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Candidate for President of the Supreme Court of Serbia to state her position in relation to the upcoming constitutional changes that will affect the judiciary

The High Judicial Council (HJC) announced that it will conduct an interview with its only candidate for the presidency of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) on February 9, 2021. This court is the highest court in the domestic legal system, and its future president will also be the president of the High Judicial Council, which decides on the most important issues in the judiciary – ensuring the independence and autonomy of courts and judges, election, dismissal, disciplinary responsibility of judges and other important issues.

The procedure for electing the president of the SCC is actually the election of representatives of all judges. The nomination of candidates is entrusted to the High Judicial Council, but all judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the competent committee of the National Assembly, decide on the candidates, so that in the end the decision on the election is made by the National Assembly. We point out that the procedure of electing the president of the highest court shows all the practical problems of the constitutional solution which prescribes that the final decision on the election of the president of the courts is made by the majority of deputies. We are convinced that only one registered candidate for the most important position in the judiciary is one of the results of the long-standing political influence on the judicial system. The decision of other judges not to apply for the announcement cannot be separated from the insulting, demeaning, and occasionally threatening attitude of the majority of deputies towards individual judges, but also the judiciary as a whole.

The choice for this position is especially important since we are about to change the part of the Constitution that refers to the judiciary. The Committee on Constitutional Affairs and Legislation of the National Assembly has yet to begin work on the text of the amendments, so it is of special importance that the candidate in the election process takes a position on constitutional reform which impacts the position of the judiciary, as well as to issue a statement about the latest solutions to amend the Constitution presented by the Ministry of Justice. The candidate’s publicly available program does not provide enough information about her attitude towards the unified position of the profession, including the Supreme Court of Cassation itself, about the the necessary directions of the constitutional reform.

Due to the importance of the ongoing elections, we invite the HJC to make the interview with the candidate-judge Jasmina Vasovic publicly available, both for the judges, who will decide about her candidacy, as well as for the general public. This is a common practice when choosing the carriers of the highest judicial functions in many countries. We believe that a space for the introductory presentation of the candidate should be opened by the public media service and other media, because the management of justice is of great importance to all citizens.

It should be reminded that in December 2020, new members of the High Judicial Council were elected, whose programs clearly determined the position on the direction of constitutional reform – building the independence of the judiciary. It was also one of the decisive elements for gaining the trust of colleagues expressed in the voting of all judges in Serbia. The least that can be expected in the procedure of electing the president of the SCC is openness to the public, as well as an unequivocal position on what constitutes unity in the profession, in order to assess whether the candidate, if elected, will represent that unity.

Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights YUCOM

Center for Judicial Research CEPRIS

European Movement in Serbia

Transparency Serbia

Belgrade Center for Human Rights