The Protector of Citizens as an independent state body in carrying out the tasks within its competences, acts within the framework of the Constitution, Law and other regulations and general acts and it is independent and autonomous in performing its tasks, and the Law on the Protector of Citizens stipulates that no one has the right to influence his work and activities.
Within his authorizations and procedures, the Protector of Citizens requested Niš Social Welfare Center to submit information on the disappearance of a minor from Niš within 15 days, and the response was received three days later from, quite unexpectedly, the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy.
We consider the competent Ministry’s statement, by which it takes over the competence of the Social Welfare Center informing the public on who is on the records of the Niš Social Welfare Center and what this center is not able to do, a direct interference in the work and activities of the Protector of Citizens and the Social Welfare Center.
In addition, we consider this statement by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy an attempt to conceal responsibility for some previous omissions, the most recent one being posting the name and photo of a child returned to the adoptive family without a blurred face on the website of the Ministry of Labor. All this is in great disagreement with the claim of the relevant ministry from today's statement that it is "actively working on improving the position of children."
The Protector of Citizens draws particular attention to the latest claims by the Ministry that “with the adoption of the Law on the Rights of the Child and the Protector of Children, this topic will be significantly improved", which can be considered extremely irresponsible, especially at a time when the citizens of the Republic of Serbia are fighting the Covid-19 epidemic facing severe economic consequences of the pandemic.
The Protector of Citizens reminds that in the Opinion on the Draft Law on the Rights of the Child and the Protector of the Rights of the Child issued on 25 September 2019.
It pointed out to the Ministry of Labor that the Draft does not offer a new mechanism for the protection of child’s right in relation to the existing one – the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia that already carries out these competences successfully, and that the activities of the body provided for in the Draft Law are already part of the competences and authorization of the Protector of Citizens.
It is neither in the public interest, nor in the interest of the citizens of the Republic of Serbia to double the institutions that will deal with the realization, protection, promotion, monitoring and promotion of the rights of the child. Allocate budget funds for the establishment of a new body that would deal with the work that the Protector of Citizens is already doing successfully, in a situation of insufficient financial resources of the state to provide help and support to children and families, is not only irrational spending, but also inadequate attitude towards all citizens, particularly the children.
The Protector of Citizens states that the lack of financial resources and economic constraints are the reasons for the decreasing number of employees in services and residential institutions that deal with children.
For these reasons, the Protector of Citizens reiterates that the introduction of a new state body that requires additional financial resources from the budget of the Republic of Serbia cannot be considered an improvement in the position of children. Just as the takeover of lower-level competencies based on which the public is informed in sensitive cases of missing children cannot be considered a responsible action of the competent authority.