Competent professionals against life imprisonment without pardon - Atina one of the signatories

Prominent lawyers have signed a petition to delete a disputed provision from the draft amendment to the Criminal Code
Competent professionals against life imprisonment without pardon
The judicial profession expressed a definite view on the announced imposition of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. A petition seeking to delete this provision was signed by 85 prominent lawyers, judges, prosecutors and law professors, as well as 23 professional associations and civil society organizations.

Authour: V. Jeremić, May 9, 2019 

The petition, signing of which was organized by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, states that the punishment provided violates Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well as Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. 

One of the signatories to the petition, Miloš Janković, former Deputy Ombudsman and head of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, says that the Criminal Code is changing in a populistic manner.

- The reasoning for the amendments to the law states that the provision on life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is introduced because a large number of people have signed a petition demanding such a sentence. By that logic, when a large number of people would ask for someone else's murder, the state would have to accommodate them. An opinion on these changes was not required from the competent professionals, and provisions of the law are changed without holding a public hearing, Janković says.

He added that he does not oppose the imposition of life imprisonment, but insists that a person must be given the possibility of parole.

Attorney Sead Spahović, another signatory to the petition, sees life imprisonment without parole as a delayed death sentence. According to him, the question of secondary importance is how this solution, if adopted, will affect the relationship between Serbia and the European institutions.

- This is a moral, not a technical issue. A life sentence without the possibility of parole is an inhumane sentence, regardless of what David McAllister thinks about it, Spahović says.

He also sees this provision as a courtesy to populism, since, as he states, most citizens would like to see "public hangings on Terazije square".

While the competent professionals oppose the introduction of such measures, prisons are ready for the change of law. As Dejan Carević, head of the Directorate for Execution of Criminal Sanctions, told the media, although it is not known for sure how many people will be sentenced to life imprisonment, capacities will be ready.

- According to the latest Council of Europe report, we had 109 convicts in a hundred places. At the same time, that report did not cover the Penal Correctional Institution in Pančevo, which has 550 new places, as well as a large number of facilities under construction, Carević said.

As a reminder, tougher criminal sanctions were announced earlier this year by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. In mid-April, the Ministry of Justice released a draft amendment to the Criminal Code, which provides, inter alia, for life imprisonment without the possibility of pardon for perpetrators of aggravated murder, rape with a fatal outcome, sexual intercourse with a helpless person, sexual intercourse with a child, and sexual intercourse by abuse of official capacity.

The original text can be found via the following link:

The Petition submitted to the National Assembly for consideration: