Not much time has passed according to the calendar since February 2019, when we presented our last annual report. That is just over 450 days. According to measuring of time by YUCOM, that includes 21 printed publications, 9 of which printed in 39,000 copies, 419,405 citizens reached by our text “What does the introduction of a state of emergency mean for the people in Serbia?”, strengthening of our team by 2 new lawyers, who, together with the rest of our legal staff have provided legal advice and information to citizens in 995 instances.
The state of emergency has changed the way we present our work, but not the work itself. The number of citizens that addressed YUCOM at the beginning of the state of emergency showed the significance of the independent points of trust that are quickly and easily found by the citizens in the times of urgency, where they can request explanation of the legal situations.
As pioneers and synonymous of provision of free legal aid, we registered for provisions of support and aid in October 2019. This “extraordinary“ annual report precisely describes justifiability of the position in the system of aid providers. It includes the overview of the support and aid provided by YUCOM during one year outside of the system of the Law on Free Legal Aid, and during the first six months of application the Law, with special emphasis on the support during the state of emergency.
During 2019, we were the target through attacks on the possibility of specialized work of our attorneys. We brought the fight against internal pressures to the international level. The trust and support in the fight for access to justice for the citizens of Serbia were provided by the biggest and the oldest bar associations worldwide and in Europe and explained the significance of the attorneys – human rights defenders.
Relying on the standards of the Council of Europe, we criticized the reforms of criminal legislation. We lost that battle because competent state officials publicly downplayed the role of the Council of Europe through their statements and actions. Such an approach was punished by the first harsher EU Progress Report of the Republic of Serbia prepared in May. Once again, this year, we gave significant contribution to writing of that report. Double standards of Serbia in respect of the Council of Europe were shown with adoption of the law that would enable investigation in the cases of the missing babies. The meetings with the Department for Enforcement, addresses to the Committee of Ministers, assistance of the organizations from Strasbourg, previous work with the Ministry of Justice, media campaign and other conversations with the parents of the missing babies led to the results. The new and improved law was adopted immediately before dismantling of the National Assembly, because of initiation of the election campaign, under the pressure of the decisions of the Council of Europe, parents and the public.