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The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, MSc. met online on 7 December 2020 with the Chairman of B&H Ombudsman, Prof. Dr. Ljubinko Mitrović.

During the meeting, the Ombudsmen shared the two institutions’ experiences regarding the exercise of human rights and freedoms during the pandemic, with special reference to the epidemiological situation in the last month when the situation in both B&H and the Republic of Serbia deteriorated sharply. During the meeting, the Ombudsmen exchanged experiences on exercising rights during the pandemic of vulnerable categories of the population, i.e. children, the elderly, people with disabilities, single parents, and the groups at-risk due to underlying conditions, autoimmune diseases and / or other health problems.

The Ombudsmen concluded that fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitutions in force in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Serbia, as well as the international documents ratified by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Serbia, must be respected in all circumstances. On the other hand, the exercise of certain human rights may be restricted under well-defined terms.

With that in mind, three important principles should be highlighted: in the event of restricting the rights, it is necessary to determine the timeframe when the restriction applies, the justification of the restriction must be reviewed, and finally, when the causes for imposing the restrictions cease, they should be revoked. Whenever adopting, mitigating or revoking the measures to curb COVID-19, the guidelines should be the rules of the profession and the situation on field, with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, paying special attention to vulnerable categories of citizens.

The executive must not have a key and final say in restricting human rights during a pandemic, and the ombudsmen's position is that parliamentary and judicial oversight are extremely important in executive decision-making.

Judicial authorities, institutions and public authorities are bound to ensure the implementation of health measures in an environment that will not jeopardize human rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The importance of further exchange of experiences and good practices in the promotion of human rights was especially emphasized at the meeting.