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. In 2008, he obtained an LL.M. at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is currently pursuing a J.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.
Published November 2009
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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 electronic sources of current legal information.
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 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.
The National Bank of Serbia posts its regulations here.
The law of the Civic Defender, also known as Protector of Citizens and a description of that office, beyond the Constitution’s language, can be found here.
Laws relating to government in Serbia include:
Law on State Administration
Law on Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in Public Office
Note that most of these laws are separately accessible from the documents page at the OSCE Mission to Serbia.
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 International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia continues to prosecute crimes committed under Serbia’s predecessor government.
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.
The Law on Implementation of the Constitution
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Mission to Serbia
provides free English language PDF’s of recently enacted laws including:
The Criminal Code
The Official Gazette, Sluzbeni Glasnik, is the most important legal record in the country. Look to it first when you need Serbian statutory laws and ministerial regulations. The 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.
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.
Serbia’s new Law on Court Organization, the final seven articles of which are effective January 1, 2010, is available online in English via the Ministry of Justice. Find it in draft form along with other laws applicable to judges and courts and the comments on these drafts from the Council of Europe. Here is the Ministry of Justice’s complete list of Adopted Laws all of which are downloadable in English in both Microsoft Word and PDF format.
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 Municipal 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 magisterial courts to efficiently dispense with the very smallest civil claims and minor crimes such as traffic offenses. The Belgrade First Municipal Court is particularly active and has an informative Web site.
the cases appealed from the municipal courts go to the District Courts which
have personal jurisdiction over cases coming from multiple closely located municipalities.
The District 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 look:
District Court in Belgrade
appealed from the District Courts and occasionally from the Municipal Courts
are heard by the Appellate Court. This court also hears cases in which
separate District Courts have reached conflicting decisions on a single point
Commercial Courts are the courts of first instance for disputes involving business organizations, business contracts, foreign investment, maritime law, aeronautical law, bankruptcy, economic offenses, and most copyright matters. Appeals from the Commercial Courts are heard by the High Commercial Court. Serbia has a venerable commercial arbitration system.
The Administrative Court decides cases arising from ministerial / executive 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. Constitution’s description of the court can be found here.
In addition, look at The Law on the Constitutional Court.
Relating to Serbian Court Practice:
The Law on Judges
Lawyers needing to serve process, collect evidence, or conduct other legal
business in Serbia should consult the State Department’s guide to judicial assistance in Serbia.
Legal forms are available from Pravni Obrasci, a subscription database with over 500 templates.