The Protector of Citizens Mr. Zoran Pašalić was guest in the Morning Program on Radio-television of Serbia.
We’re back to the topic of the pandemic and the what’s on - do the vaccinated pay the toll for the unvaccinated? Could one of the sanctions for all those who attend parties and mass gatherings, spreading the infection, be community service in Covid hospitals? And these are just some of the suggestions that we’ve heard in the previous days from members of the Crisis Response Team, both from doctors and politicians. We’re talking with Mr. Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, about whose rights are endangered in combatting the virus and whether such ideas would be legally based. Since 9 o'clock last night, everything has been locked for five days. What do you think about the latest proposal that has been discussed for several days - members of the Crisis Response Team suggest that the vaccinated be rewarded in some way, not to pay the toll because the other ones are not unvaccinated, how does it all sound to you, should there be a reward and punishment?
It is the right of every citizen to choose whether he/she will be vaccinated or not. Certainly, since I was vaccinated, I cannot speak against the vaccine, but it’s not possible to make some sort of division of the population of Serbia on that basis, whether or not they have been vaccinated. I know about those ideas and I know that there were ideas that those who were vaccinated or revaccinated, could attend sports events, concerts, cultural events in general, unlike those who were not.
But doctors also suggest that, and that, for example, has already become viable in Israel. They have some kind of green passes, those who have got the vaccine can enter clubs, concerts, and the others can only be in front. So you're saying it's discrimination?
No, I'm not saying it's discrimination. Article 14 of the Convention on Human Rights deals with discrimination and maybe if interpreted more broadly it could be categorized there, although it lists exhaustively what is considered discrimination. I'm talking about the fact that it is everyone's choice whether to be vaccinated or not, and that in that way no one can really be put in a subordinate position.
And where is the line between human dignity and the Law on Protection of Population from Infectious Diseases?
Good question. The limit is that all measures that are undertaken must be taken as a whole, and very rigorously. Only in that way will we really get the effect of these measures.
How can we get the effect of these measures? When we were preparing for this interview, what did you tell me? You suggest that it be done on the spot, what to be done?
You see, there were ideas about so-called community work. This is one of the suggestions, and then to do PCR testing of people caught illegally in clubs, meaning those who work illegally or who are at illegal parties, so that if they are infected, they are introduced into the category of persons who have been committing a crime. This criminal act can only be premeditated, and it is very difficult to prove in court that it is an act committed with intent.
As for the former, it is also one of the bigger problems. I will only give you data for Belgrade, out of around 100,000 enforceable decisions, only 1% refers to community service work. Why? According to the law, community service must first be accepted by the person against whom this type of sanction has been imposed. So, you can't force anyone to community service work.
Yes, we have now moved on to another topic, which is community service work. But let's just finish with the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Should they be rewarded? That, for example, has come to life in America, grandparents who got vaccine can see their grandchildren. So, you as the Protector of Citizens are absolutely against such a solution?
You see, if the medical experts said that, they also said this. That the acquisition of immunity is individual. Firstly, each of us carries a different immunity, and secondly, it is age-related, regardless of which vaccine we received. Does the very act of revaccination guarantee that you won’t get the virus and won’t infect anybody else? It should take some time, what time it is and who’s checking it, whether each time these people go public they are tested for the antibodies they have, to make sure that even if they get Covid, it will pass in an easier form? It seems pretty simple, but it’s not that easy.
Yes. So, the vaccinated attending matches, going to concerts will hardly come to life.
I don’t know that.
A bit difficult to put into action.
That I don’t know. I know that we have said many times that the majority that observes these measures should not absolutely suffer because the minority, and the largest minority, deliberately, so, voluntarily violates these measures, whether they are parties in privately owned houses, flats, in places that close at certain hour and do not operate legally, not to mention a number of other measures. Then, shopping malls, one thing is not clear to me, and that is if the cubature and square footage of a shopping mall entail the safety of a certain number of citizens, why citizens then aren't allowed in successively - a number enters, when that number comes out, not as a whole but individually, then you let others in.
Okay. Dr. Predrag Kon spoke about community service for everyone who at parties, and turns out positive, he has said that they might be useful in Covid hospitals, the medical workers are not the only ones necessary there.
If they agree to help in Covid hospitals. Because, as I said, for community service you must have the consent of the person against whom the sentence was imposed. Certainly, if someone starts doing community service in the public interest, which can range in the interval from 20 to 320 hours, and then quits it, every eight hours of community service is replaced by one day of imprisonment.
So, he/she can’t be forced to work?
No, that can’t be done. There are, how to put it, a range of requirements for community service. First, he/she needs to give consent and then that work must not be an insult to his dignity. These are two grounds.
So how do you sanction those people, what’s the most effective way?
You see, it is not that the Protector of Citizens suggests what I’m about to tell you. But, what we did while I was in Misdemeanor Court proved to be very efficient, and that is the implementation of Article 308 of the Law on Misdemeanor which has long existed in the Law on Misdemeanors and has changed only the number not the essence. It states that, when a person, is violating a regulation, decision, law that person is immediately being prosecuted, sanctioned and that the sentence is enforced immediately. Be it an alternative prison and money, be it cumulative, both prison and money, and be it is also a protective measure, community service.
So, sanction on the spot. Thank you for speaking for Dnevnik.