November 8th, 2019

Today in Niš, the Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić said that it was necessary to form the Balkan Ombudspersons Association.

The flow of persons and goods, and communication in general in the region is at such a level that problems could be solved in a faster and more efficient way through the cooperation of ombudspersons or human rights protection institutions, Pašalić explained.

There are many examples of this, and the latest one is the case of the Burmazović family. What was not visible was the extraordinary and great cooperation between the Ombudsmen of Serbia and Turkey, which resulted in an epilogue that made us all happy, said Mr. Pašalić at a conference that brought together the Protectors of Citizens of the Balkan countries.

He said there were examples of problems, which citizens abroad were trying to solve for months, sometimes for years, and through the cooperation of Protectors of Citizens, the problem in question was solved in less than a month.

The Protector of Citizens also stated that although the Institution existed for 10 years, the citizens were not familiar with their rights and the possibility to exercise their rights through the Institution of the Protector of Citizens. Hence, constant contact with the citizens, visits to places in Serbia and establishment of the Department for Emergent Response that provides urgent and instant reaction the moment the problem appears, Mr. Pašalić said.

Ombudsman added that a significant number of citizens’ complaints refer to non-observance of trial within reasonable time, non-enforcement of court decisions and the right to a fair trial. It is a shocking fact that out of the total number of court decisions in the cases of Serbian citizens in the Strasbourg court, 82 percent refer to the trial within a reasonable time, Mr. Pašalić said.

During the last 19 months, the Institution of the Protector of Citizens realized the project “Increasing accessibility of the Protector of Citizens to the citizens living in the interior of Serbia’’ that particularly dealt with the national minorities problems, the Ombudsman reminded. Within this project, the Protector of Citizens visited 19 towns and municipalities in Serbia (Dimitrovgrad, Bosilegrad, etc…) to contact the citizens directly and to hear their complaints.

Most frequently, the protection of national minorities rights boils down to the protection of the right to use the language, scripts and the protection of the rights to education in the mother tongue, Mr. Pašalić stated.
He added that it was good that there was no systematic violation of human rights.

During a two-day regional conference in Niš, representatives of the Ombudspersons offices in the countries of the region - Serbia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Romania - exchanged their experiences regarding the accessibility of their institutions to citizens, national minorities position in Serbia and in the region, monitoring the activities in combating trafficking in human beings in the Republic of Serbia and strengthening the Protector of Citizens Institution in accordance with the Venice Principles.