However, the institutions of the Republic of Serbia do not function in Pristina. This means that Medina was born in a hospital outside of the Serbia’s health care system and is not registered in the birth registry books of the Republic of Serbia, but in the civil registry books in Kosovo. Serbia has not recognised Kosovo, and consequently the entries in the civil registry books in Kosovo, just like the documents issued by the Kosovo authorities, cannot produce legal effect in Serbia and cannot be used in legal transactions. These documents cannot be used for exercising any rights before the authorities in Serbia: they cannot be used for identification, to get a job, to obtain a health card, to open a bank account, to get married or to register a child in birth registry books. In a nutshell, these documents seem to be inexistent. 

However, this is not necessarily the case in court procedures in Serbia. The Basic Court in Bujanovac rejected Medina's request for issuing a decision on determining the date and place of her birth, based on which she could be registered in the birth registry books in Serbia. Then, the Higher Court in Vranje upheld the decision of the first instance court. Such decisions of both courts were guided by the Conclusion of the Supreme Court of Cassation, which took the position that “persons who are registered in the civil registry books of the so-called Republic of Kosovo cannot ask the non-contentious court to determine the fact of their date and place of birth” and that the court “cannot determine a known fact”.

Therefore, the highest court in the country, whose views are followed by lower courts, considers that registration in the civil registry books in Kosovo is a legally relevant fact, despite the fact that the Republic of Serbia has not recognised Kosovo, and consequently the civil records and the documents issued on the basis of such records are not valid in Serbia. From the perspective of the legal system of Serbia, these documents and registry books do not exist. Even more absurd is the fact that in one and the same sentence the Supreme Court of Cassation refers to Kosovo as the “so-called republic”, and also considers that the facts recorded in the civil registry books of that “so-called republic” are “indisputable” and “known”.

This certainly is not just a legal or political problem, i.e. the issue of whether the courts treat legally the status of Kosovo and the validity of documents issued by the institutions of Kosovo. On the contrary, the consequences of this judicial practice for the lives of many families in Serbia are even more significant. Such attitudes of the courts will create situations where persons born in Kosovo and registered in the civil registry books in Kosovo, but living in Serbia (outside Kosovo), often for years, will be left without the opportunity to register in the civil registry books of Serbia and exercise any rights, despite the fact that they were born in the territory of the Republic of Serbia and that they meet the conditions for Serbian citizenship. 

Medina also found herself in that situation. In 2020, she entered cohabitation and moved from Pristina to Bujanovac. Since then, she has unsuccessfully attempted to regulate her status and has lived deprived of any rights; she does not have a health card, cannot get a job, cannot move freely or exercise social security rights. She does not have access to any of these rights, because the authorities of the Republic of Serbia do not recognise the documents issued in Kosovo, and she has not managed to register in the civil registry books of Serbia. In fact, the documents issued in Kosovo are valid only in the situation where registration in the birth registry books in Kosovo appears as a reason for refusing registration in the birth registry books of the Republic of Serbia, but when it is necessary to exercise some rights based on these documents - they are inexistent. 

It may not be very important for the unacceptable situation in which Medina found herself, but it should be mentioned that her parents did not choose where Medina would be born bearing in mind any political context or awareness of the territory in which some documents were recognised. Medina and her family are members of the Roma national minority, whose position is equally difficult both in Kosovo and in Serbia. Simply, Medina's mother gave birth in the place where she lives and in the maternity hospital that was only available to her. When she initiated a procedure for registration in the civil registry books in Serbia, Medina even submitted her documents from Kosovo as evidence, thinking that it could help in that procedure, and not suspecting that the exact opposite would happen and that because of those documents she would actually remain without registration in the birth registry books in Serbia.

Recently, Medina also had a child that she could not register at birth because she did not have an ID card, which means that this family now has two undocumented members.

Before initiating the procedure before the court, Medina tried to register in civil registry books in the administrative procedure, before the registry office. However, that request was also rejected, with the explanation that she did not have a proof of the fact of her birth and that the hospital where he was born was not in the network of health care institutions in Serbia. 

Non-contentious court procedure for determining the date and place of birth was introduced in the legal system in 2012 as a solution for many persons who could not be registered in birth registry books in administrative procedure. However, the positions taken by the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to which persons registered in the birth registry books in Kosovo should solve the issue of registration in the birth registry books of Serbia in administrative procedures, make the procedure for determining the date and place of birth completely meaningless and actually prevent reaching its intended goal - to reduce the number of undocumented persons and enable everyone to register in birth registry books.

The only option Medina now has is to address the Constitutional Court of Serbia. However, having in mind the length of procedures conducted before that court, it is certain that Medina will wait for several years for a decision and live for a long time without any rights.

 

[1] Her real name has been changed to protect her privacy

četvrtak, 21 april 2022 00:00

Problems Related to Acquiring Citizenship

Providing free legal aid to persons at risk of statelessness, we have encountered the practice of competent authorities, which we believe is not in accordance with the law and ratified international conventions. We would like to point out the irregularities we have noticed in the procedures related to the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia acquired by birth in its territory.

Having in mind the importance of Article 13 of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, which regulates the acquisition of citizenship by birth and whose goal is to prevent statelessness, we wanted to point out to irregularities in the application of this provision in practice. It stipulates that citizenship can also be acquired by birth in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, if both parents are unknown or have unknown citizenship or if the child would otherwise be stateless. However, acquiring citizenship by birth in Serbia is significantly hampered by the improper practice of competent authorities. In situations where the conditions for acquiring citizenship by birth are not met, registrars do not enter the fact of citizenship in birth registry books, and due to the registrars’ omission, children must conduct lengthy procedures for acquiring citizenship.

The risk of these persons becoming stateless is further exacerbated by another problem related to the application of Article 13 of the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, which relates to the action of the Ministry of Interior in citizenship acquiring procedures. In fact, determining citizenship by birth in Serbia is not possible for citizens older than 18. 

Such practice of registrars and the Ministry of Interior is not in accordance with the Law on Citizenship and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. Therefore, we sent an appeal to the Ministry of Interior to take measures for eliminating the observed irregularities.

Since the individuals affected by these problems are almost exclusively members of the Roma national minority, who are among those most exposed to discrimination and social exclusion, and belong to the poorest and most vulnerable layers of society, and since their problems with access to birth registration and citizenship rights significantly worsen the already difficult situation, we believe that these problems should be addressed without any delay. 

Download the document HERE.

This activity has been implemented as part of the project “Ending Roma Statelessness in the Western Balkans”, financed by the Open Society Foundation through the European Network on Statelessness. The views expressed in this document are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the donor.  

 

“Why did you procreate, why didn't you obtain documents first? We can't do anything until the mother obtains an identity card”, Besim [1] was told when he inquired in the social welfare centre about how to register his newborn son Senad in birth registry books.

Before that, he addressed the registrar's office where they also told him that the child could not be registered, because the mother did not have documents. With the help of Praxis, the parents then submitted a written request to the registry office explaining that it was uncertain when the mother would be able to obtain an identity card, as she was unable to register her permanent residence, but that the regulations guaranteed immediate birth registration to every child, regardless of whether the parents had documents or not. It was requested to allow the parents to determine the child’s personal name.

However, the registry office not only did not do what it was obliged to do, but did not respond to the request at all. More than four months have passed since Senad was born, but he is still not registered in birth registry books. He does not even have a health card, so his parents, the poverty-stricken residents of a Roma settlement in Belgrade, have to pay for medical examinations from the modest income that his father manages to earn with great difficulty.

Senad's mother Suzana has never had an identity card. She was born in Đakovica, but the registry books in which she was registered remained inaccessible to the Serbian authorities after the 1999 war in Kosovo. Suzana was re-registered in registry books as late as in early 2021 when she was again able to obtain a birth certificate and a citizenship certificate. Since then, she has been unsuccessfully trying to register her permanent residence and obtain an identity card.

In 2020, Suzana began to live in cohabitation with Besim and moved into a house owned by Besim's father. There, Suzana and Besim created a joint family household and later had a child. For more than two years, this address has been for Susana what the law defines as a place of permanent residence: a place where someone has settled with the intention of living there permanently and where the centre of his or her life activities is located.

However, when she tried to register her permanent residence at that address in the police station, she was told that she must register her permanent residence in the Police Administration for Đakovica, according to her place of birth, and that only after obtaining her identity card there could she come again and apply for registration in the place where she actually lived. Not knowing that this conduct of police officers was not only unjustified, but also against the law - because no one should register their permanent residence in a place where they do not live - Suzana and Besim travelled to Jagodina, where the Police Administration for Đakovica was located, and tried to register Suzana's permanent residence. But they did not succeed to register there either, because Suzana was asked to provide the property ownership certificate or other document for the house in Đakovica where she would register her permanent residence. Suzana neither had nor could obtain such documents, so she returned to Belgrade without registering permanent residence. 

Then she tried again to register her place of permanent residence in the police station in the municipality where she lived, but she was again told that she must first obtain an ID card in Jagodina.

In March of this year, Praxis drafted a written request for permanent residence registration and instructed Besim and Suzana to go to the police again and submit it. However, they did not succeed again. Although the officers were obliged to receive the request, they refused to do so, telling Besim that he was “coming for nothing” and that “there is nothing they can do”. Addressing the supervisor did not help either.

However, Besim did not give up. As he says, he slightly modified and adapted the request for permanent residence registration, took it to the office of the President of the Republic and submitted it there as a complaint against the work of the police.

About a month later, Besim and Suzana were called from the police station. Suddenly, the officers no longer treated them with the attitude of rejection and started to do without any problems what they had previously claimed to be impossible: they took statements from Suzana, Besim and his father, obtained a new citizenship certificate and the police patrol conducted a site visit. It turned out that Suzana’s personal identification number (JMBG) was wrongly entered, but the correction procedure was initiated ex officio and will probably be completed soon.

In a nutshell, the police began to act as they were supposed to from the beginning and as prescribed. However, the question arises as to why it was not done immediately, but instead, Suzana lost a year and a half in futile attempts to register her permanent residence.

Every citizen has the right and duty to register their place of permanent residence and obtain an identity card. Every child must be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth. It is prescribed by laws, but it proved to be insignificant in the case of Senad and Susana. Senad should have been registered a long time ago, and Susana did not achieve anything by invoking the laws until she addressed the office of the President. It seems that Suzana is now close to a solution to her problem, but the question is what will happen tomorrow when someone else in Suzana's situation comes to the police station. And they will certainly come, because a large number of Roma in Serbia still live without personal documents and without registered permanent residence. Will they also have to wander from one counter to another and address the authorities that are not responsible for solving this kind of issues, or will the competent authorities simply do what they are obliged to do? We will let you know.

 

 

 [1] The names have been changed to protect privacy.

petak, 17 jun 2022 00:00

When Laws Are Worth Little

Edita [1] does not have a health card or an ID card. She was born 30 years ago in Germany, where her parents moved from Đakovica in the early 1990s. Due to the unregulated status in Germany, she had to return to Serbia three years ago. Edita has not been able to obtain personal documents since then.

Three months ago, Edita gave birth to her son. Although the law stipulates that in cases where mothers do not have health insurance, the funds for expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth are provided from the state budget, the maternity hospital where Edita gave birth did not take this into account. From the moment of Edita’s admittance to the maternity hospital, the employees were telling her that she would have to pay hospital expenses and threatened her that she would not be allowed to leave the hospital until she paid the expenses.

As Edita did not have personal documents, the maternity hospital - applying the instructions of the competent ministries for handling cases of undocumented women giving birth - called the police that were supposed to establish the mother’s identity. However, the maternity hospital misused the arrival of the police to further intimidate Edita by threatening her that the police allegedly came to arrest her, because she did not have money to pay for medical expenses.

Edita's family has 12 members and only one of them is employed. They live as tenants and barely make ends meet. They borrowed 500 euros to pay the expenses, because the hospital staff initially told them that it would be the total amount. However, when they wanted to pay, it turned out that the expenses were around 900 euros, and the family members were told not to show up until they brought the full amount, and that the costs would increase with each additional day of hospital stay. Finally, the family had to borrow more money and pay everything that was requested.

New problems arose when Edita tried to register her son in birth registry books. Edita was told in the registry office that the child could not be registered until she obtained an ID card. Consequently, Edita's son remains unregistered, and therefore does not have a health card, and the family cannot receive parental and child allowance. Although both the Constitution and the Law on Family, as well as international conventions, stipulate that every child must be registered immediately after birth, in practice this rule does not apply to children whose mothers do not have personal documents - these children remain unregistered until their mothers obtain documents or until special procedures are conducted before social welfare centres or registry offices. It delays the registration of the child for a few months at best, and often for several years. For example, Edita's older daughter, who is 3 years old, is still not registered in registry books.

Despite the fact that many international bodies have for years been pointing out that this situation is inadmissible and that it violates the rights of the child, the competent authorities in Serbia do not show readiness to remedy this situation and amend the by-laws regulating birth notification and registration in registry books, including certain provisions that prevent the timely registration of children whose mothers do not have documents.

Unfortunately, Edita cannot hope that she will soon be able to obtain her documents. In 2020, she initiated the procedure for determining the citizenship of Serbia, but that procedure seems to be still at the very beginning. Although the law is on Edita's side also in this case, it is not consistently applied in practice. In fact, the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia stipulates that citizenship shall be acquired by a person whose both parents were citizens of Serbia at the time of his or her birth, or if one parent was a citizen of Serbia and the other is unknown or of unknown citizenship or stateless. Edita has a proof that her father is a citizen of Serbia, but she lacks such a proof for her mother, because the registry books in which her mother was registered after the 1999 war in Kosovo remained inaccessible to the authorities of the Republic of Serbia. Although more than 20 years have passed since then, the authorities have still not fulfilled their obligation and have not reconstructed all unavailable registry books. It is unnecessary to stress that citizens should not bear the consequences of the fact that the registry books have not been preserved or reconstructed. On top of all that, a large number of registry offices have recently stopped conducting procedures for re-registration of citizenship data, which were conducted at the request of citizens, and now it is only possible to conduct much more complicated, uncertain, lengthy and expensive procedures for determining citizenship before the Ministry of Interior.

However, even if we disregard this inadmissible situation due to which Edita cannot prove that her mother was a citizen of Serbia, the fact is that, based on her father's citizenship, Edita fulfils the condition for acquiring Serbian citizenship as a person whose one parent was a Serbian citizen and the other parent is stateless or of unknown citizenship. Nevertheless, the authority before which the procedure is being conducted informed Edita that her request for determining citizenship would not be accepted until the mother's citizenship was determined. And it seems very unlikely because Edita's mother is old and sick, lives abroad and most probably does not have the evidence that would be required in the procedure of determining citizenship.

Although laws should be instruments that guarantee citizens the exercise of their rights and that prevent arbitrary actions of state bodies and services, Edita did not have the opportunity to witness their effectiveness. On the contrary, although the law prescribes that she does not have to pay the costs of childbirth, she paid 900 euros; although the regulations require that every child must be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth, her two children are still unable to obtain a birth certificate; although she meets the legal requirements for Serbian citizenship, the question is whether she will ever be able to obtain it. Laws should also protect the most vulnerable and ensure the equality of citizens, but for Edita and her family, poverty-stricken members of the Roma national minority, not only has this purpose not been achieved, but the unlawful action has led to even greater marginalisation and deeper poverty, leaving her and her children without personal documents and without the opportunity to access most rights.

 

 [1] Her real name has been changed to protect her privacy.

When in 2020 the Supreme Court of Cassation adopted the Conclusion on the jurisdiction of the non-contentious court in the procedure of registration in birth registry books, it was clear that registration to birth registry books would become much more difficult for many citizens. However, it could probably not be assumed that registration may become as complicated as in the case of the five-year-old girl Katarina [1].

After her birth, Katarina was not registered in birth registry books, due to which the procedure of subsequent registration must be conducted for her. Since her mother is not registered in birth registry books and does not have personal documents, the procedure of subsequent registration before the registry office cannot be successfully conducted for Katarina. In fact, in cases where the mother does not have personal documents or where she is not alive or cannot participate in the procedure for another reason, or in situations where there are no witnesses who were present at the birth, or there is no written proof of birth - the child cannot be registered in birth registry books in the administrative procedure before the registry office. 

In these cases, the child should be registered in the court procedure for determining the date and place of birth. This procedure was established by the Amendments to the Non-Contentious Procedure in 2012 and is intended precisely for those who find themselves in Katarina's situation, that is, persons who cannot prove the fact of birth in the administrative procedure. 

For a full eight years, that is, before the adoption of the aforementioned Conclusion of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC), the courts almost always assessed independently whether the conditions for conducting the procedure for determining the date and place of birth were met. In cases where it was obvious that it was not possible to conduct the administrative procedure before the registry office, the courts did not require citizens to attempt to register in birth registry books in the administrative procedure before initiating a court procedure.

Although for years the procedures were conducted as described without problems, which created an extensive and almost uniform court practice, the Supreme Court of Cassation, in its Conclusion on the jurisdiction of the non-contentious court in the procedure of registration in birth registry books, took the position that non-contentious procedures for determining the date and place of birth could be conducted only if the administrative procedure of subsequent registration in birth registry books had been previously conducted and if the request had been rejected.

In accordance with that Conclusion of the Supreme Court of Cassation, instead of immediately initiating a procedure before the court, Katarina's parents first submitted a request for subsequent registration to the registry office, although it was clear from the beginning that there was no chance of success in that procedure since the mother did not have personal documents. However, they hoped that the procedure before the registry office would not last long, that is, that their request would be quickly rejected and that they would therefore be able to initiate a procedure before the court. The request was submitted in October 2021.

However, the competent authority did not issue a decision rejecting the request, but suspended the procedure and determined that the suspension would last until the preliminary issue was resolved, that is, until Katarina's mother was registered in birth registry books. Since the Supreme Court of Cassation took the position that the request had to be rejected, a decision on suspending the procedure did not fulfil the requirement for initiating a court procedure. Thus, Katarina found herself in a situation where she could neither initiate a procedure before the court, nor could she register in the procedure before the registry office.

To make matters worse, the chances of the mother registering in birth registry books in the administrative procedure are no higher than Katarina's, because the mother's mother is no longer alive. However, in accordance with the Conclusion of the Supreme Court of Cassation, it is first necessary for Katarina's mother to obtain a decision rejecting the request in the administrative procedure, and only then to initiate a court procedure. And only when the procedure for the mother is successfully conducted before the court and when she receives the ID card, will it be possible to continue Katarina's procedure for registration in birth registry books. It can take years to achieve this.

Hence, in late 2021, a procedure for subsequent registration was initiated before the registry office for the mother, but even half a year later, there has been no progress in that procedure. When Praxis lawyer called the registry office to inquire about the status of the case, the officer could not find the case at first, and then it turned out that the case reached the wrong officer and that nothing had been done about it.

When the procedure for determining the date and place of birth was introduced into the legal system 10 years ago, it was a salvation for many people who had tried unsuccessfully to register in birth registry books in the administrative procedure for years. In the years that followed, thanks to this procedure, a large number of legally invisible persons managed to register in birth registry books in a rather simple way, which allowed them to obtain personal documents and gain the opportunity to access many rights for the first time. 

Now, however, it seems that things are going backwards and the progress made has been significantly undermined. This is best evidenced by the case of Katarina, who would probably have already been registered in birth registry books if the Supreme Court of Cassation had not adopted the Conclusion and if she had immediately initiated the procedure before the court. Now she is not even close to that goal and it is completely uncertain when and if her registration will be possible at all. 

It should be noted that the disputed legal position of the Supreme Court of Cassation, which is discussed here, is not the only SCC’s position that will make it difficult or impossible for citizens to register in birth registry books. In addition, the Supreme Court of Cassation states in its Conclusion that persons who had been registered in birth registry books, which were later destroyed, as well as “persons registered in the birth registry books of the so-called Republic of Kosovo”, cannot initiate a procedure for determining the date and place of birth. See more about these positions, which are neither purposeful nor in accordance with the valid regulations here and here.

 

 

[1] Her real name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Mirita [1] is just one of many children who could not be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth because their mothers did not have personal documents.

Mirita is neither the only child whose parents have to pay for every medical examination, because neither she nor her mother have a health card. 

The case of Mirita is neither unique in the fact that the maternity hospital charged the parents for the costs of childbirth, despite the law stating that in cases where the mothers do not have health insurance, the costs of childbirth are covered by the state.

Like other families whose members do not have identity documents, Mirita and her parents cannot receive either child or parental allowance or social assistance, regardless of the fact that her family is among the poorest.

These are situations that keep repeating in Serbia, and they are the result of violating one of the most important rights of the child: to be registered immediately after birth. 

Although only one of many similar ones, the case of Mirita may still be remembered, because it could end this negative practice that leaves hundreds of children without the possibility to exercise their basic rights in the most vulnerable period of their lives. 

In fact, Praxis lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights pointing out that the state had violated Mirita's right to immediate birth registration, thus depriving her of the opportunity to exercise a number of other rights.   

Although international conventions, the Constitution and the Law on Family guarantee immediate birth registration to every child, the undocumented mothers cannot register their newborn children in birth registry books. In order to register these children, it is necessary to conduct special procedures, due to which the registration is delayed for at least a few months, often longer than a year, and sometimes even for years. 

Shortly after her birth, Mirita's parents went to the competent registry office and tried to determine the child’s personal name, but they did not succeed because the mother did not have personal documents. Then they submitted a written request, in which they referred to the regulations guaranteeing every child the right to immediate birth registration and to a personal name immediately after birth, but it was also in vain - the registry office informed them that the police should first establish the mother's identity, then the procedure for registering the mother in birth registry books should be conducted, and after that she should obtain an identity card and only then could she give a statement about the child's personal name.

However, the question is whether Mirita's mother will ever manage to be registered in birth registry books and obtain an identity card. Her request for registration was first rejected by the registry office, and then the court refused to determine the date and place of her birth. Mirita's mother lodged a constitutional complaint, but procedures before the Constitutional Court may last for years. Praxis has already written about the case of Mirita's mother and about her unsuccessful attempts to be registered in registry books. Meanwhile, four months have already passed since Mirita's birth and she is still unregistered.

For years, Praxis has been drawing attention of the competent authorities to the systematic violation of the rights of children in Serbia by depriving them of the right to timely birth registration, and has been stressing the need to remove the obstacles that prevent such registration, but until now there has been no will to solve this problem. However, if the European Court of Human Rights determines that there has been a violation of rights, Mirita's case could be a turning point that would finally end this unacceptable situation.

 

 

 [1] Her real name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Praxis lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights in the case of a child who could not be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth.

In the application, Praxis pointed out that due to the failure to facilitate timely registration in birth registry books, the state denied the child the opportunity to confirm her identity and personal status, to establish a legal relationship with her family and other persons, and stressed that the child was deprived of the opportunity to acquire citizenship and to access a large number of rights, which required registration in birth registry books, such as the right to health care, the right to social protection, the right to freedom of movement or the right to property. Thus, the right to respect for private and family life, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, was violated. Given that the problem of timely registration in Serbia affects almost exclusively the Roma population, the application stressed that the principle of non-discrimination had also been violated.

Although the Constitution, the Law on Family and ratified international conventions guarantee every child the right to be registered immediately after birth, in cases where mothers do not have personal documents, children cannot be registered immediately after birth, but the procedures that last from several months to several years must be conducted. Since a significant number of Roma women have still not managed to obtain personal documents, there are new cases of children who in the first months or years of their lives are left without registration in birth registry books, and consequently without many other rights. 

The competent institutions have been neglecting this problem for years and ignoring the recommendations of numerous international bodies that point out that this situation is unacceptable, that every child, regardless of whether the parents have documents, must be registered immediately after birth and that it is necessary to change the by-laws that prevent timely registration. 

In the application, Praxis also pointed out that there was no effective legal remedy in Serbia that could eliminate the violation of this right, since the Constitutional Court had repeatedly refused to establish that the impossibility of immediate birth registration constituted a violation of children’s rights. 

In the event that the European Court of Human Rights determines that there has been a violation of rights in this case, it could be a turning point that would finally end the continuous violations of the child's right to timely birth registration and enable every child to have access to all rights and to enjoy the protection provided by registration in registry books.

Praxis je, u saradnji sa Evropskom mrežom za pitanja apatrdije, u okviru četvrtog ciklusa Univerzalnog periodičnog pregleda, Savetu za ljudska prava Ujedinjenih nacija podneo izveštaj o problemima sa kojima se u Srbiji suočavaju lica u riziku od apatridije.

U izveštaju se ukazuje na probleme koje u vezi sa upisom u matičnu knjigu rođenih, sticanjem državljanstva, prijavom prebivališta  i pristupom besplatnoj pravnoj pomoći imaju pripadnici romske nacionalne manjine.

Posebno se ističe to da se u Srbiji i dalje rađaju deca koja ne mogu odmah nakon rođenja da se upišu u matičnu knjigu rođenih, a da su i  postupci naknadnog upisa opterećeni brojnim preprekama i nepravilnostima. Takođe se naglašava da sticanje državljanstva po osnovu rođenja u Srbiji najčešće nije usklađeno sa domaćim i međunarodnim propisima, da mnogi građani, i to pre svega interno raseljena lica sa Kosova, ne mogu da prijave prebivalište u mestu gde žive, kao i da je ostvarivanje besplatne pravne pomoći povezano sa mnogim teškoćama.

U okviru prethodnih ciklusa Univerzalnog periodičnog pregleda, države članice Ujedinjenih nacija Srbiji su već uputile preporuke da preduzme mere koje će omogućiti svakom detetu upis u matičnu knjigu rođenih odmah po rođenju, da je potrebno da se interno raseljenim licima olakša integracija - što podrazumeva i pravilnu primenu Zakona o prebivalištu i boravištu građana – a upućen je i niz preporuka koje se odnose na sprečavanje diskriminacije Roma, na omogućavanje njihove integracije i na poštovanje ljudskih i manjinskih prava.

Srbije je prihvatila ove preporuke, ali njihova realizacija je do sada izostala. Tako i dalje majke koje nemaju lične dokumente ne mogu svoju novorođenu decu da upišu u matične knjige odmah po rođenju, mnoga interno raseljena lica više od 20 godina žive u mestima gde ne uspevaju da prijave prebivalište, a Romi su i dalje jedna od najdiskriminisanijih, najobespravljenijih i najmarginalizovanijih grupa.

Praxis i Evropska mreža za pitanja apatridije iznele su u svom izveštaju preporuke čija primena bi ovakvu situaciju mogla znatno da poboljša, a mnogim pripadnicima romske manjine omogućila bi pristup pravima koja su im zbog neposedovanja ličnih dokumenata trenutno nedostupna.

 

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