According to the most recent statistics available (from late 2012), six courts in Serbia – working with EWMI’s Separation of Powers Program (SPP) funded by USAID -- have reduced their case backlogs by 49%, from 23,000 to 12,000 old cases. The task ahead is to extend this success to other jurisdictions around the country.
The reduction of backlogged cases is important to Serbia’s hopes for EU integration, explains SPP project consultant Pim Albers, PhD, Advisor to the Dutch Ministry of Justice. Throughout the country, there are over 190,000 cases that have been pending for more than ten years in basic courts, and over 540,000 cases that have been pending for five to ten years. These backlogs violate the principle of a right to trial within a reasonable time, and must be reduced to bring Serbia up to European standards.
These preliminary successes resulted from the courts’ adoption of reduction and prevention techniques outlined in SPP’s “Backlog Reduction and Prevention Best Practices Guide.” Building on the successes of SPP partner courts shown in the Guide, in July 2013, SPP presented a National Plan for Backlog Reduction that would reduce the number of backlogged cases by 80% over the next five years. The National Plan proposes that each court form a team that would organize and identify backlogged cases, investigate the cause of delay, and sort the cases accordingly, explains SPP Deputy Manager Milan Nikolić. Additional strategies are to reorganize the work in the court registry offices, engage employees more efficiently, and distribute a more equitable workload to all of the judges within a court. By implementing the National Strategy, Serbia will be able to reduce backlogs throughout the country, improve citizen trust and confidence in the judiciary, and facilitate Serbia’s entry into the EU.