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
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Table of Contents
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.
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
Laws relating to government in Serbia include
Law on State Administration
Law on Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in Public Office
Government Act, the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Territorial
Organization, and other technical requirements are here (Notice the regulations and
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.)
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 of Serbia is extensive with 206 articles setting forth detailed
instructions for government organization and management.
The Serbian language version can be found here.
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 Code. The Criminal Code is separately linked on the Ministry of Justice site.
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
Lawyers needing to serve process, collect evidence, or conduct other legal
business in Serbia should consult the State Department’s guide to Judicial Assistance
Legal forms are available from Pravni Obrasci, a subscription database with over 500 templates.
Authoritative Legal Newsletter- Pravni Informator. Full-text is only available by subscription, but article summaries are free and easily browsed.
Library at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Law -English site with no links