Significant changes to the Criminal Code

On 21 May 2019, the National Assembly of the Republic of the Serbia adopted Bill amending and modifying the Criminal Code (“the Law”), published in the Official Gazette No. 40/2019 dated 21 May, 2019, effective on the 1 December 2019.

The most important change in the Law is the introduction of a life imprisonment sentence, instead of imprisonment from thirty to forty years. The Law also prescribes restrictions on the pronouncement of this punishment, which have remained the same as the restrictions for pronouncing the punishment for thirty to forty years of imprisonment. A life imprisonment sentence can only be prescribed for the most serious criminal offences or the most serious forms of criminal offence. The life imprisonment sentence cannot be imposed on persons who did not reach the age of twenty-one years at the time when criminal offence was committed. If there is a legal basis for mitigating the sentence or for the release from punishment, a life imprisonment sentence cannot be imposed. According to the newly amendment to the Law is that there is no statute of limitation for offences for which the life imprisonment sentence is prescribed. Persons sentenced to life imprisonment have the right to parole if they have served a 27-year sentence. Deadline for revoking the parole is 10 years form the day on which the convicted person was released on parole. Release on parole is not possible for following criminal offences, aggravated murders, rape, sexual intercourse with a helpless person, sexual intercourse with a child and sexual intercourse through abuse of position. In addition to introducing the life imprisonment sentence, more severe punishments are prescribed for persons who repeat offence or who repeat offence multiple times. The provisions relating to following criminal offences, endangering air traffic safety, endangering air traffic safety by violence, hijacking an aircraft, ship or other means of transport, recruitment and training for terrorist acts, endangering of person under international protection and financing terrorism have been amended to bring the Criminal Code fully harmonized with the FATF Recommendation no. 5 on the terrorism financing.

Amendments to Law were made on the initiative of the Foundation “Tijana Jurić” submitted to the National Assembly on November 9, 2017, which was supported by 158,460 citizens of the Republic of Serbia. The initiative concerned the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment for offenses against life and sexual offenses in cases where the result of a committed criminal offense is death of a child, a minor, a pregnant woman and an impotent person. The legislator deems that the amendments made achieve the goal of fairness and proportionality between the criminal offense committed and the severity of the punishment. The other reason for amending the Law is the need to harmonize domestic criminal legislation with the highest international standards relating to the prevention of terrorist financing.