The Serbian Government has taken first steps of implementing a new court system with the passing of a new Law on Seats, Jurisdictions of Courts and Public Prosecution Offices (Official Gazette RS no. 101/2013), and amendments to the Law on Organisation of Courts (Official Gazette RS no. 116/2008, 104/2009, 101/2010, 31/2011, 78/2011 101/2011, 101/2013), which came into force on 1 January 2014.
By far, the most significant change which has been introduced is the number of basic courts in Serbia, which has been increased from 34 to 66, nearly doubling their capacity. The majority of the basic courts were formed from the basic court units which existed in the previous system, given that experience from the 2010 court system reform indicated that a large number of the basic court units were inefficient in practice. In the new system, a total of 29 basic court units have been formed, which is significantly less than before. The change also introduced new courts in Belgrade. In addition to the First and Second basic courts in Belgrade, a Third basic court in Belgrade has been established. The Third basic court will have jurisdiction over the municipalities of Zemun, New Belgrade and Surcin.
Changes regarding court jurisdiction have also been implemented. Beginning on 1 January 2014, only the High court in Belgrade will have jurisdiction over all cases concerning bans on the distribution of press and the dissemination of information in the media; publishing rectification of information in the media, hate speech ban violations, personal life protection rights, and the compensation of damages regarding published information and intellectual property rights. Additionally, the Commercial court in Belgrade will have jurisdiction over all cases concerning intellectual property, if such cases are generally subject to the commercial courts’ jurisdiction.
A new legal remedy regarding violations of the right to a speedy trial has also been introduced. A party, whose right to a speedy trial has been violated, may submit a request for protection of the right to a speedy trial to the directly superior court. If the directly superior court finds the party’s request is grounded, it can award appropriate compensation, as well as to determine a deadline in which the proceedings in question are to be ended. Before this new legal remedy was introduced, the only available legal remedy for violations of the right to speedy trial was a constitutional appeal, which could only be filed upon final termination of the proceedings. The large number of constitutional appeals led to violations of the right for a speedy trial even before the Constitutional court. For this reason, amendments to Law on Organisation of Courts allow for the directly superior court to decide on violations while the disputed process is still ongoing.
Other news concerning the judiciary in 2014 is that the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance ordered the termination of the internet portal of courts in Serbia. The Commissioner stated the reason for this being that the scope of processing personal data of participants in proceedings before general jurisdiction courts, performed within the internet portal of courts in Serbia, was unauthorised. The Commissioner’s intention is that the internet portal is modified in a way that its contents are in compliance with the provisions of the Law on Personal Data Protection. There have been reports that the portal will be reactivated in February. However, in practice the portal’s termination has caused many inconveniences, as it was a quick and effective method of obtaining information regarding ongoing judicial procedures. With the portal now inactive, accessing this information has become much more difficult, and the only way of obtaining it is by going to the court in person or in rare cases by telephone.