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Thursday, 13 December 2018

Recommendations of international bodies and institutions and assumed obligations in relation to birth registration are still not implemented

Legal obstacles that prevent registration of all children into birth registry books immediately after birth have not been eliminated in 2018.  This means that due to inappropriate provisions of by-laws regulating registration into birth registry books, children whose mothers do not possess personal documents will continue to remain unregistered at birth. Consequently, in the most vulnerable period of their lives, these children will be deprived of or will encounter significant obstacles to accessing a large number of rights, including health care and social protection.

Such situation is contrary to both national legislation and ratified international conventions. More specifically, the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, the Law on Family, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee every child the right to personal name and entry in the registry of births immediately after birth. Therefore, setting conditions for registration into birth registry books that cannot be met by all citizens, such as providing that undocumented mothers cannot register their children, constitutes a gross violation of the rights of the child. Unfortunately, there is still a significant number of people in Serbia, mainly Roma, who do not possess ID cards and other documents.

A series of recommendations issued to Serbia by international organisations and treaty bodies indicate that the situation in Serbia related to timely birth registration is not satisfactory. Thus, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended to Serbia to enhance its efforts to enable registration of children born to parents without identification documents. Similar recommendations were given by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The European Parliament called for full implementation of the right to timely birth registration, while the the UN Human Rights Council, in the Universal Periodic Review for Serbia, recommended to Serbia to provide the registration into birth registry books immediately after birth, without discrimination and regardless of whether parents had personal documents. Serbia accepted this recommendation of the UN Human Rights Council and committed to fulfil the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including to provide universal registration into birth registry books.

However, despite the accepted obligations and proclaimed commitment to allowing every child to register in birth registry books immediately after birth, Serbia has not yet removed legal obstacles that impede registration of a significant number of children. Moreover, in 2018, the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government refused Praxis’ suggestions to amend legislation to allow all children to be timely registered in birth registry books. 

Given the fact that this situation is unsustainable both in terms of respecting human rights and in terms of compliance of secondary legislation with primary legislation, with Serbia being in the position of a state that does not fulfil its international obligations, Praxis once again stresses that it is necessary that the competent institutions take immediate action to allow every child to be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth.

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