Since the establishment in 1997, YUCOM has been constantly and successfully providing legal assistance to victims of human rights violations (to minority groups, human right defenders, journalists and others) before relevant national bodies and courts, as well as European Court for Human Rights and UN Committee for Human Rights. Our Free legal Aid team consists of three attorneys and 4 lawyers, working full time on the free legal aid cases. As the results of strategic litigation that YUCOM is continuously providing, many different legislative changes were brought in order to create more efficient protection of human rights before national authorities, European Court on Human Rights and UN Committees.
YUCOM is widely recognized as an organization with know-how for rendering legal aid and advocating for changes in the legislation. Since the establishment, YUCOM advocates for respect for the principles of the rule of law on national and regional level. YUCOM is recognized as an organization advocating for human rights and reform of legislation and as a member of numerous networks and coalitions has both capacity and long-term experience in successful leading of campaigns for the reform of legislation and legal practices.
The main achievements in advocacy are the adoption and implementation of a number of important laws, Amnesty law, Law on Free Access to Information, introduction of provisions against Violence against Women into the Law on Labour Relations, Law on Educational system, Law on Ombudsman, Provisions on family violence, the introduction of hate crime into Serbian legislation, YUCOM advocated for sanctioning torture as a criminal act and incorporation in the amended Criminal (Penal) Code of the Republic of Serbia, YUCOM has pioneered in the initiative to decriminalize defamation, led campaign for the adoption of a Law on NGOs, advocated for adoption of Anti-discrimination Act, and many others. YUCOM is member of the working group for drafting the Law on Free Legal Aid that is in the final stage, as well as supported drafting numerous laws, currently the Law on Missing Babies that Serbia has to adopt as a result of the European Court on Human Rights judgment against Serbia.
Since 2005, YUCOM started filing cases to the European Court for Human Rights and is currently in the procedure before ECHR with cases that received a confirmation of priority before that Court. In March 2007, YUCOM won a case (V.A.M. vs. Serbia) before the European Court of Human Rights. This represents the first ECHR judgment against Serbia, obliging Serbia to pay compensations to the victims.
Results of the YUCOM strategic litigation were, inter alia, in changing the constitutional provisions to provide more efficient protection before national authorities. YUCOM has also shown a strong commitment in setting limits of freedom of expression in order to combat racism and intolerance in Serbian society. In that sense it had successfully advocated for hate speech incrimination, realized a research focused on the implementation of media laws in their parts that concern promotion of tolerance and ban discrimination and hate speech and led numerous hate speech cases. YUCOM cooperates with various civil society organizations providing and protecting human rights in Serbia.
The role of CSO`s, which are engaged in providing free legal aid to victims of human rights violations, such as YUCOM, is important in order to identify and participate in the legislation changing process with direct experience of work with victims and relevant researchers in this field.
Another important moment is the role of the National Convention on European Union in Serbia (NCEU), which is genuine and innovative collaborative network model that gathers CSOs from different areas and expertise around the idea to enable participation, meaningful contribution and monitoring of Serbia – EU accession negotiation within all 35 negotiation chapters. The NCEU is organized within 21 Working groups each managed by a CSO or CS consortium and gathering network of other relevant and interested CSO (non-governmental organizations, professional associations, business and trade unions, academic community, list not being exhaustive). Within 21 WGs there are 300 CSOs actively taking part in dialogue with relevant representatives of government and administration structures involved in the negotiation process (negotiation team, ministries, National Assembly).
YUCOM, as the Coordinator of National Convention on EU working group for the implementation of the Action plan for Chapter 23, is monitoring the implementation of all activities prescribed in the AP, including those related to the status and position of victim (aggrieved) in Serbian national legislation. Apart from monitoring, YUCOM is responsible for provide early warnings regarding non-implementation or mis-implementation of those activities.
Accession negotiations are the final stage of the integration process of candidate country to the European Union. It negotiates about the conditions for the candidate country to accesses the EU, which are basically related to the harmonization of domestic legislation with the EU acquits.
The new approach of the European Commission’s to negotiations with the future Member States requires that negotiations about Chapters 23 and 24 need to be open first, which cover the area of judiciary and fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security. Chapter Judiciary and Fundamental Rights is new, it was introduced after the sixth wave of the EU enlargement.
Policies of the judiciary and fundamental rights aim at preserving and enhancing the European
Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. Meeting the requirements of this chapter, Serbia needs to implement a number of reforms and activities that have a direct impact on the daily life of citizens. In terms of content, Chapter 23 is divided into four thematic areas, which include: judicial reform, anti-corruption policy, fundamental rights and the rights of EU citizens. Independent judiciary, with necessary capacities to maintain and protect the rule of law is the cornerstone of these policies. In the European Union, perceiving the importance of the existence of independent and efficient judiciary, it is defined a series of recommendations for achieving the impartiality, integrity and high standards of the judiciary.
It requires a serious commitment to eliminating external influences on the judiciary, allocation of adequate financial resources and training. In addition, Member States are required to effectively fight corruption, because it represents a threat to the stability of democratic institutions and the rule of law. Subject that is discussed in this chapter refers to the fulfilment of the political criteria that are an essential precondition for further integration. There are few regulations at EU level governing this area and most of them are left to the Member States to regulate these issues on the best way and to comply with standards that are the foundation of the European Union.
Considering that the aim of the negotiations is that a candidate country joins the EU, it is necessary to establish mutual trust and to ensure the functionality of the system, respecting the values of the European Union itself.