The myth of judicial reform in Serbia

Available in Russian

Available for free

Author: Violeta Beširević

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2016-5-105-116

Keywords: administrative justice; independence of courts and judges; judicial reform; judiciary; politicization of judiciary; Serbia


In October 2000, after years of façade democracy widely identified with Milošević’s autocratic rule, Serbia entered a genuine process of democratization. In the aftermath of the authoritarian regime, one of the top priorities was to adapt judiciary to democratic governance, because during the period of Milošević rule, the judiciary became the most corrupted branch of the government, completely deferential and obedient to its will. The judicial reform was implemented upon the set of laws adopted in December 2008 and the comprehensive reapportionment of all judges and prosecutors initiated at the same time. By January 2010, more than 700 of the 3,000 judges, who had permanent tenure, left non-elected and practically dismissed in nontransparent selection process. Under strong pressure from EU institutions, in 2011 the government initiated a decision to review process which amounted to travesty of justice again. Finally, in 2012 the Serbian Constitutional Court delivered several decisions by which it reinstated all unelected judges and prosecutors to their posts and practically nullified the entire judicial reform. As a result, justice in Serbia is still administered by highly compromised judiciary incapable to resist still present undue political influence. The main aim of this article is to demonstrate that the major cause of unsuccessful judicial reform is ‘politicization of judiciary’. The article is divided into two parts. The first part will present the path of judicial reform in Serbia. The second part will address the legal grounds enabling ‘politicization of judiciary’ to be one of the enduring features of the transition in Serbia.

About the author: Violeta Beširević – Professor of Law, Union University Law School, Belgrade, Serbia.

Citation: Beshirevich V. (2016) Mif o sudebnoy reforme v Serbii [The myth of judicial reform in Serbia]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.5, pp.105–116. (In Russian).


Beširević V. (2009) Dancing with Judiciary? What Went Wrong with Judicial Reform in Serbia? European Review of Public Law, vol.21, no.4, pp.1551–1576.

Beširević V. (2012) Transitional Constitutionalism in Serbia: Is the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty? In: Beširević V. (ed.) Public Law in Serbia: Twenty Years After, London: European Public Law Organization & Esperia Publications Ltd, pp.23–55.

Beširević V. (2014) Governing without Judges: The Politics of the Constitutional Court in Serbia. International Journal of Constitutional Law, vol.12, no.4, pp.954–979.

Beširević V., Trbovich A. (2015) New Challenges of Democracy in Serbia: Global Issues in Local Perspective. In: New Challenges of Democracy, London: European Public Law Organization & Esperia Publications, pp.438–449.

The Federalist Papers. New York: Bantam Books, 1982.

Holmes S. (2004) Judicial Independence as Ambiguous Reality and Insidious Illusion. In: Dworkin R. et al. (eds.) From Liberal Values to Democratic Transition: Essays in Honor of János Kis, Budapest; New York: CEU Press, pp.3–14.

Ivošević Z. (2001) Kriza i obnova sudstva. In: Trkulja J. (prir.) Kriza i reforma pravosuđa, Beograd: Centar za unapredjivanje pravnih studija, pp.43–44. (In Serbian, cyrillic).

Karamarković L. (2001) Stanje pravosuđa i uzroci krize. In: Trkulja J. (prir.) Kriza i reforma pravosuđa, Beograd: Centar za unapredjivanje pravnih studija, pp.9–17. (In Serbian, cyrillic).

Kelsen H. (1967) Pure Theory of Law, M.Knight (transl.), Berkeley: University of California Press.

Marinković T. (2009) O ustavnosti opšteg reizbora sudija. Anali Pravnog fakulteta u Beogradu, vol.LVII, no.1, pp.283–291. (In Serbian, cyrillic).

Marković R. (2006) Ustav Republike Srbije iz 2006 – kritički pogled. Anali Pravnog fakulteta u Beogradu, vol.LIV, no.2, pp.5–46. (In Serbian, cyrillic).

Martinez J.S. (2102) Horizontal Structuring. In: Rosenfeld M., Sajó A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.548–551.

Rakić-Vodinelić V. (2004) Pravosuđe i civilno društvo u Srbiji i Crnoj Gori. In: Vujadinović D. et al. (eds.) Između autoritarizma i demokratije: Srbija, Crna Gora, Hrvatska. Beograd: CEDET, pp.362–366. (In Serbian, cyrillic).

Rakić-Vodinelić V., Knežević-Bojović A., Reljanović M. (2012) Reforma pravosuđa u Srbiji: 2008–2012. Beograd: Pravni fakultet Univerziteta Union u Beogradu; Službeni glasnik. (In Serbian, cyrillic).

Sajó A. (1993) Preferred Generations: A Paradox of Restoration Constitutions. Cardozo Law Review, vol.14, no.4, pp.847–863.

Sajó A. (1999) Limiting Government: An Introduction to Constitutionalism, Budapest: CEU Press.

Smilov D. (2012) The Judiciary: The Least Dangerous Branch? In: Rosenfeld M., Sajó A. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.859–873.

Vodinelić V. (2001) Pravosuđe bez prava: odgovornost sudija za kršenje zakona. In: Trkulja J. (prir.) Kriza i reforma pravosuđa. Beograd: Centar za unapredjivanje pravnih studija, pp.18–33. (In Serbian, cyrillic).