Jump to the next navigation bar : Jump to the page contents
About Globalex

UPDATE: Guide to Legal Research in Serbia

 

By Linda Tashbook, Esq. and Marko Zivanov

 

Linda Tashbook is the Foreign International Comparative Law Librarian at the University Of Pittsburgh School of Law's Barco Law Library, a Fulbright Senior Specialist, and an attorney in private practice.  Her Juris Doctor and Master of Library Science degrees are from the University of Pittsburgh.  Her Bachelor of Science degree is from Texas Woman's University.

 

Marko Zivanov graduated from the University Of Novi Sad Faculty Of Law in 2002 and then worked for two years as a Law Trainee at the Municipal Court in Backa Palanka, Serbia.  He passed the Serbian bar and maintains his license to practice law in that country.  In 2007, he obtained his Master’s Degree in Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.  He obtained LL.M. (2008) and JD (2010) degrees at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law and currently works as a tax advisor at Schneider Downs.

 

Published April 2011
See the Archive Version!

 

Table of Contents

Introduction
Government Organization

International Law

Constitution, Statutes, Ministerial Laws
Courts and Cases
The Legal Profession
Serbian Law Libraries

Introduction

The Republic of Serbia attained its current borders and government structure in October 2006 upon referendum approval of a new constitution.  It is the successor state to the short-lived Serbia-Montenegro and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Accordingly, it is a civil law system in which the constitution, statutes, and ministerial laws along with learned commentary are the principle sources of law.  This research guide highlights the very recent creation of this new, though successor, jurisdiction by emphasizing the country’s many electronic sources of current legal information—sites that are available thanks to Serbia’s law on free access to information.  Here is an ABA publication with extensive commentary on that law. So transparent is the new Serbian government, you can even complete a form to request copies of government documents that are not on the website. 

Note that most of the sources in this guide are published in Serbian.  If you cannot read Serbian, you will need to copy and paste either content or web addresses into an online translation tool.

 

Government organization

The President of Serbia is elected democratically and serves as the head of state representing the country in international matters, commanding the military, promulgating laws, awarding amnesties and honors, and nominating candidates for Prime Minister.  The Prime Minister serves as the head of government, managing government executive functions within the country.  The Parliament is a unicameral body called the National Assembly, which has 250 elected members.    

 

The Constitution provides to the Civic Defender and the National Bank of Serbia the right to propose laws relevant to their particular work. The National Bank of Serbia  posts its regulations here .
The law of the Civic Defender, also known as Protector of Citizens or Ombudsman is here  and
here. A description of the Protector of Citizens office, beyond the Constitution’s language, can be found here.

 

The court system operates under the authority of the Ministry of Justice and consists of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Appellate Court, Commercial Courts, Administrative Court, District Courts, and Municipal Courts.  The Constitutional Court is an independent entity separate from the Ministry of Justice.

 

The Serbian Government’s website is available here.  Note, also, that there is an E-government portal  through which to interact with the government to obtain vital records, deal with automobile ownership issues, manage employment claims and apply to mediate employment disputes, obtain visas and related documents for travel to Serbia, and much more. The English version of this site is not as complete as the Serbian version, so you may need to use an internet translation tool to access some of the content. 

 

Here is a particularly good list of links to the country’s administrative agencies and other government institutions .

Laws relating to government in Serbia include
Law on State Administration
Anti-Corruption Code
Law on Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in Public Office

Law on Financing Political Parties
Law on Civil Servants
Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance (without commentary)

The Government Act, the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Territorial Organization, and other technical requirements are here (Notice the regulations and laws here.)
Most of these laws are separately accessible from the documents page  at the OSCE Mission to Serbia.  (Navigate to documents, and then choose “legal documents” as document type.)

 

International Law

The link to Serbia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs describes all of the country’s bilateral activities and agreements.
Serbia’s participation in European treaties is recorded by the Council of Europe.  Serbia’s representative to the European Court of Human Rights has reports, articles, decisions, judgments and other Serbia-specific information on human rights.

Serbia’s EU Integration office maintains records about the country’s efforts to join the European Union.
Find UN documents involving Serbia by conducting an advanced search for sources with Serbia (and other more precise terms such as “environment”) among the title words using the Official Document Service database .  These documents include records of the Serbian government’s interactions with the UN as well as reports on particular activities of the Serbian government, plus copies of drafts and final versions of resolutions and agreements to which Serbia is a party.
The Baltic Yearbook of International Law, available in print and on Hein Online, publishes scholarly articles, case reports, and book reviews on Serbia’s regional and international law.  
The Ministry of Justice cites all of the country’s bilateral and multilateral agreements, charts the still-applicable agreements between Yugoslavia and other nations, and provides PDF versions of new agreements between Serbia and its neighboring countries. 
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia continues to prosecute crimes committed under Serbia’s predecessor government.
The Serbian Bar Association publishes an online directory   of attorneys who practice in various fields of international law.  The directory listings include each attorney’s specialty areas and foreign language fluencies.

Constitution, Statutes, Ministerial Laws

The 2006 Constitution of Serbia is extensive with 206 articles setting forth detailed instructions for government organization and management.
The Serbian language version can be found here.

The English version can be found here .
See also the Law on Implementation of the Constitution.

Serbia’s enacted laws are available according to the year in which they were enacted via the National Assembly’s site  or the Ministry of Justice site and within Serbian language, PDF’s of the Civil CodeThe Criminal Code is separately linked on the Ministry of Justice site.  

The most convenient way to search for Serbian laws according to topic is to navigate through the executive branch ministries’ pages.  Lexadin also links to some Serbian laws in subject order .

 

Here is direct access to primary law sources from some of the ministries:

The Ministry of Finance  publishes all of the country’s financial laws including government budgets, all forms of taxes, auditing laws, etc. (Serbian language only)

 

The Intellectual Property Office publishes the laws on patents, trademarks, geographic indicators, designs, copyrights, and integrated circuit protection. See also the related laws on research and innovation as published by the Ministry of Science.


The Ministry of the Interior publishes the laws associated with emergency services, roads, and personal identification. (Serbian language only)
Here are the related regulations (including issues such as use of force by police, safe transportation of children, and identifying drivers who have physical disabilities).

The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy publishes the laws relevant to workplace safety, living with disabilities, gender equality, and other related matters. (Serbian language only)
See also related content from the Ministry of Minority and Human Rights.

Laws about electronic information transfers are available from the Ministry of Telecommunications and the Information Society.

Military laws are published by the Ministry of Defense.

The Official Gazette, Sluzbeni Glasnik, is Serbia’s most important legal record.  The fee-based electronic subscription version, in which you can browse by date or topic, is a product of the country’s main legal publisher and is considered authoritative.   The National Assembly publishes a free chronological version in which you can browse but not search.  The Serbian Bar Association maintains a searchable database  containing not only the national Official Gazette, but also ministerial, provincial, and local laws and regulations plus some tribunal decisions.  


Other fee-based databases with Serbian primary law:

For articles and commentary, in addition to the primary law, access the Ingpro subscription database.

The Propisi subscription database has primary law available by keyword searching.  Pregled Survey  publishes numerous Serbian laws online in English. Pregled provides separate subscriptions to individual segments of law such as individual rights and law enforcement, tax, intellectual property, contracts and torts, etc.  As you poke around Pregled’s free outline of Serbian law, you will see that this publisher also provides for free some text from almost every legal category.


Courts and Cases

There is a good introduction to the Serbian court system here.  Here is a complete list of the courts, though it does not have hyperlinks even for the courts that do have websites.  In December 2010, the Ministry of Justice established The Judicial Academy , which provides basic competency training for new judges and continuing education for judges who are already on the bench.  See the Directorate of Justice enforcement for information about compliance with the Ministry of Justice’s court regulations and directives. 

 

Links to Serbian Courts:

 

Criminal cases for crimes with penalties of no more than ten years of imprisonment and civil cases involving disputes between natural persons living within either a single municipality or a small cluster of municipalities are heard by the Basic Courts. The civil cases include property questions, family law, most ordinary employment issues, and other common disputes that arise between people, though there are also Magistrates Courts to efficiently dispense with the very smallest civil claims and minor crimes such as traffic offenses. The Belgrade Basic Court is particularly active and has an informative web site. 


Other Basic Courts:
Jagodina Basic Court
Kikinda Basic Court
Nis Basic Court
Novi Sad Basic Court
Pancevo Basic Court
Pozarevac Basic Court
Pozega Basic Court
Smederevo Basic Court  
Subotica Basic Court 
Uzice Basic Court
Vrsac Basic Court

Most of the cases appealed from the basic courts go to the High Courts, which have personal jurisdiction over cases coming from multiple closely located municipalities. The High Courts are also the courts of first instance for crimes by juvenile offenders, anti-government activities, and civil cases involving parties that are not natural persons but which are recognized by the government as entities that have legal rights and obligations. These might be corporations, religious entities, or charities and the cases might involve such issues as intellectual property or labor unions. For more information see:

High Court in Kragujevac
High Court in Kralievu
High Court in Nis
High Court in Novi Sad   
High Court in Pancevo
High Court in Sabac
High Court in Sombor
High Court in Uzice
High Court in Valevo
High Court in Zrenjanin

Cases appealed from the High Courts and occasionally from the Basic Courts are heard by the Appellate Court. This court also hears cases in which separate High Courts have reached conflicting decisions on a single point of law:
Appellate Court in Belgrade
Appellate Court in Novi Sad  

Commercial Courts are the courts of first instance for disputes involving: business organizations, business contracts, foreign investment, foreign trade, maritime law, aeronautical law, bankruptcy, economic offenses, and most copyright matters.  The Belgrade Commercial Court , with sixty-five judges, is the largest court in the Commercial Court system.   Appeals from the Commercial Courts are heard by the High Commercial Court.  Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce arbitrates foreign trade disputes.  For information about private international law, see the Ministry of Justice links to rules concerning the Council on Private International Law .  This Council is new in 2011 and does not yet have a website.

 

The Administrative Court decides cases arising from ministerial regulations.  The Prime Minister designates or discontinues ministerial agencies as needed within his government administration and the issues handled by this court vary accordingly.  Generally, the cases deal with taxation, elections, government property, finance and the national bank. 

The Supreme Court of Cassation  hears appeals out of the Appellate Court, the High Commercial Court, the Administrative Court, and the High Magistrates Court.

 

The Constitutional Court  operates outside of the judicial branch to resolve questions involving government compliance with the constitution and interpretive conflicts among separate government institutions. The Constitution’s description of the court can be found here.  See also the Law on the Constitutional Court and the Rules of Procedure for the Constitutional Court plus other laws and regulations applicable to this tribunal


There are several subscription databases containing Serbian case law:
Propisi
Sudska Praksa
Sirius

 

Laws Relating to Serbian Court Practice:
The Law on Court Organization.   Also available in Serbian on the National Assembly’s site.

 

Court Administration Rules

 

The Law on Judges

Regulations on the Public Prosecutor’s Office.  Link to the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

 

Rules of Civil Procedure
The Criminal Procedure Code

The Law on Enforcement of Penal Sanctions 

The Law on Arbitration and the Draft Law on Mediation  (document).  There is an explanation of the draft mediation law here
See the Directorate of Justice Enforcement for information about compliance with the Ministry’s regulations and directives. 

Reciprocity rules, including recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments 

The Laws on Taking Evidence Abroad and Serving Process on Extrajudicial Documents Abroad are in the list here, at May 5, 2006.

 

U.S. Lawyers needing to serve process, collect evidence, or conduct other legal business in Serbia should consult the State Department’s guide to Judicial Assistance Abroad.
Legal forms are available from Pravni Obrasci, a subscription database with over 500 templates.

 

The Legal Profession
The Judges Association of Serbia

Serbian Bar Association- the site is available in English here, but the links only work on the Serbian version
Local bar associations: Belgrade , Vojvodina.

Authoritative Legal Newsletter- Pravni Informator. Full-text is only available by subscription, but article summaries are free and easily browsed.

Serbia’s Code of Legal Ethics.

 

Serbian Law Libraries

National Library

Library at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law -English site with no links 

Serbian version with links.
Library at the University of Novi Sad Faculty of Law
Law Library at the Constitutional Court