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JURIST's Yugoslavia Correspondents are: Dr. Obrad Stanojevic, professor of Roman Law, Comparative Law, and Rhetoric at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, and previously Visiting Professor at the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, and Milan Parivodic, LL.M. (Lond.), M.Sci., Attorney-at-Law and assistant lecturer in Civil Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade.
[Belgrade; Special to JURIST] As all other aspects of social life, the legal system of Yugoslavia is in a stage of heavy crisis. The crisis pervades all areas of law: constitutional, administrative, civil, commercial and economic, criminal, et alia. Personal and party authorities are effectively controlling state institutions. Institutions of the state and society are weak - individuals are strong; the authority of particular institutions depends on the political prestige of the people who occupy it. A strong influence by top executive branch officials (party oligarchs) is exerted upon the legislative and judicial branches, and also upon inferior state administration. Therefore, the division of powers between branches of government is weak. These facts bear ultimate importance in understanding the current status of law in Yugoslavia.

Having legislative competencies, and serving as the executive of the executive branch, the Federal and Republican Parliaments not seldom adopt laws (statutes) with a view of the short-term interests of the executive. Laws are being enacted in a fast-track procedure, without a true parliamentary debate (let alone a broader social debate), and in reaction to the crisis needs of those who ordered its enactment. (A radical example of this legislative practice were the amandmends adopted to the Federal Constitution this summer.) Secondly, legislative matters in constitutional competencies of the Parliaments are often regulated or derogated by Federal or Republican Government's regulations and other subordinate legislation. The said enactments sometimes contain provisions which contradict the Federal and Republican Constitutions or statutes. The Constitutional courts (Federal and Republican) do not always react in time, or even deny petitions claiming inapplicability of such provisions (sometimes on issues critical to the future of the state, like the appointment of the Montenegrin representatives to the Council of Nations of the Federal Parliament). Thus the law-rendering process is in crisis.

The law enforcement process is in crisis as well, as state administration and the courts are increasingly influenced by pressure groups (the executive, party oligarchies). The professionals appointed to these institutions (judges, heads of administrative bodies), at all instances (municipal, circuit, Republican, Federal), not seldom are chosen as politically reliable figures for those who selected them. Normally, this fact is reflected in the law enforcement process, where pressure group interests are present, and in consequence thereto, rights cannot always be efficiently protected. Sometimes undisguised partiality can be detected in the behavior and decisions of civil servants. Besides political influences, one cannot underestimate the influence of plain bribery (or the combination of both) upon the law enforcement process, as the salaries of civil servants and the judiciary are inappropriately low.

In spite of this pessimistic picture of the situation present, a potential for change and improvement exists in the Yugoslav legal system. From a comparative viewpoint (professional, academic), Yugoslavia does have a number of good laws, some of them being very good (i.e. Law on Obligational Relations), which mainly need professional enforcement. Numerous respectable and knowledgeable (sometimes outstanding) judges, prosecutors, attorneys at law, and civil servants occupy the arenas of practical law, and yearn for ressurection of their profession. Yugoslavia has able practitioners and theoreticians who can draft modern laws, abolish bad ones, and revise those in need of updating (foreign experience and advice is always helpful). These good laws and conscientious professionals are the locomotives of future changes.

This brief introduction serves as a preface to a series of articles aimed at informing the international legal community on particular fields of Yugoslav law, and its current issues and dilemmas.

Milan Parivodic, LL.M. (London),M.Sci. (Belgrade)
JURIST Yugoslavia Correspondent

Assistant Lecturer
Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade

June 1, 2000


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