Rapid Response Grants – Urgent Action Fund

Approved – November 2010.

Number of grants: 2

1.      Victimology Society of Serbia, Belgrade
  • RSD: 150.000,00
  • Name of the project: Don’t Let the Victims of Family Violence Be Treated as a Criminals and Violators as Victims! (Part II, Shameless Court Decision)
  • At the trial held on October 25 of 2010 the court made decision to punish Snezana with prison sentence of 2 years and 2 months. The judge explained that the decision was made on the basis of evidences which have been presented and that the court did not find any mitigating circumstance. On the same occasion, an appeal for Snezana to be released from custody, till the sentence went into effect, was rejected. Previously, VDS has been sent letters (memorandums) about this case to the following institutions: President of the First Municipal Court in Belgrade, the First Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice of Serbia, Serbian Society of Judges, Magistrates Association, the Centre for Child Rights and the Judicial Academy. The letter demanded an urgent response from all these subjects in order to take necessary measures to stop the improper application of the law, and inappropriate acting of judges and public prosecutors in this case. In particular, VDS draw attention to the incompetent acting of the court that only after three months and change of three judges, has scheduled the trial, while the entire time defendant was in the detention unit. It also pointed to the deputy public prosecutor, who showed during the trial that she protects the interests of a minor son, but damaging Snezana who is a longtime victim of domestic violence. Victimology Society pointed out that in the case that the state authorities fail to respond and take appropriate action to prevent further circumvention of provisions on domestic violence and Snezana Dimic – Mijailovic does not receive adequate protection, Victimology Society of Serbia will address the CEDAW Committee and other international bodies and seek protection of Snezana at the international level.
  • VDS was also required from the relevant institutions to provide bigger courtroom for the trial of Snezana and thus enable the trial to be truly public, accompanied by the general public, especially professional one, including NGOs and independent national bodies, which are protecting the rights of victims, human rights in general, women’s rights and anti-discrimination.
  • The outcome of the trial to Snezana was unexpected. The Court did not find any mitigating circumstance in her case, roughly disregarded the fact that it is a long-standing victim of violence that has never been convicted, that her health deteriorated. During the presentation of evidence has not been proven that she committed any crime. There were no witnesses and testimonies of son and daughter on several occasions were quite the opposite and did not match. Only the perception of the overall situation of violence can make judgments that will contribute to reducing, not increasing violence in this family, it must be taken into account the link between domestic violence and women’s crime
  • During the presentation of evidence, and after the verdict, Snezana was not released from custody on the grounds that she can repeat the act, although there was a guarantee from Safe House that she can stay there.
  • During the trials, the fact that the security measures of  approaching restraint are pronounced to her husband, as well as the fact that the criminal cases for the same offense against the son and husband are in ongoing process, were not taken into account.
  • Relationship between the Judge and plaintiff in the main trial was unexpected and very unfavorable for Snezana, who was treated as the most dangerous criminal.
  • Rapid Response grant was needed at this time to write an appeal on verdict that was rendered and, depending on the response to an appeal, for further legal assistance and eventual addressing of international institutions.
  • Since Snezana has no other help, it would be of inestimable damage to suspend legal aid to her in this moment, because lack of funds. The damage would be inflicted on Snezana personally, but also on the efforts for the improvement of legal practice and adequate enforcement. The treatment of Snezana in this case and other women who found themselves in a similar situation, offends many years of efforts related to women’s groups to promote women’s human rights and the adequate application of the law, which is another reason for reacting rapidly on this occasion.
2.      Association of Roma, Novi Bečej
  • RSD:125.000,00
  • Name of the project: Safe Space for Women’s Human Rights Defenders
  • Roma women and other marginalized groups who survived domestic violence, increasingly reporting the violence in person, by coming to the facilities of the Association. Since Novi Becej is the small place, the profile and content of all group’s activities is known in the whole city that includes the violators as well. This is why their activists are faced with the fact that abusers often intrude in space, threatening. They recently even had an armed and violent invasion of one who asked for the coordinator of the group, as his wife is placed in a safe house, and he does not know where. Fortunately, the coordinator that day was not in the office so the possible tragedy was avoided. Since in their space is helpline for women victims of violence in minority languages, their activists and volunteers (among whom there are women with disabilities) are exposed to potential violence and left on their own, because security  of the space is not provided. The house in which they work is designated for housing, on the ground floor, and door does not have security locks. In addition, the windows are low with no obstacles so that one can easily get into and through them. House as a facility suits the group because they have independence and privacy (which is not the case when it comes to apartments), it is available, but as they over time increasingly began to work on preventing violence against women and active provision of legal and judicial protection of women, they are more often facing the threats of the perpetrators, not only verbal but also physical.
  • The situation that led to the need for this project was not anticipated, because nobody expected that the perpetrators will show the courage to literally physically invade the property of legal persons, and they hoped for better intervention of the police, but it did not happen. Obviously, the lack of adequate institutional protection of women victims of violence, rare and usually minimal penalties have led to the violators to feel quite certain to take the violence from the private into the public sphere, not fearing the consequences, because they do not expect them.
  • The solution to this problem is to ensure at least basic security of women human rights defenders who are helping the women to get out of violence, without fear for their own lives.