Opinions and Statements

The Protector of Citizens conveyed Easter greetings to all the citizens of Serbia who observe the holiday as per Gregorian Calendar wishing them to spend the holiday in health and joy and underscored the necessity of all types of tolerance and mutual respect in the altered circumstances in which we have been living.

“I extend Easter greetings to all the citizens who celebrate the greatest Christian holiday according to Gregorian calendar and, for the second time in a row, in the conditions imposed by Covid-19 virus pandemic. In such conditions, solidarity, mutual respect and understanding is what we all need, as well as high awareness of observing protective measures against this contagious disease during family gatherings, " said Pašalić.

These are the main preconditions for us to safely, healthily and successfully respond to all the challenges that are before us in these demanding life circumstances, the Protector of Citizens has stated.

The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić underscored, on observing 2nd April - World Autism Awareness Day, that people with autism are still being excluded from social life, that they daily face lack of acceptance by the community and that they are not legally recognized in the system.

“All available resources must be put to use in order to make people with autism visible both to the wider community and the legal system because this social group is most often marginalized. Aside to lack of acceptance and prejudice, stigmatization follows them as well, which is the consequence of widespread lack of knowledge about autism in the society” Mr. Pašalić has stated.

The Protector of Citizens has stated that the exact number of people with autism in Serbia has still remained unknown because a national register of people with autism has not been set up yet, and its establishment would contribute to developing specific support services needed for their full inclusion in society.

“I reiterate that the development of early intervention programs, education support services and other support services for children and adults with autism is necessary in order to fully enable them to enjoy their rights and freedoms” Mr. Pašalić has underlined.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution designating 2nd April - the World Autism Awareness Day, and the initiative was launched by the state of Qatar.

The Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, urged all media in Serbia today to approach that institution if they had objections to the results of the competition for co-financing media projects, regardless of the fact whether local self-governments, city or national authorities organized them, and added that it was one of the ways how the Protector of Citizens can contribute to the improvement of the position of this profession’s members.

“The Protector of Citizens has insisted on improving the socio-economic position of journalists from the beginning of a single journalists’ protection platform development, in which, in addition to attacks and threats, such pressures will also be recorded. That’s the most important issue because it entails many others”, Mr. Pašalić said on the online discussion about the survey themed “Perception of Socio-Economic Position of Journalists and Media Workers in Vojvodina” conducted by the Independent Association of Journalists in Vojvodina and supported by OSCE Mission to Serbia.

The Protector of Citizens may react in cases of objections to the results of the competition for media co-financing, because according to the Law on the Protector of Citizens, that is ranked among one of his competencies, Pašalić has stated.

“The second very important topic is journalists’ mutual solidarity, which will be demonstrated soon when the single platform, which we are creating with media associations and unions, starts recording attacks and pressures on journalists, taking practically the registers from those who have those records” Pašalić has said.

The Protector of Citizens stated that the socio-economic position and solidarity of journalists tells about a critical problem, which is the fear of journalists to organize themselves and join unions and the fear of acting in unions in order to improve their socio-economic position.

“The third topic important to the Protector of Citizens from the point of view of the protection of journalists concerns attacks on female journalists, which are usually marked by misogynistic and sexist undertones, aimed at insulting and harming that person. Such attacks are not aimed at highlighting or criticizing anything that might be the subject to criticism, but they are aimed at insulting a person on the grounds of gender," Mr. Pašalić emphasized.

Upon learning from the media that a dead animals landfill is located in the vicinity of Kovilovo and that, even after the reports, the competent inspection has not reacted for a month, the Protector of Citizens instigated own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management.

Having in mind the possibility of health and environmental peril to citizens and the environment, the Protector of Citizens requests the competent Ministry to notify him on all undertaken activities in the case and to submit the relevant documentation as soon as possible, no later than 15 days.

Today, pursuant to the Law on the Protector of Citizens, the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, submitted to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Regular Annual Report for 2020.

Upon learning from the media about a family’s suspicion that a baby was replaced in a Belgrade maternity hospital in 2016, the Protector of Citizens has initiated own initiative investigation of work regularity and legality of GAK "Narodni Front", Institute of Forensic Medicine of Faculty of Medicine in Belgrade, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia.

The Protector of Citizens has requested GAK "Narodni Front" to submit detailed information and documentation on this case within 15 days, with special reference to the hospital protocol numbers of the mother and the baby, which, reportedly, were identical immediately after giving birth and subsequently different, arousing suspicion about baby replacement, as well as regarding the numbers entered upon birth registration.

GAK "Narodni Front" should submit to the Protector of Citizens a report from the pediatrician of that healthcare institution, which, according to media information, implies that DNA analysis indicated that family members who suspect baby replacement are the child's parents, but which further states different father's name, as well as different time of the child's birth.

Within the same deadline, the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Medical Faculty in Belgrade should submit all information and documentation on the DNA analysis that this family conducted in the Institution.

The Protector of Citizens has requested the Ministry of Health to conduct monitoring over the work of healthcare workers on duty, within 15 days, in order to ascertain whether there were omissions in their work raising parents’ suspicion that the baby was replaced in GAK "Narodni Front” maternity hospital.

The Protector of Citizens has requested the Ministry of Interior to inform him about the actions taken so far in this case within the same deadline, considering the media reports that the child's father reported the case to the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia.

The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić urged Mr. Đorđe Joksimović, whose children have been in a foster family for five years, to endure in implementing the Plan of Services and Measures for the Family and Child, which he signed for the first time, and together with Kragujevac Social Welfare Center participated in drafting it, since he has the opportunity to step up his parenting competences and restore custody over his children precisely on the grounds of that Plan.

“I urge Mr. Joksimović to fully cooperate with the guardianship authority in Kragujevac for the best interest of the children. Basic Court in Kragujevac reached the decision on partial deprivation of parental rights, and it was confirmed by two higher-instance courts. Therefore, Mr. Joksimović may restore the right to parental care only in the proceedings before the Basic Court in Kragujevac which is ongoing, and on the basis of the expert’s estimate that parenting competencies have been improved” Mr. Pašalić said.

In this light, Mr. Pašalić requested Kragujevac Social Welfare Center to keep providing continuous expert support to Joksimović in building parental competences with the ultimate goal of returning his three children to the primary family.
On 18 January 2021, upon learning from the media that Mr. Joksimović has been trying for years to return his three children under custody and that he could not make contact with the officers in the Center, the Protector of Citizens instigated own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Solidarnost Social Welfare Center in Kragujevac and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy.

On 25 January 2021, Kragujevac SWC submitted to the Protector of Citizens extensive paperwork on the numerous activities regarding stabilization and rehabilitation of children since their removal to the foster family in 2015, as well as the documentation on working with Joksimović family which has been on the Center’s records since 2012. Subsequently, the Center submitted as well the information that Mr. Đorđe Joksimović filed to the Basic Court in Kragujevac the petition for the restoration of parental rights for the first time which the SWC received on 2 March 2021.

In addition, the Center notified the Protector of Citizens that, after the Basic Court in Kragujevac informed him about the filed petition, the Center’s expert team held a meeting on 16 March 2021 with Mr. Joksimović and his attorney, where a Plan of Services and Measures for the Family and Child was agreed and signed by Joksimović for the first time since 2015, which included improving parenting skills with clearly defined tasks and outcomes with the aim of returning the children to the primary family.

In 2015, the Protector of Citizens conducted an investigation of control after Jokismović contacted him following the children’s urgent removal to a foster family and ascertained at that point that children rights were not harmed. On the grounds of the statement by the competent Ministry, it was ascertained then that the Center made the decision on urgent removal of children to the foster family pursuant to an expert estimate that their life and health have been endangered, and initiated the procedure to deprive both parents of parental rights because the children suffered health, intellectual and developmental harm and neglect.

With regard to the new information in the media that Mr. Joksimović has long ago met all the conditions to return his children, but that he cannot establish contact with the Center’s officials, the Protector of Citizens has launched a new investigation to control the work of the competent authorities in the course of which it was re-determined that all the activities that Center has taken were implemented with a view to protecting the rights and best interests of the children.

Within the new investigation, the Protector of Citizens talked with Mr. Joksimović who acquainted him with his case. Having in mind that he did not submit the promised documentation, the Protector of Citizens has contacted Mr. Joksimović again, and after that his attorneys, who submitted the documentation received on 10 February 2021, where there were no new proofs as compared to the documentation submitted by the Center, nor were there any proofs of initiating court proceedings for the restoration of parental rights.

SWC’s documentation indicates that Đorđe Joksimović’s family has been on their records since April 2012 following the request by the Kragujevac Basic Court, in order to give an opinion in the procedure of entrusting two children born in the common law marriage of Joksimović and their mother, which was terminated that year. The court, through a decision from May 2012 entrusted the children to the mother’s custody, and set the obligation for Joksimović to participate by child support.

After two years of exercising parental rights solely by the mother, in May 2014, the SWC has activated again the work with the family after officially learning that another child has been born to that family in September 2013. At the end of the same year, the mother was provided with the family support service as additional support in caring for her three children.

In March 2015, according to SWC’s reports, the mother and children were placed in the Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, after which the mother was placed in an adult care facility, where she remains. Before being placed in the Shelter, police officers tried that very same night to establish contact with Mr. Joksimović, but they did not find him at home. In the following days, even the closest relatives did not accept to look after children.

Considering that the children’s mother was hospitalized, that it was not possible to get in touch with the children’s father, that the contacted relatives were not ready undertake child care, in March 2015 SWC decided to urgently place three children in a foster family. At that point, Joksimović made a statement that he agreed for the children to be temporarily placed in a foster family, but that he wanted the way of maintaining contacts with them to be arranged.

In mid-2016, Basic Court in Kragujevac reached a decision which partially deprived both parents of their parental rights, except for the right to maintain personal relationship with their children because their children were neglected, their health was endangered and their primary developmental needs were not met. This decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeals in Kragujevac at the end of the same year, as well as the Supreme Court of Cassation in the review procedure two years later.

As the decision on deprivation of parental rights did not arrange the manner of parent – children contacts, SWC has continuously made plans for seeing children which Joksimović was always acquainted with, but he refused to sign any and take a copy for himself. The SWC documentation indicates that Joksimović did not come to see the children on a regular basis, that he was not found in the house during most of the field visits, and that the mother periodically kept in touch with children since children’s removal to a foster family. In the statement, the Center stated that Joksimović was deceiving SWC workers for months that he had filed a petition to regulate personal relations with children and that the Basic Court in Kragujevac informed them that there was no evidence that he had done so, so the Center filed a lawsuit with this court for arranging personal contacts between Đorđe Joksimović and children in March 2020.

SWC has stated that since the court decision on partial deprivation of parental rights became final in 2016, Joksimović did not initiate proceedings with the competent court to restore his parental rights, although the Center instructed him to do so. SWC believes that Joksimović's parenting capacities have not been improved at this point to be able to adequately take care of his three children and meet all their health, social, educational, emotional and developmental needs. The Center also points out that Joksimović submitted three requests to the guardianship authority from 2015 until present for the termination of placement of children in a foster family, of which the last one on 19 January 2021, as well as two requests for children to be moved to a foster family in Kragujevac.

Upon learning from the media that in an Elementary School near Jagodina, according to parent’s allegations, a teacher has physically harmed a pupil, the Protector of Citizens issued an own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of “Joca Milosavljević” Elementary School, Jagodina Social Welfare Center, as well as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.

Due to the possibility of child’s rights and best interests being endangered, the Protector of Citizens has requested “Joca Milosavljević” Elementary School in Miloševo near Jagodina, to submit, within 15 days, a detailed report on actions, measures and activities undertaken in this case by the school.

The Protector of Citizens requests Jagodina Social Welfare Center to submit within 15 days the report on whether the boy’s family has been on the Center’s records, and whether there have been any reports, knowledge or suspicions of possible violence against the boy before.

The Protector of Citizens has requested the line ministry to monitor the work of the said school and to submit within the same deadline the report on actions, measures and activities undertaken in this case.

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