Women profiles: Radmila Dragicevic-Dicic

The ICJ has launched a new women’s rights defenders profile series, beginning with ICJ Commissioner and Justice of the Supreme Court of Serbia, Radmila Dragicevic-Dicic.

The monthly profile series, introducing the work of ICJ Commissioners and Honorary Members on women’s rights, has been launched to coincide with the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and the first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.

The Judges Association of Serbia was established by Radmila and others in 1997, during the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. The Association was formed under the slogan ‘I do not agree’ in opposition to the misuse of the judiciary. Many women were involved in this fight against corruption and in protection of the independence of the judiciary.

In the year 2000, shortly before the fall of Milosevic, Radmila was one of fifteen judges that were dismissed because of their opposition to the repressive regime; although she was quickly reinstated following the elections that took place later that year.

During the civil war period in the 1990s, violence against women grew significantly and domestic violence was rampant in Serbia. Radmila, and other women in the judiciary, worked on issues of organized crime and human trafficking and they were brave to do so as the State couldn’t guarantee their security.

Radmila spoke of women’s continued obstacles in accessing justice and the important of protecting victims of violence. She commented that some States still lack the facilities, resources, personnel and awareness to provide adequate protection for victims.

Human trafficking continues to be one of the biggest problems that affects women, not only in Europe but globally. Justice Dragicevic-Dicic said it was beneficial for those working on women’s rights to share their experiences and learn from one another. Although the motivations and circumstances of women trafficked in different parts of the world may vary, all these women are subject to the same kinds of violence.

In the Serbian constitution, human trafficking is categorized as a crime against humanity and is taken very seriously, although this was not always the case.

Radmila spoke of one case she presided over that helped her to understand what it meant to be a victim. The case concerned two Ukrainian students who had dreamt of going to work in Germany to earn some money for their families but were trafficked into prostitution. She said that this case helped her to understand that anyone can be a victim.

It is everyone’s right to have dreams and to be naïve but no-one has the right to violate your rights.  Radmila works to raise awareness amongst other judges that their role is not to judge the victims but those that have exploited them.

There remains a number of issues for victims of trafficking that Justice Dragicevic-Dicic highlighted, including ensuring the non-punishment, safety and protection of victims as well as addressing their access to compensation. Even where the offender isn’t known, victims are still entitled to the full rights of a victim within criminal proceedings.

The judiciary and independent organizations, like the Association of Serbian Judges and the International Commission of Jurists, have an important role in protecting the rights of women. Radmila explained that this can be done through promoting international standards, ensuring that victims are made visible and ensuring that States understand their responsibilities and obligations.

Judicial education on gender-based violence is important, not just in countries undergoing transitional periods, but for all countries where regional and/or international standards have been developed.

Radmila advised anyone interested in defending women’s rights that this work can be done from any position or microsystem that an individual or group is operating in, providing they take the time to educate themselves and build awareness. What is important is that as many people as possible come together to promote and protect women’s rights. Progress can be made, even if this is little by little.

“Sometimes you think you are doing little and you feel hopeless”, said Radmila,  “but then I always say if you put a little seed somewhere then it will grow, after you leave, in one year, two years it’s always worth it.”

Watch the video interview:

The series of profiles introducing the work of ICJ Commissioners and Honorary Members on women’s rights was launched on 25 November 2016 to coincide with the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women and the first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.

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