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Activities

On the International Roma Day (8 April), amid the state of emergency and the implementation of the protective measures due to coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19), Mr. Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, points out to the difficult position of a large number of the Roma, particularly Roma families, who live in informal settlements.

While the media constantly call on the population to adhere to the movement prohibition measures, physical distancing and insists on intensified hygiene measures, while the children and the youth are enabled to continue learning via television and online classrooms, it is overlooked that the inhabitants of informal settlements, around 600 in Serbia, do not have access to water, electricity or internet and that they cannot maintain basic hygiene, let alone enable their children to follow distance-learning classes.

The Protector of Citizens supports the efforts of the authorities who announced assistance in providing food staples for the inhabitants of Roma settlements, as well as in maintaining hygiene in settlements and urges the local authorities to take necessary measures to provide these settlements with access to water and electricity since meeting the basic hygienic conditions may be of critical importance in this situation, Pašalić warns. It is necessary to provide additional support to the inhabitants of informal settlements, and it is unacceptable that they are not included in the distribution of aid packages for the endangered, since a large number of Roma families live below the poverty line, the Protector of Citizens reminds.

 

The Protector of Citizens issued an Opinion to the Ministry of Justice on 31 March 2020 as follows:

“On 26 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia informed the public that a letter was issued to courts, that will conduct proceedings against persons who violated self-isolation measures, to organize these trials via a video link, in order to protect both employees and persons against whom proceedings are being conducted.

Bearing in mind that the first first-instance verdicts finding the defendants guilty of the criminal offense Failure to Comply with the Health Regulations during the Epidemic under Article 248 of the Criminal Code were passed and that they were sentenced to imprisonment, that the court proceedings were conducted via a video link (Skype), as well as that, according to information from the media, hundreds of criminal charges were filed due to suspicion that this offence was committed, the Protector of Citizens believes that, in the conditions of the state of emergency, the Ministry should take measures within its competence to enable access to alternative means and assets of communication (Skype) between the defendant and defense attorney in a separate room without third parties present, with video, not audio, surveillance, without 30 minutes restriction on communication duration, in order to create necessary conditions for conducting confidential conversation and preparation of the defendant’s defense.

The Protector of Citizens reminds of the necessity to observe the rights of the defendant from Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which refers to the right to a fair trial, Article 33 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia paired with Article 68 of the Criminal Procedure Code related to the defendant’s special rights, Article 69 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which refers to the rights of the person arrested, and Article 85 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which is applied during the interrogation of the defendant.

Article 202, paragraph 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia stipulates that after the declaration of a state of emergency or war, derogations from human and minority rights guaranteed by the Constitution are permitted, but only to the extent deemed necessary. Article 202, paragraph 4 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia states that measures of derogation are in no case permitted in terms of the right guaranteed pursuant Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, which envisages the right to a fair trial. "

In reference to yesterday’s lock breaking on the front door of the Pride Info Center in Belgrade, the Protector of Citizens stated that the discrimination and violence against LGBTI community were manifested in different forms, to the point that buildings of their associations were desecrated.

When the doors open to the extremist and aggressive behavior of hooligans, the most vulnerable groups in society, which  frequently include members of the LGBTI community, become victims. Sexual orientation is a personal matter of an individual, but protecting the right to being different concerns each and every of us in the country, Mr. Pašalic has said.  In addition, Mr. Pašalic stated that failure to accept differences and the right to sexual orientation led to violence against members of the LGBTI community and called for a more efficient reaction by the authorities in identifying and sanctioning the perpetrators. Mr. Pašalić recalled that the mentioned attack on the premises of Pride Info Center was the 11th one and that no one was held responsible for the previous 10 attacks.

Mr. Pašalić concluded that our  primary duty was to work on awareness raising with respect to the rights of LGBTI people through youth education, as well as through the education of the police, judges and prosecutors, with the aim of protecting and promoting the rights of all citizens, including the rights of persons of different sexual orientation.

Since the beginning of the migrant crisis, Serbia has indicated a readiness to provide every citizen located on its territory with the conditions worthy of a human being and with full protection of his/her rights. It is important to say that, up to now, more than one million people and children have passed through our country, and despite so many migrants, no one was denied help.

The Protector of Citizens reminds that in terms of external migration, Serbia is traditionally an emigration area, even nowadays when it comes to its citizens it is considered as such. Immigratory and transitory movements are registered both on its territory and throughout Western Balkans. Mr. Pašalić said that given the events that Serbia had faced in the last decade of the 20th century, especially given the fact that over half a million refugees had found refuge in Serbia at the time, we must not tolerate individuals’ discriminatory calls which incite racial, national and religious hatred. He added that someone who had endured so much suffering, as was the case with Serbian citizens, must understand those in similar situations.

The first cycle of workshops for preschool children, jointly organized by Children’s Cultural Centre and the Protector of Citizens was completed by today's workshop, participants of which were the children from kindergarten "Kasper" - part of Vračar Preschool Institution.

Over the past four days, more than one hundred children from the kindergartens in Belgrade participated in the workshops of the Protector of Citizens whose aim was to acquaint the youngest with the concept of child rights. To that end, the employees in the Ombudsman’s Sector for Child Rights and Gender Equality prepared an interactive play entitled “Magical Land of Child Rights” which was performed within the workshops.

The Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights, Ms. Jelena Stojanović, believes that, judging by children’s reactions, the workshops proved to be a good solution which is why new cycles of workshops are planned for the coming period.

The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pasalic, said today that in the ten years of the institution's existence, there have been 352 complaints from citizens of Novi Pazar, which is a very small number compared to the rest of Serbia. Within the “Day of the Protector of Citizens” campaign in Novi Pazar, after meeting with the Mayor, he said that their complaints were not specific and that they mostly complained about property - legal relations, social and economic issues.

“This is an opportunity for me to invite the citizens of Novi Pazar and this region to contact the Protector of Citizens in writing or electronically, and we have the jurisdiction to handle all cases except those related to the courts and the judiciary. If we are not competent for a certain case, then we will refer citizens promptly, quickly and efficiently to the body that is, and we will monitor the work of that institution acting on the citizens' complaint”, said Pasalic.
He added that most complaints come from citizens who live in cities that gravitate towards Belgrade, because information is more accessible to them.

“To illustrate, in and around Novi Pazar there are at least five schools that are close to the main roads, which is why every citizen should come to the municipality and complain about it, as this is a problem of republic importance. Through this example, I want to show you the point of our arrival here, and that is to receive complaints and resolve them with the local self-government, but also to set those issues that are outside of our jurisdiction as our topics as well”, said the Protector of Citizens.

He pointed out that this campaign has shown that it is completely different when you meet the people in person, when you hear their words, and that this cannot be compared to any conversation via Skype or other electronic device.
He also added that he would soon organize a public forum in this city to explain to the citizens the function and powers of the institution of the Protector of Citizens.

The Mayor of Novi Pazar, Nihat Bisevac, said that he informed the Protector of Citizens about the problems of citizens and about the cooperation of local and republic institutions.

“We also discussed the national representation of citizens in certain republic institutions. Our goal is that the City Administration, together with the Protector of Citizens, considers and resolves the problems of citizens in accordance with the rights guaranteed by law”, said Nihat Bisevac.

During his visit to Novi Pazar, the Protector of Citizens also spoke with representatives of the non-governmental sector from that city.

The Republic Ombudsman is visiting 13 local self-governments within the “Days of the Ombudsman” campaign. The visits are implemented 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.

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