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Investigations

Mr. Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, drew attention to the increased risk of violence against women in emergencies such as the one with the coronavirus epidemic and urged the competent institutions to develop and advance mechanisms which would provide all sorts of assistance to women in those situations with the aim of empowering them, making them more independent and reporting violence.

On the occasion of 18 May, the National Day of Remembrance for Women Victims of Violence, Mr. Pašalić states that women with disabilities, women living in rural areas and Roma women, who were in vulnerable position before the pandemic, encounter most challenges in emergencies and emphasizes that the consequences of the pandemic - fear, uncertainty, poverty and economic insecurity increase the risk of amplifying domestic violence, which may result in tragic outcomes.

This was why, during the state of emergency, Mr. Pašalić initiated an amendment to the Regulation on the measures during the state of emergency of the Government of Serbia, so that victims of domestic violence would not be subject to measures prohibiting movement. On that occasion, he pointed out that it was necessary for the competent authorities to fully implement the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence, and that victims needed access to Safe Houses or other types of alternative housing, as well as to other measures of assistance and support during the state of emergency.

A big step towards improving the protection of women from domestic violence would be the adoption of the National Strategy for Preventing and Combating Violence against Women in Family and Intimate Partner Relationships, and the accompanying Action Plan, Mr. Pašalić claims.

Mr. Pašalić further explains that it is necessary to harmonize the Criminal Code with the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, and it is particularly necessary to consistently, comprehensively and timely implement the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence and other regulations.

Raising awareness of the absolute impermissibility of and culpability for gender-based violence contributes the most to suppression of violence against women, in which the media play an extremely important role. Furthermore, Mr. Pašalić accentuated that the media had to comply with professional standards and refrain from sensationalism, relativization and justifying the perpetrator in cases of murdering women and other types of gender-based violence.

In 2017, Serbian Government declared 18 May as the Day of Remembrance for Women Victims of Violence based on the proposal signed by 8000 female and male citizens, and endorsed by the Protector of Citizens. The date was chosen in memory of 16, 17 and 18 May 2015, when as many as seven women in Serbia were murdered in domestic and intimate-partner violence.

The fight for eight-hour work and better financial position of late 19th-century workers, continued by strikes and protests against employers in the ensuing decades, had developed from the onset the idea of the inviolability of human dignity and individual freedom. Mr. Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, said that we celebrated International Workers' Day, 1 May, in completely new circumstances in 2020 due to coronavirus epidemic and amid the state of emergency in

Serbia which in turn affected workers’ position and he added that the common element of all labor rights was the protection of human dignity, which was not called into question even during a state of emergency. The number of laid off workers, especially in the private sector, was still unknown to the public, while those who worked at their work premises were exposed to coronavirus infection in various ways and unfortunately many had died from the consequences of the infection. Mr. Pašalić underlined that in that war against an invisible enemy, healthcare workers were most at risk, together with salespersons, members of the police and the army, postmen, volunteers and journalists.

Citizens warn of violations of labor rights during the state of emergency, most often complaining that they have been fired or laid-off without explanation, forced to leave their children to go to work, but also to work in unsafe conditions, without protective equipment and prescribed work procedures. Mr. Pašalić underlined that as much as 20 percent of total number of citizens addresses to the Protector of Citizens was related to labor rights.

In the previous year, in the field of labor rights, citizens most often complained of harassment at work, arbitrariness and illegality when making a decision on termination of employment contract, non-payment, or irregular payment of wages and non-payment or irregular payment of social security contributions. Mr. Pašalić highlighted that they signaled untimely acting of the Labor Inspectorate, whose efficiency and quality of work was certainly affected by the number of labor inspectors, which was insufficient for efficient and quality work, and continued to complain about the untimely response of the National Pension and Disability Insurance Fund.

The health and working ability of the work force are critical factors in the overall socio-economic development of the country and the key to productivity, competitiveness and sustainable development, which is why this protection must be given close attention. Even though the number of occupational diseases has been decreasing in our country for years, the number of workplace accidents is on the rise, which is the reason for taking activities by the Protector of Citizens in the field of protection and safety at work.

In the coming period, the Protector of Citizens will pay attention to and protect the rights of entrepreneurs and SMEs, which are a significant factor in the economic life and prosperity of the country. As they state in their addresses, the current situation has made their business operation more difficult, which is the reason why the Protector of Citizens continues to monitor the exercise of citizens' rights in this area as well.

 

 

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Belgrade University, when advertising a competition for the election to the title of associate professor for the scientific field: Diseases of Ungulates, did not act in accordance with the Rulebook on the Manner and Procedure of Acquiring the Title and Entry into Employment Contract of Teachers and Associates of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the Protector of Citizens concluded

The Protector of Citizens received complaints by a large number of citizens who were not satisfied with the activities of the Tax Administration within the Ministry of Finance and the National Pension and Disability Insurance Fund (RF PIO) because the surplus contributions which they paid on their own for pension and disability insurance could not be recovered.

In order to protect human rights, the Protector of Citizens issued recommendations to the Tax Administration to address the RF PIO ex officio with a request for a Decision on the complainants’ established right to a recovery of surplus contributions paid for pension and disability insurance, and RF PIO should act upon the Tax Administration’s request. Among other things, it is stated in the Recommendation by the Protector of Citizens that the two bodies need to set up a mechanism of mutual cooperation and take measures from their respective competences in order to prevent similar omissions in the work of the authority’s organizational units.

During the Open Doors Day organized today, citizens complained to the Protector of Citizens Mr. Zoran Pašalić mostly about the violations of rights from the area of health care, pension and disability insurance, employment relations as well as about the work of courts, non-enforcement of court decisions, the work of the Tax Administration and existential problems. During the activity Open Doors Day, the Protector of Citizens personally conducts interviews with the citizens dissatisfied with the work of public administrative authorities in the Republic of Serbia. Today’s Open Doors Day was organized for the first time this year and more than 25 times in total, during which Mr. Zoran Pašalić spoke with more than 2000 citizens from Belgrade and from the interior of Serbia.

This form of communication with the citizens provides the Protector of Citizens with an immediate and more accurate insight into the everyday problems of the citizens that they face due to violations of their guaranteed human and minority rights.

The procedure of controlling the legality and regularity of the work of the Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy launched as the own-initiative procedure of the Protector of Citizens, after the death of two workers who were the citizens of Turkey in Čortanovci on 31 October 2019, resulted in filing criminal and misdemeanor charges in that case.

The Labor Inspectorate notified the Protector of Citizens that it filed a criminal charge with the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Inđija against the natural person who was handling the crane, as well as against the direct manager of the deceased workers. At the same time, a request was filed for initiating misdemeanor proceedings against the employer and the responsible person within the legal entity who did not register the workers to the competent Labor Inspection in a prescribed manner and within the prescribed deadline. In addition, a request was filed for initiating misdemeanor proceedings against the employer who employed the deceased workers, citizens of the Republic of Turkey because he did not obtain a working permit for them in accordance with the Law on Employment of Foreigners. After obtaining the mentioned notification, the Protector of Citizens closed the control procedure over the legality and regularity of the Labor Inspectorate.

 

At the end of November, a complainant from the town of Kruševac filed a complaint to the Protector of Citizens stating that on 30 September 2019, she submitted a request to the Police Directorate in Kruševac for the reimbursement of 7,940 RSD that she paid to the account of MOI for taking a professional examination for a licensed security officer.

However, the complainant did not take this examination since the legal entity, where she was supposed to start working, ceased working. By the date of her filing the complaint, the complainant’s request was not responded to, nor were the funds reimbursed. The Protector of Citizens launched the control procedure over the work of the Ministry of Interior in November, and, the MOI submitted a document as soon as 20 and 26 December 2019 stating that after the launching of the Protector of Citizens’ control procedure, the MOI ordered the Ministry of Finance - Treasury Administration, to reimburse the funds to the complainant.

Today, the Protector of Citizens launched the procedure to control the legality and regularity of the work of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy regarding the information that the employees in the company ‘’Kosmos Ltd.’’ were not paid their salaries as of November 2018. Most of the employees there are persons with disabilities.

‘’Kosmos’’ company which employs 39 persons, 27 of whom are disabled, is a business entity for employment and professional rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. This company is in the process of implementation of the prepackaged reorganization plan - following its adoption, previously initiated bankruptcy proceedings were suspended - and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy has on two occasions transferred the funds to this company for wage subsidies for employees with disabilities.

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