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Thursday, 20 January 2022

Praxis Submitted a Report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Praxis submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights a report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Serbia. The report points out the problems and obstacles encountered by members of the Roma national minority in exercising the right to registration in birth registry books and access to personal documents, the right to social protection and health care, and the harmful practice of child marriages.

The Praxis report indicates that the situation in Serbia has not changed significantly since the publication of the Committee's Concluding Observations on Serbia's second periodic report in 2014. The biggest progress is that the number of undocumented persons has been somewhat reduced, primarily due to the engagement of non-governmental organisations that provide free legal aid, but there are still certain systemic obstacles that make access to documents difficult. The most important obstacle is related to the prevention of every child to be registered at birth.

Regarding the subsequent registration in birth registry books, the progress achieved by the 2012 amendments to the Law on Non-Contentious Procedure could be significantly undermined by the 2020 Conclusion on the jurisdiction of the non-contentious court in the procedure of registration in birth registry books of the Supreme Court of Cassation. In practice, the application of this Conclusion prevents the registration in the civil registry books of Serbia for many citizens who were born and registered in Kosovo, regardless of the fact that they have been living for years in cohabitation and have children in Serbia (outside Kosovo), and despite meeting the requirements for Serbian citizenship.

With regard to registration of permanent residence, obstacles previously identified by the Committee and recommended to be addressed still persist. There are also significant irregularities in the procedure of registration of permanent residence at the addresses of social welfare centres.

The report states that the Government of the Republic of Serbia has failed to comply with the Committee’s recommendation to provide undocumented persons with access to economic, social and cultural rights. Nothing has changed regarding this issue and the possession of documents is almost always a requirement for exercising these rights in Serbia. Instead of improving, the situation regarding access to social protection for Roma in Serbia is becoming more and more difficult. This trend is mainly due to inadequate regulations that restrict access to social protection services for Roma.

The report assesses that the problem of child marriage is still not adequately addressed by the relevant state institutions, which instead of acting in accordance with binding national and international legislation, give higher priority to customary law. In addition to the lack of coordinated action of all relevant stakeholders, as well as the lack of data collection, there are gaps in the legal framework that also contribute to the occurrence of child, early and forced marriages.

The report also stresses that the right to health care in Serbia is still not fully and equally accessible to those who are particularly vulnerable, and that persons who do not have personal documents have rather restricted access to health care services, and that they are provided only with emergency medical care.

Regarding the aforementioned problems, in its report to the Committee, Praxis presented a number of recommendations for measures aimed at eliminating the identified problems and obstacles to access rights.

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