Today, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić pointed out that domestic violence was not a problem of an individual family but of the whole society, and he advocated that victims of domestic violence, most frequently women and children, be provided with an urgent examination by forensic doctors to establish evidence of the committed act and determine a cause-and-effect link between the act and the consequences of the violence.
“We demand that domestic violence victims be enabled to immediately and properly record what happened before going to court, so that it does not happen, what happens in a vast majority of cases, that the victim changes his/her statement during the court procedure” Mr. Pašalić said on the occasion of presenting “Protector of Citizens’ Special Report on the Work of Groups for Coordination and Cooperation in the City of Belgrade territory " in the Palace of Serbia which was attended in-person by nearly 30 representatives of prosecutor's offices, courts, social welfare centers, misdemeanor courts, other state authorities and NGOs, while around 70 participants followed the presentation of the special report via Zoom.
Mr. Pašalić highlighted that check-ups of the domestic violence victims should be carried out at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Belgrade, but also in other major centers in Serbia, so that even if the victim later changed his/her statement and denied experiencing violence, the perpetrator of the violence would be appropriately punished.
At present, we have a situation where a domestic violence victim goes to the Emergency Center where traumas are identified, but the cause-and-effect link of violence is not established, thus leaving room for the perpetrator not to be punished for the committed acts, Mr. Pašalić added.
The Protector of Citizens stated that such examinations would be affordable and emphasized that he would ask local self-governments, courts, prosecutor's offices and the police to uphold the project, and forensic medicine professors to organize trainings for addressing domestic violence cases.
The Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mr. Gilles Beschoor Plug, stated that domestic violence still existed not only in Serbia but also in all countries, including the Netherlands, and expressed satisfaction that the Dutch Embassy could support such initiatives in our country.
A member of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Ms. Genoveva Tisheva, joined the presentation via Zoom application and pointed out that paying attention to violence against women at the time of the pandemics was of critical importance, and that the Committee did not wish for the impunity of the perpetrators to be continued.
She also drew attention to a case pending before the CEDAW Committee based on an application filed by a civil society organization v. Moldova related to domestic violence against a woman with a disability resulting in tragic consequences due to the failure of the competent authorities to take measures. In addition to monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in the Convention member states and issuing concluding comments and recommendations to the states, the Committee is drafting a Guide for the Implementation of Committee General Comment No. 35 on Gender-Based Violence against Women.
Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights and Gender Equality, Ms. Jelena Stojanović stated that in order to achieve success in preventing domestic violence, in addition to the existing sound normative framework, there was a need for continuous education of employees handling domestic violence cases paired with sufficient number of professional staff in Social Welfare Centers, which the Protector of Citizens has frequently pointed out and required the Ministry of Labor to ensure it.
During the presentation of the report, Ms. Stojanović stated that it was necessary to work on improving the knowledge of all citizens to recognize violence and to react when they notice it, emphasizing that although the report referred to cases in the City of Belgrade, we must reach out to every citizen of Serbia in every part of Serbia.
During the event, Ms. Stojanović and the representatives of the Autonomous Women's Center, Ms. Vanja Macanović and Ms. Tanja Ignjatović, presented the gathered data, conclusions and recommendations.
The special report is the starting point for the project "Effective Policies and Unified Practices in Support to and Protection of Domestic Violence Survivors ", implemented by the Autonomous Women's Center, in cooperation with the Protector of Citizens and the Forum of Judges of Serbia, with the financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Protector of Citizens and the NGO Autonomous Women’s Center, with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, drafted the report.