Praxis and the European Network on Statelessness made a joint submission to the Human Rights Committee for the 140th Session, focusing the right to a nationality and human rights challenges pertaining to statelessness in Serbia.
The submission focuses on the right to birth registration, the right to a nationality, free legal aid, and registration of residence.
Based on the content of this submission, we made the following recommendations and asked the Committee to urge the Serbian government to:
- Remove all practical barriers to birth registration and ensure that every child is registered immediately after birth, regardless of the status of their parents.
- Amend the regulations that prevent immediate birth registration of children of undocumented parents or that have a particular discriminatory impact on minority groups, including Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities.
- Take measures to facilitate the subsequent birth registration of all persons who are not registered in the birth registry books immediately after birth. Ensure that the procedures for determining the time and place of birth are carried out in accordance with existing regulations and as soon as possible after birth.
- Ensure that children’s nationality status is determined and recorded as soon as possible after birth in order to ensure that otherwise stateless children born in Serbia acquire a nationality.
- Establish an efficient and effective system of free legal aid, which will enable all socially vulnerable residents to access justice.
- Amend the Law on Free Legal Aid to eliminate the existing contradictions and shortcomings; and authorise non-governmental organisations and graduate lawyers employed in these organisations to provide free legal aid in accordance with the laws governing the rules of procedure in certain areas of law.
- Conduct an information campaign to inform citizens about the possibility and procedure to obtain free legal aid and provide training for decision-makers responsible for legal aid applications, including on the principles of good governance and anti-discrimination.
- Ensure the correct interpretation and implementation of Article 13 of the Law on Citizenship (regulating the right to Serbian citizenship on the basis of the jus soli principle) in line with the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Specifically, ensure that nationality is acquired automatically and that young people aged between 18-21 years, who would otherwise be stateless, can access their right to acquire Serbian citizenship.
- Establish a statelessness determination procedure in order to fully implement obligations under the 1954 Convention and to provide protection to stateless persons.
- Take measures to enable all citizens to obtain an identity card and register permanent residence in the places where they live. To that end, ensure the consistent application of the regulations governing the procedures for registering permanent residence and issuing an identity card.