Praxis Watch

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

The Case of Mirita - Just Another One of Many Or a Turning Point?

Mirita [1] is just one of many children who could not be registered in birth registry books immediately after birth because their mothers did not have personal documents.

Mirita is neither the only child whose parents have to pay for every medical examination, because neither she nor her mother have a health card. 

The case of Mirita is neither unique in the fact that the maternity hospital charged the parents for the costs of childbirth, despite the law stating that in cases where the mothers do not have health insurance, the costs of childbirth are covered by the state.

Like other families whose members do not have identity documents, Mirita and her parents cannot receive either child or parental allowance or social assistance, regardless of the fact that her family is among the poorest.

These are situations that keep repeating in Serbia, and they are the result of violating one of the most important rights of the child: to be registered immediately after birth. 

Although only one of many similar ones, the case of Mirita may still be remembered, because it could end this negative practice that leaves hundreds of children without the possibility to exercise their basic rights in the most vulnerable period of their lives. 

In fact, Praxis lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights pointing out that the state had violated Mirita's right to immediate birth registration, thus depriving her of the opportunity to exercise a number of other rights.   

Although international conventions, the Constitution and the Law on Family guarantee immediate birth registration to every child, the undocumented mothers cannot register their newborn children in birth registry books. In order to register these children, it is necessary to conduct special procedures, due to which the registration is delayed for at least a few months, often longer than a year, and sometimes even for years. 

Shortly after her birth, Mirita's parents went to the competent registry office and tried to determine the child’s personal name, but they did not succeed because the mother did not have personal documents. Then they submitted a written request, in which they referred to the regulations guaranteeing every child the right to immediate birth registration and to a personal name immediately after birth, but it was also in vain - the registry office informed them that the police should first establish the mother's identity, then the procedure for registering the mother in birth registry books should be conducted, and after that she should obtain an identity card and only then could she give a statement about the child's personal name.

However, the question is whether Mirita's mother will ever manage to be registered in birth registry books and obtain an identity card. Her request for registration was first rejected by the registry office, and then the court refused to determine the date and place of her birth. Mirita's mother lodged a constitutional complaint, but procedures before the Constitutional Court may last for years. Praxis has already written about the case of Mirita's mother and about her unsuccessful attempts to be registered in registry books. Meanwhile, four months have already passed since Mirita's birth and she is still unregistered.

For years, Praxis has been drawing attention of the competent authorities to the systematic violation of the rights of children in Serbia by depriving them of the right to timely birth registration, and has been stressing the need to remove the obstacles that prevent such registration, but until now there has been no will to solve this problem. However, if the European Court of Human Rights determines that there has been a violation of rights, Mirita's case could be a turning point that would finally end this unacceptable situation.



 [1] Her real name has been changed to protect her privacy.

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