Ombudsman Zoran Pašalić said today that in the past 10 years, the Institution of the Ombudsman received 725 complaints from the residents of Leskovac, which, he said, mainly concerned the property-legal and socio-economic sphere.

After talking with the citizens of Leskovac, representatives of the local government, non-governmental organizations, public institutions and businesses, Pašalić said that the number of complaints from residents of that city is decreasing from year to year and that in most cases they concern problems not only typical for Leskovac, but for the whole of Serbia.

The transition to an entirely different property rights system has brought many problems. Citizens in Leskovac, as well as other cities, also complained about the environment and illegal landfills. He said that, in cases when cooperation with local self-governments is good, problems related to local governments can be resolved very quickly.

“However, the biggest problems we have are with local governments, and by that I do not mean in Leskovac. Only persistence, frequent visits and more conversations will give us specific results. If one does not open up to the citizens, but rather thinks that he is there for his own sake, it is very unlikely that the situation in that local self-government will be good and that citizens will be satisfied”, Pašalić said.

According to him, the citizens of Serbia “know astonishingly little” about the powers of the Protector of Citizens. “The amendments to the Law on the Protector of Citizens should strengthen the capacities of the Ombudsman institution, but my goal is to solve some systemic problems during my term of office that would in turn solve some individual problems, or to solve some individual problems that would solve some systemic problems, which is not easy at all”, said Pašalić.

He stated that currently, in his work, attempts of politicization of the work of the Protector of Citizens bother him the most. “I know that I will change the fact that the Protector of Citizens is seen as a political body. The Protector of Citizens is not a non-government organization nor a civil society organization, but a state institution, an independent one, that only accounts to the Serbian Parliament”, Pašalić said.

Stating that Leskovac is the ninth city in the past year in which citizens have had the opportunity to speak directly with the Protector of Citizens, Pašalić announced that by the end of the year, the “Day of the Protector of Citizens” will be organized in four more cities, but that visits will also be organized in the future because, as he added, not all citizens have the opportunity to come to Belgrade to the institution's headquarters.

The Ombudsman, Zoran Pašalić and the Mayor of Leskovac, Goran Cvetanović, attended the opening of the renovated premises of the Social Welfare Center in that city today.

The visit to Leskovac was realized within the project of increasing the accessibility of the Protector of Citizens to citizens living in the interior of Serbia. The project is implemented by the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia with the financial support of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Serbia.

In 2018, more than 9,000 citizens addressed the Institution of the Protector of Citizens, and nearly 3,400 complaints were received in which the citizens pointed to the violations of their rights.

This is what the Ombudsman, Zoran Pašalić, said today when presenting the report on the work of his institution in 2018 in the Serbian Parliament, which stated that last year the Protector of Citizens made 297 recommendations to the administration bodies.

Of the total number of referrals made, 144 were related to gender equality. The largest number of citizens' complaints in 2018 concerned the work of representatives of the executive branch, especially the ministries, about 20 percent of all complaints, as Pašalić said. According to him, the number of complaints related to the work of local self-government units accounts for about 13 percent of the total complaints.

Citizens also complained about the work of the judicial authorities, 11 percent of all complaints. The majority of citizens complained about the violations of rights in the area of good governance, economic and social sphere, Pašalić added.
He said that the complaints were about existential problems and unemployment, but also about the inefficient state administration, which is silent when it should act for the benefit of citizens.

There were frequent violations or denials of citizens' rights in the work of administrative bodies, as well as repetitions of the same or similar problems in their work, Pašalić said. On the other hand, the Protector of Citizens also noted more intensive activities of the Serbian Government in modernizing the work of the state administration through the development and implementation of various electronic services. The progress is reflected in serious approach and more frequent implementation of activities aimed at improving the human resources in the field of good governance, Pašalić said.

The Protector of Citizens said at the beginning of his presentation that he was sorry that MPs were not present in larger number that day, adding that there were no politics, political affinities and animosities in the report and actions of the Protector of Citizens. He emphasized that human and minority rights and freedoms are the fundamental values on which, in addition to the rule of law, social justice, the principles of civil democracy, the Republic of Serbia is based.

On 22 March 2016 at the General Assembly of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) in Geneva Ombudsman Saša Janković received a certificate of re-accreditation in the highest A status as a National institution for the promotion and protection of human rights, for the period from 2015 to 2020.
It was the first time The United Nations first accredited an ombudsman as a National Institution for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights with the highest "A" status in 2010 for a five-year period.
The International Coordinating Committee brings together national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights recognized by the UN and accredits them according to the compatibility of work and responsibilities of human rights institutions in accordance with the Paris Principles.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Protector of Citizens welcomes the resolution of the Government of Serbia which, after one and a half years, accepted his recommendation to stop the incorrect and unlawful collection of the solidarity tax and to refund any amounts already collected. The Ombudsman regrets that this had not been done earlier to avoid the additional financial burden for the citizens.

Acting on the complaints filed by dozens of women and organisations, the Protector of Citizens investigated the operations of the Tax Administration of the Ministry of Finance in March 2014 and found the solidarity tax was not levied only on monthly salaries higher than RSD 60,000, as was required by the statute, but also on multiple monthly salaries which were paid cumulatively to pregnant women in arrears.

The Protector of Citizens immediately recommended that the Ministry of Finance stop the unlawful and incorrect levying of the solidarity tax in those instances and refund any amounts unlawfully assessed and collected, but the Ministry of Finance refused to comply with those recommendations even after three meetings between the Minister of Finance and the Protector of Citizens and persisted in its incorrect application of the law. It was only after yesterday’s meeting between the Protector of Citizens and the Prime Minister in which the two discussed this matter that the Government passed a resolution which ordered the Ministry of Finance to remedy this error.

Ombudsman Saša Janković, professor Vesna Rakić – Vodinelić, and Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection Rodoljub Šabić were awarded the “Dragoljub Stošić” Civil Courage Charter for 2015 today.
The decision on the winners was made unanimously by a four-member jury consisting of Olgica Batić, Ratko Božović, Predrag Koraksić and Danilo Šuković, stating in the explanation that it was about people who had dedicated their lives to common good - the fight for society and not for themselves.
As a member of the jury Danilo Šuković said at the award ceremony that they fought for morality, truth and social justice and against immorality, lies, and corruption.
As for Ombudsman Saša Janković, the explanation stated that he had borne a huge burden while serving as Ombudsman - defending those whose rights and dignity was threatened. In his work, he had been the victim of a political and media lynching and arrogance of those in power, due to disclosing unpleasant facts, the jury’s statement said.

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