The Court of Human Rights will deliver Grand Chamber judgment in the case of Vučković and Others v. Serbia.  This case concerns the payment of allowances to all reservists who served in the Yugoslav Army during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s intervention in Serbia between March and June 1999.

The applicants are 30 Serbian nationals who were all reservists drafted by the Yugoslav Army during NATO’s intervention in Serbia.  Because of this, they were entitled to a per diem rate for their service. After the demobilization, the Serbian Government allegedly refused to honor their obligation to the reservists and withheld their per diem payments.  The reservists conducted public protests and on January 11, 2008, the Government accepted to pay allowances to some of the reservists, particularly those reservists residing in seven municipalities considered to be “underdeveloped”.

The applicants who were not residents of those municipalities were not paid and sought payment in Serbian courts claiming discrimination.  The claims were rejected, but the Constitutional Court ultimately ruled in the applicants’ favor and ordered its decision to be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, considering this to be sufficient redress.

This clearly was not satisfactory to the Applicants and rightfully so. Applicants, rely on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 (general prohibition of discrimination). They complain of discrimination concerning the payment of the per diems in question and lodged their complaint with the ECHR on February 14, 2011.

On August 28, 2012, the Chamber held (6-1) that there was a violation of Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. The Court found that the allowances had clearly been per diems, not social benefits, and that the Serbian Government’s response to the entire situation had been arbitrary since the reservists from the seven “underdeveloped” municipalities had never been under any obligation to prove their indigence.

The Court also indicated, under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments), that because there were thousands of similar applications pending before it – Serbia had to ensure, within six months from the date of the Chamber judgment becoming final, non-discriminatory payment of the war per diems to all those entitled. In the meantime, the Court adjourned all similar pending applications. On November 26, 2012, the Government requested the case be referred to the Grand Chamber and the Grand Chamber granted that request.

How do you think the Grand Chamber will decide this case?  Do you think that the arbitrariness of the Serbian Government will be sanctioned? Do you think this was true discrimination or was there another motivation behind not paying them? What kind of public policy issues will this situation cause if some reservists are not being paid to fight for their nation?




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