The Protector of Citizens issued an Opinion to the Ministry of Justice on 31 March 2020 as follows:

“On 26 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia informed the public that a letter was issued to courts, that will conduct proceedings against persons who violated self-isolation measures, to organize these trials via a video link, in order to protect both employees and persons against whom proceedings are being conducted.

Bearing in mind that the first first-instance verdicts finding the defendants guilty of the criminal offense Failure to Comply with the Health Regulations during the Epidemic under Article 248 of the Criminal Code were passed and that they were sentenced to imprisonment, that the court proceedings were conducted via a video link (Skype), as well as that, according to information from the media, hundreds of criminal charges were filed due to suspicion that this offence was committed, the Protector of Citizens believes that, in the conditions of the state of emergency, the Ministry should take measures within its competence to enable access to alternative means and assets of communication (Skype) between the defendant and defense attorney in a separate room without third parties present, with video, not audio, surveillance, without 30 minutes restriction on communication duration, in order to create necessary conditions for conducting confidential conversation and preparation of the defendant’s defense.

The Protector of Citizens reminds of the necessity to observe the rights of the defendant from Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which refers to the right to a fair trial, Article 33 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia paired with Article 68 of the Criminal Procedure Code related to the defendant’s special rights, Article 69 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which refers to the rights of the person arrested, and Article 85 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which is applied during the interrogation of the defendant.

Article 202, paragraph 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia stipulates that after the declaration of a state of emergency or war, derogations from human and minority rights guaranteed by the Constitution are permitted, but only to the extent deemed necessary. Article 202, paragraph 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia states that measures of derogation are in no case permitted in terms of the right guaranteed pursuant Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which envisages the right to a fair trial. "