Social & Economic rights

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Missed opportunity to provide for birth registration of every child immediately after birth

National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on Registry Books on 20 June 2018. The new law will enter into force on 1 January 2019.

On this occasion, an opportunity was missed to resolve the problem of birth registration of children whose mothers do not possess personal documents. Specifically, two by-laws that regulate the procedure of birth notification and registration in the birth registry book contain provisions that prevent registration of all data on the new-born children immediately after birth, including children’s names, if their mothers do not possess personal documents.

This actually means that these children will not have a birth certificate in the most vulnerable part of their lives and, consequently, they will be left without the possibility to exercise rights to health care or social protection. In Serbia, this problem almost exclusively affects members of Roma ethnic minority and only further aggravates their already difficult position.

Not only is such a state unsustainable from a human rights perspective, but it also shows that there is a severe anomaly in the Serbian legal system, since the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and ratified international conventions guarantee the right to every child to be registered immediately after birth. For this reason, many international organizations and treaty bodies have emphasised in their recommendations and reports that Serbia should ensure that every child is registered immediately after birth, regardless of the status of child's parents. Serbia also received bad review relating to exercise of the right to timely birth registration of children in the Statelessness Index, which gives an overview of how different countries in Europe protect stateless persons and what they do in order to prevent and reduce statelessness.

During the public debate on the draft law, Praxis requested that a provision be included in the law that would oblige the registrars to register a child in the birth registry regardless of whether child's parents possess personal documents. Unfortunately, this suggestion was not accepted.

Although an opportunity was missed to include in the law a provision that would guarantee registration of every child immediately after birth, this problem could still be solved through amendments of the above-mentioned by-laws which hinder birth registration of children whose parents do not possess personal documents, and Praxis will continue to advocate for these amendments. In this way, not only would new cases of legally invisible persons be prevented, but it would also ensure respect of one of the basic principle of the legal system, i.e. the hierarchy of norms, by which by-laws must be harmonized with legal norms of greater legal force.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action