September 17, 2015 - Issue: Vol. 161, No. 134 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 1st Session
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 134
(Extensions of Remarks - September 17, 2015)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Page E1312] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA _____ HON. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN of maryland in the house of representatives Thursday, September 17, 2015 Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise on the occasion of the visit of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to the United States and his meeting with Vice President Biden, to add my voice to the international criticism about human rights and the rule of law in the Republic of Serbia. In December 2012, Miroslav Miskovic, the president of Delta Holding was arrested and charged with a crime based on an outdated, internationally discredited provision of the Serbian criminal code that is a relic of the nation's communist past. He was charged with ``abuse of position by a responsible person'' (Article 234) for allegedly receiving market rate interest payments on legitimate commercial loans to a Serbian road construction company that was privatized in 2005. This is not only legal, but common in other European Countries. The State Department and the European Union have criticized Miskovic's arrest as an example of the ineffective judiciary, excessive use of pretrial detention and a denial of fair public trials. The State Department Human Rights Report states that Mr. Miskovic's pretrial detention was ``contrary to the well-established position of the European Court of Human Rights on the issue, that custody must not only be lawful, but also reasonable and necessary.'' The European Union, as part of Serbia's EU accession process, has called on the government to reform the provision of the Serbian criminal code under which Mr. Miskovic and 4,168 other individuals are charged. Mr. Miskovic's arrest is indicative of the Serbian justice system's serious need for reform. With Prime Minister Vucic's visit, the Serbian government is seeking to foster closer ties to the United States as it continues its efforts to join the European Union. While I share the U.S. government's appreciation for Serbia's contribution to Balkan stabilization, I believe any U.S. support for improved relations or for Serbian accession to the EU should depend on that country's commitment to political reform, the addressing of the lack of transparency in the government and genuine efforts to increase the independence of its judiciary. The repeal of Article 234 would go a long way toward establishing those goals. ____________________