Symbolically, on the date of birth of the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, which has been designated by UN General Assembly Resolution (2010) as the Nelson Mandela International Day in recognition to his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom, the Protector of Citizens releases the Report on the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Activities in 2020.
The period referenced by the Report was marked by COVID-19 pandemic and epidemic that brought about numerous challenges for all countries worldwide, including the Republic of Serbia. COVID-19 pandemic particularly affected vulnerable social groups accommodated in closed-type institutions. During the reporting period, the NPM intensified its work in order to investigate the manner how the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the places of detention were being implemented and how the exercise of fundamental rights of people deprived of liberty was being ensured in those circumstances.
In 2020, the NPM made 85 visits to places where people are/may be deprived of their liberty. Based on the identified shortcomings, 334 recommendations were issued to the competent authorities. In addition, 18 forced removal monitoring procedures of 40 foreigners were carried out, and on the grounds of the identified shortcomings in the work, ten recommendations were issued to the competent authorities. In the reporting period, for the first time, the NPM monitored the acting of the police during public gatherings of citizens in Belgrade in July.
The report lays out the findings together with general and individual recommendations for improving the situation in this area and highlights the activities that need to be undertaken towards a more effective fight against torture and improvement of human dignity protection.
With regard to the further improvement of the treatment of people deprived of liberty, it should be borne in mind that the suppression of inadequate treatment does not include mere adoption of adequate legal norms, but the necessary steps to ensure their implementation. Urgent implementation of the efficient investigations about all the allegations about possible ill-treatment, adequate and timely support to all the victims of ill-treatment and the certainty of sanctioning the perpetrators have major importance for the prevention of torture. Moreover, a system of continuous human rights trainings needs to be developed for all the ones that handle these particularly vulnerable groups so as certain actions do not turn into degrading or inhuman treatment.
Bearing in mind that the right to physical integrity and human dignity fall under fundamental human rights and that the prohibition of torture is treated under the general international law as an imperative norm binding for every state, the Republic of Serbia is committed to implement the activities and measures aimed at ensuring the full respect of the prohibition of ill-treatment and improving the state of affairs in this area. With this Report, we have attempted to make our contribution.