A Serbian opposition party has proposed law changes that would oblige parliament to take a vote on citizens’ initiatives, such as one calling for life in prison for child killers.
Serbia’s opposition Centrist Movement has proposed changes to the law on petitions, aiming to address a loophole that enables parliament to ignore citizens’ initiatives, such as one from the Tijana Juric Foundation, which seeks harsher penalties for killers of children.
A MP from the Centrist Movement, Tatjana Macura, says parliament should be legally obliged to vote on the citizens’ proposals within 60 days. “The least that parliament can do is discuss the proposal,” Macura told BIRN.
She warns that unlike the initiative of Tijana Juric Foundation, which gathered over 160,000 signatures, other petitions might have more problems reaching the public, which is why the deadline for gathering signatures should also be extended.
The Centrist Movement’s proposal would require support from the parties in power, since the movement itself holds only five of the 250 seats in Serbia’s parliament.
Under Serbian law, citizens can propose laws to parliament if they gather at least 30,000 signatures of support.
But the chamber is not obliged to discuss them, as the director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, YUCOM, Milan Antonijevic, noted.
“The law currently does not oblige parliament to process proposals that receive a substantial number of signatures,” Antonijevic reminded BIRN.
He noted that YUCOM’s own initiative, to change the freedom of information law, was listed on parliament’s website as being “in procedure” after it was submitted to the assembly, but never moved past that stage.
“The law does not define any mechanism for what should come next, so it is not efficient,” Antonijevic said, adding that the failure of the law to prescribe any deadlines or sanctions was “very problematic”.
The Tijana Juric Foundation, named after a murdered teen, which campaigns for the safety of children in Serbia, filed a proposal in support of life prison terms without parole for convicted killers of minors and pregnant women in November 2017.
Tijana Juric was kidnapped in 2014 by Dragan Djuric, a 34-year-old butcher from the Belgrade neighbourhood of Surcin. Twelve days later, her body was found buried near Sombor, northern Serbia.
The Foundation now says it would launch a new, more agressive campaign, saying its proposal was ignored for ten months.
“We have already announced that we won’t stop until things have changed,” said Igor Juric, father of the victim and founder of the Foundation that bears her name.
However, lawyers have criticised the Foundation’s proposal in the past, warning that it would eliminate the possibility of parole and so violate human rights.
Antonijevic says the proposal of the Foundation identified a problem in Serbian society, but that its solution conflicts with international norms. “It could be qualified as a human rights violation,” Antonijevic said.