Social & Economic rights

Friday, 24 June 2022

Conclusion of the Supreme Court of Cassation Hinders Katarina’s Registration into Registry Books

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.

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