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The Protector of Citizens highlighted that the legal deadline for initiating judicial proceedings for determining facts on “missing babies”, which expires on 11 September 2020, should be extended for more than a month and a half i.e. for the duration of the state of emergency proclaimed due to the coronavirus epidemic as the deadlines in court proceedings were suspended in that period pursuant to Government’s Decree.

Accordingly, the Protector of Citizens calls the courts to take into account the Government’s Decree on the deadlines in court proceedings during the state of emergency proclaimed on 15 March 2020, which entered into force on 20 March 2020. Article 1 of the Decree specifies that the deadlines for initiating non-contentious procedure (pursuant to which the proceedings for establishing facts on “missing babies” are also conducted) cease to run over the state of emergency.

The Decree of the Government of Serbia ceased to be valid on the day when the state of emergency was lifted on 6 May 2020 at which point the deadlines started running again.

“The problem of 'missing babies', which has not been solved for many years now and which is a harsh mark for our society, must get its epilogue, according to the Law. That is why we will endeavor to end the cases of 'missing babies' within the legally prescribed conditions, in order for parents to finally get the truth they have been waiting for decades in court proceedings”, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, stated.

The Protector of Citizens has used and will be using his legal right, on behalf of parents and any other person authorized to participate in resolving these cases, to petition the Court for ascertaining the facts on the status of a newborn infant suspected to have disappeared from maternity wards in Serbia, Mr. Pašalić has said adding that he has filed several such petitions to the court.

The Protector of Citizens has pointed out that the deadline for initiating the procedure prescribed by the Law on Determining the Facts on the Status of Newborn Infants Suspected to Have Disappeared from Maternity Wards in the Republic of Serbia, which entered into force on 11 March 2020, should be extended for another 47 days during which the deadlines for initiating these proceedings were brought to a halt due to the state of emergency.

Article 17 of the Law specifies the deadline for initiating proceedings before the court within six months from entering into force, so according to the Law, 11 September 2020 is the last day of the deadline. As the deadlines for initiating new proceedings ceased to run from 20 March 2020 to 6 May 2020, the Protector of Citizens believes that the deadline for instigating the proceedings for ascertaining the facts on missing babies should be extended.

Article 15 of the Law on Establishing Facts on the Status of Newborn Infants Suspected to Have Disappeared from Maternity Wards in the Republic of Serbia stipulates that a petition for ascertaining facts on the status of newborn infants suspected to have disappeared from a maternity ward in the Republic of Serbia, may be filed by the Protector of Citizens on behalf of parents and other authorized persons.