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Rule of Law Integration in Serbia

Programme objective: To build Serbia’s capacity to meet European human rights standards in support of the country’s stabilisation and integration into Europe.  

Background: The Programme was established in 1999 with UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Westminster Foundation for Democracy funding as a joint venture between the AIRE Centre, dissident Serbian judges, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (a Belgrade-based human rights organisation) and the Council of Europe. It operated out of Budapest until Milosevic’s overthrow in October 2000, when it moved to Belgrade. It brings together leading British lawyers and judges as well as Serbia’s own specialists to influence the incorporation and application of the ECHR in domestic law and courts. Over the last ten years the Programme has included over 50 seminars on every aspect of the European Convention of Human Rights, instructing over 1000 of Serbia’s judges and another 400 of Serbia’s prosecutors, advocates, police and NGO activists on how to apply the ECHR in practice. The Programme participants joined, and in some cases led, the governmental working groups that drew up some of the key new legislation, including the new Codes of Criminal and Civil Procedure, anticorruption and antidiscrimination laws. The Programme helped the Serbian Ministry of Justice build capacity of the new Judicial Training Centre (JTC) to support and mainstream introductory European human rights training as part of the development of all Serbian judges and prosecutors. A team of 15 domestic trainers was established in 2003, who continue to receive further training by the Programme, and over the years this team has delivered basic JTC training on the ECHR standards to all courts in Serbia. The basic training wing of the Programme has now been incorporated into the JTC, leaving the Programme to focus on the key legal reform issues, higher courts and draft legislation. The Programme has also expanded its funding base beyond the FCO’s funding to include Soros, OSCE, Council of Europe, and the EU Commission.