The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, congratulated the upcoming Easter holidays today to the citizens who celebrate this holiday according to the Julian calendar, with the desire for them to celebrate it in peace, happiness and prosperity with their loved ones.
"I cordially congratulate Easter to all believers who celebrate according to the Julian calendar. By celebrating Easter, we nurture the values that the greatest Christian holiday promotes, which are mutual understanding, respect and appreciation of diversity", said Pašalić.
The Protector of Citizens possesses experience and knowledge when it comes to controlling the work of the competent authorities after learning about a suspicion of human trafficking, and efficient and professional work of this institution will be continued by performing the work of the national rapporteur in the field of trafficking in human beings, said the Deputy Protector of Citizens, Jelena Stojanović.
"On his own initiative, the Protector of Citizens launched control investigations into the legality and regularity of the work of the competent authorities in previous years, after finding out that there is a suspicion of human trafficking. Professional and efficient work has resulted in the new Law on the Protector of Citizens entrusting this institution with the work of the national rapporteur in the field of trafficking in human beings", said Stojanović.
At the lecture given to fourth-year students within the Legal Clinic for the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings, at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, Stojanović reminded that the Protector of Citizens is an independent state body that protects and promotes human rights and freedoms.
"The Protector of Citizens has previously performed the work of the National Preventive Mechanism, and according to the new Law on the Protector of Citizens, in addition to the work of the national rapporteur in the field of trafficking in human beings, it also performs the work of the national independent mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has the status of a special body that protects, promotes and improves the rights of the child", Stojanović told the students.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens stated that in situations where there is a suspicion of trafficking in human beings, it is important to protect the identity of the victims, and stressed that the citizens being generally informed is a prerequisite for recognizing the risk of trafficking in human beings, and that the systematic cooperation of the competent authorities is a condition for solving this problem effectively.
The position of workers in Serbia is far from satisfactory, despite the fact that the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and its laws guarantee rights in the field of labour relations in accordance with the highest standards. High unemployment, undeclared work, endangered right to using the vacation and sick leave are just some of the situations that show that workers' rights in Serbia are being violated and are not sufficiently protected. The concept of the dignity of labour must get a deserved place, said the Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić on the occasion of the International Labour Day.
In the previous year, citizens most often addressed the Protector of Citizens with complaints about harassment at work, termination of employment contracts, non-payment of salaries, non-payment of social security contributions. In the control investigations into the work of the public administration, the Protector of Citizens came to the conclusion that the imposition of measures and the imposition of sanctions by the Labour Inspectorate and the Tax Administration against employers is often ineffective and inexpedient. In many cases, workers do not have adequate mechanisms for the protection of their employment rights, especially in situations where employees of bankrupt companies are involved, as well those of companies whose accounts have been blocked.
The latest research data show that workers in Serbia have the longest working hours in Europe, and that serious injuries at work continue to occur due to the negligence of employers. The Labour Law guarantees certain rights to employees, but the employer still has room to set working conditions, defend or hinder trade union organization, and on the other hand, employees are forced to accept exploitation in order to keep their jobs and provide for their families.
Employment, the right to professional development, safety and security at work, equalization of the position of women and men in the labour market, and no less important, the right of vulnerable groups to labour must be the state's priorities in improving the field of labour. On the other hand, it is necessary for the competent authorities to establish effective cooperation and exchange of information, as well as to take all measures against employers who violate the rights of employees, Zoran Pašalić pointed out.
On the occasion of 3rd May – the World Press Freedom Day, the Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić stated that journalists in Serbia are most often exposed to economic and legal pressures, as well as verbal, and in some cases physical attacks, and stated that he initiated legal changes that would make insults and attacks on journalists in public space punishable not only as a criminal act, but also a misdemeanour.
"Journalists are most exposed to economic pressures, i.e., economic uncertainty, caused by low monthly incomes and unregulated employment status. The economic pressures have been further intensified by strategic actions against public participation, better known as SLAPP lawsuits, which further intimidate journalists and the media and further deplete them economically, through high compensation claims", Pašalić said.
Considering that numerous pressures and attacks on journalists do not fall into the domain of criminal acts and that it is necessary to provide legal protection for media workers, Pašalić states that he initiated amendments to the Law on Public Peace and Order, which would sanction insults against journalists on social networks as a misdemeanour.
"These amendments refer to the definition of offenses committed against persons who perform journalistic work, as well as to the sanctioning of undesirable behaviour towards other citizens on social networks. Proposals for the amendments were submitted to the Working Group for the Security and Protection of Journalists of the Government of Serbia, which the Protector of Citizens is a member of", said Pašalić.
Pašalić reminds that economic pressures on journalists are a special part of the unique database on attacks and pressures on journalists prepared by the Protector of Citizens in cooperation with ten journalists' associations, unions and trade unions.
After the reaction of the Protector of Citizens regarding the protection of rights and freedoms of national minorities in the Republic of Serbia, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technological Development requested the publisher of Serbian language textbooks for the eighth grade of primary school to change the contentious part of the content related to the names of South Slavic languages by mid-May 2022.
Further to the complaint filed by the Croatian National Minority Council, the Protector of Citizens launched an investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Institute for the Improvement of Education and the competent Ministry and found that the contentious textbook states that Croats, Bosnians, and Montenegrins use the Serbian language but name it Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin.
Considering that such a definition denies the existence of national minority languages, which is contrary to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified by the Republic of Serbia, especially since the Croatian and Bosnian languages are in official use in our country, the Protector of Citizens, in the recommendations for rectifying the shortcomings, requested the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technological Development to withdraw this textbook from the use by the beginning of next school year.
In the notification on acting upon the recommendations of the Protector of Citizens, the competent Ministry explained that the Institute for the Improvement of Education issued guidelines to all publishers of those textbooks laying out that the change in the part of the content in Serbian language textbook for eight-graders should be carried out as a narrative explanation of South-Slavic languages division, with no table or list.
The competent Ministry further states that the Institute gave the publishers the deadline until 15 May 2022 to submit the request for establishing that the new edition of the approved textbooks contains the corrections and that the publisher was asked to supplement all copies of these textbooks that are still on the market with a correction of the published text in the form of a printed corrected page enclosed to the existing page in the textbook.
After the information from the media that a man in Malošište near Doljevac inflicted several stab wounds with a sharp object on his unwed wife after a verbal argument, the Protector of Citizens instigated an own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Social Welfare Center Niš, Social Welfare Center Doljevac and the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia.
The Protector of Citizens asks SWC Niš and SWC Doljevac to notify him within 15 days whether they had any information if and what types of violence the attacked woman was exposed to, if yes, what activities under their remit they have taken to protect the victim. Also, whether they informed the members of other institutions about the existence of violence and whether SWC workers acted by the Law on Preventing Domestic Violence. About the fact that the arrested man walked out of prison several days ago, the Protector of Citizens requested SWC Niš and Doljevac to additionally respond whether the Program of Support or other Program for Socialization of Inmates upon Serving the Prison Sentence was applied.
Since the media reported that this person has been previously sentenced for domestic violence, the Protector of Citizens has requested the MOI to submit within 15 days a detailed report on whether the victim reported violence to the competent Police Administration. If so, whether the police officers on duty have immediately notified the prosecutor-on duty. If so, what instructions and guidelines they have received from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Having in mind that the convicted person is involved, the Protector of Citizens has requested the MOI to state whether they had information on the movement after leaving the prison, whether they assessed all risks from reoffending and whether it acted according to the assessed risks.
The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, extends his congratulations on 8 April, International Roma Day, and calls on all citizens not to permit the solidarity among people to fade away amid the pressure of the global economic crisis and growing apathy. He also urges them to pay attention to the needs of others and to extend their efficient and effective support to vulnerable social groups, including the Roma.
Pašalić indicates that the Roma still are the most discriminated against and marginalized social group, even though they are the largest minority community in Europe.
The Roma women belong to the most endangered social categories. They get married at an early age, face multiple pregnancies at a short interval, financial and other dependence on partners or elderly family members, and have a high risk of domestic and intimate-partner violence. The second most vulnerable group is Roma children, whose overall development in poverty and informal settlements carries many risks.
“There are systemic problems that the Roma encounter daily. Although the country has undertaken a range of measures and activities in the area of education, healthcare, and obtaining personal documents, the quality of life of this community did not improve to a large extent” the Protector of Citizens warned and added that the goals to be achieved refer to more accessible education, regular health care, reducing poverty through facilitated employment.
He added that the results achieved in improving the position of the Roma failed to remove key barriers in the process of their integration which is why the overall support for the Roma national minority needs to remain in focus. “We need to show preparedness when it comes to solving complex issues of that community. The Protector of Citizens is mandated to protect the rights of national minorities and last year was marked by a set of activities taken to empower and improve the position of the Roma, which have been laid out in the Institution’s Regular Annual Report” Pašalić highlighted. The Protector of Citizens will also monitor the implementation of measures of the new Strategy for Social Inclusion of the Roma for 2022-2030, adopted by the Government of the Republic of Serbia on 3 February this year.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens for Gender Equality, Jelena Stojanović, has underscored today that this Institution is mandated to launch initiatives to amend the regulations and called on the elderly women from Ivanjica and neighboring villages to approach the Protector of Citizens if they believe that their rights were violated.
“It is important that elderly people, especially rural women, be empowered to report all kinds of violence to the authorities, and recognize various forms of discrimination that they are exposed to. The Protector of Citizens can initiate changes to applicable regulations that would improve the position of the elderly " said Stojanović at the gathering "Prevention of violence against the elderly women in pandemic and challenges in accessing social and health care services".
At the gathering organized by the Associations "Laris" and "Snaga Prijateljstva - Amity”, Stojanović reiterated that in addition to poverty, discrimination, and violence, the main problems faced by rural women were the lack of special services, support services, and difficult access to health facilities.
The representative of the Association "Snaga Prijateljstva - Amity" Nadežda Satarić has pointed out that it is essential that elderly women discuss various forms of violence, neglect, and abuse of the elderly, and be informed about it, bearing in mind that four women were killed in Serbia in the last seven days, three of whom were over 60.
“Violence, neglect of the needs of the elderly and their economic exploitation (in cases when someone disposes of the entire pension of the elderly and neglects their needs for food, medicine, orthopedic aids) should be reported, " said Satarić and added that, after two years of the pandemic, the elderly should be freed from fear and try to return to their lives and regular activities.
The participants have stated that during the pandemic, access to health services was difficult for elderly patients who did not have Covid, that the ambulance in the suburbs of Ivanjica and the surrounding villages is not working and that the pharmacies in the villages have not been working for six months. All the participants of the meeting believe that the biggest problem in the suburbs of Ivanjica and the surrounding mountain villages is local transport and very bad, inaccessible roads.
The forum was held within the project “Promotion of indiscrimination and protection from violence against the elderly women amid pandemic” supported by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue, within the program “Implementation of Anti-Discrimination Policies in the Republic of Serbia for 2021”, funded from the budget of the Republic of Serbia.