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Why is the public debate on changes to the Criminal Code necessary?

However good it is that the Ministry of Justice decided to consider a petition signed by a large number of citizens and to formulate changes to the Criminal Code, this fact is not a valid legal reason, nor is a justification that a public debate is not organized on the proposal of the norm. By the existence of a petition, the Minister of Justice explained the direct violation of the obligation of Ministry from the Law on Public Administration to organize a public debate on these important changes.

Such obligation exists always when the editing of a certain area is significantly changedand when it comes to changes that are of public interest, and in this case, both criteria are fulfilled. Public debate would not be obligatory if citizens filed a proposal of concrete legislative changes instead of a petition and submited it to the Assembly. If the Minister of Justice considers that the rules on the public debate are not good enough, she could initiate changes within the Governement of the Law on Public Administration and Law on Referendum and People's Initiative. There was more than enough time for such a thing. Namely, the petition of the Tijana Jurić Foundation was submitted 18 months ago, so there was more than enough time to change the rules in the Criminal Code and rules on public debates.

Particular absurd that precisely this ministry requires an excuse not to organize public debates, lies in the fact that it was the maker of (unfulfilled) National Anti-Corruption Strategy which, among other things, predicted the expansion of a circle of situations in which participation in the process of passing regulations to "interested entities and the public" was enabled.

In addition to the formal ones, in this case, there are strong substantive reasons for conducting a public debate. Namely, according to the explanations of the proposed vhanges to the Criminal Code, the issue of the replacement of a prison sentence of 40 years to life imprisonment was considered in 2015, but then the Ministry did not take the position "because the expert public on this issue was divided". However, in the reasoning, the reasons that have prevailed for this sentence are now not offered. Judging by some reactions, the biggest problem could be the abolition of the conditional release of lifelong imprisonment for certain convicts. In connection with this, the argument has already been stated that "the European Court of Human Rights clearly states that the practice of banning parole in cases of imprisonment is inconsistent with the European Convention". Unfortunately, Serbia has a rich experience of paying compensation to offenders and suspects for violating obligations under international conventions and therefore this issue must be fully and reasonably clarified before making changes to the Criminal Code in further procedure.

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