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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 26 DEC 1995 21:28:52 GMT

    Those who refused to go to war, left without inheritance

    "UNWORTHY" INHERITORS

    AIM Belgrade, December 17, 1995

    Vojkan S. left his native Belgrade four years ago right after the war flared up in the former Yugoslav space. He was 17 at the time, and his mother sent him to study English in London for a year. Neither she nor he dreamt that Vojkan's return to his homeland would be connected with almost insurmountable obstacles, especially not that he might be left without anything in the world, the family house in Belgrade inclusive. But, by a stroke of destiny, the mother fell seriously ill and died, Vojkan S. was called upto join the army and realized that the war he would have been involved in was not his war. Nowadays, this 21-year old young man is doing all kinds of odd jobs in London in order to survive, while his 85-years old grandfather lives alone, with no relatives, in the mentioned house in the capital of the FR of Yugoslavia,. Should the old man die before the grand-son safely returns home without fear of the military police, their house and property will become property of - the state.

    Vojkan is just one of 300 thousand young, potential "unworthy inheritors", as the new Law on Inheritance of Serbia "christened" them, because they had left the country "in order to avoid their duty to defend it". That is the exact quotation of Article 4 of the new Serb Law on Inheritance which opens broad possibilities of snatching away that which is inviolable everywhere else in the world - private property. Adoption of such a provision is quite similar to the once known norms in socialist countries where assessment of someone's "moral eligibility" was often passed on to the court under the guise of "verbal delict". And while on the one hand, several years ago, confiscation of property as a side punishment in criminal proceedings was abolished in criminal laws of the republics of the SFRY, criminal responsibility is still inseparable from property rights on the other. Namely, three criminal acts are prescribed for avoiding military obligation, and several of them are listed in the Law on Offences too. But, the "side" sanction in this case - remains!

    A similar article on "unworthiness" of inheritors existed in the previous Law on Inheritance of Serbia, but this was at some other times, but the only ones who were mentioned as "unworthy" were those who had "avoided the obligation of military service". Now, however, the circle of those who are punished is broadened to all "conscripts". In other words, (since defence of the country includes "preparations and jobs of interest for the defence") recruits, reserve forces, those called up for military drill etc. What it means and what weight it carries in the circumstances of "war and political games" is not hard to see.

    A very concerned lady is persistently trying to get the Belgrade SOS service on the phone. Since both she and her husband are elderly, and as the time passes their concern grows for inheritance of their son who had also packed his suit-cases and went into the "wide world". To numerous questions who would proclaim their child "unworthy", and how anything of the kind could be proved, lawyers of this service patiently answer: If there is suspicion that someone has "deserted" in order to avoid the "obligation to defend the country" (the Law, indeed, does not clarify which country), the Court is obliged to establish whether he had actually left it with such an INTENTION. The relevant criterion for that is not the existence of a criminal sentence, but the intention can be proved in all kinds of ways, for instance, by questioning witnesses.

    If, on the other hand, a criminal sentence (e.g. for refusing to respond to a call-up or deserting from the Army of Yugoslavia) were competent, possible existence of the by now forgotten Law on Amnesty could prevent criminal prosecution of "military delinquents", and this means that they could not be proclaimed "unworthy of inheritance". Legal experts, in fact, claim that adoption of the Law on Amnesty would be of no help because amnesty is in fact a pardon of criminal responsibility or further court prosecution, but has nothing to do with inheritance law and unworthiness. Except that provisions on amnesty explicitly derogate from those in the Law on Inheritance by clearly stating that the amnestied persons will not be considered unworthy.

    Finally, what should those who will, by this article on "unworthiness", be prevented to inherit what actually belongs to them do? In our circumstances, the laws are obviously just a mere simulation of reality. Therefore, a legal advice for them would be to have the property transferred to them while the legator is still living. To put things simply, it would be recommendable to sign a contract on gifts or life-long supporting. But, these are legal nuances...

    Bojana Oprijan-Ilic