The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, was a guest in the show "New Morning" on TV Pink.
Our guest, the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić. Thank you for coming to our "New Morning". Let's start – the Law on the Protector of Citizens should be adopted soon, as far as we understand. What changes will it bring?
- It brings many changes, primarily the expansion of the circle of powers of the Protector of Citizens regarding the protection of persons with disabilities, the persons who are victims of human trafficking and greater rights of children in being able to report what they consider to be a violation of their rights, and other changes concerning the increase of the competences of the Protector of Citizens.
When should the law be adopted and what are, let's say, some criticisms of that legal solution?
- There are a number of criticisms that have mainly related to some solutions concerning the mandate of the Protector of Citizens, and which I think are completely, as I would say, vague for a very simple reason: this law practically reduces the mandate of the Protector of Citizens, and even more importantly, it gives one solution which is also an instruction of the Venice Commission.
How long is the mandate now, how much is it being shortened...
- …Two times for five years. This is a one-time mandate. What was also a recommendation of the Venice Commission, which we did not adopt, and it gave much greater rights to the Protector of Citizens, is primarily the right for him to choose the circle of people with whom he will work during his term. This would practically allow the Protector of Citizens, to put it simply, to dismiss everyone in the Institution and to hire the people he wants.
To make a team that will work...
- To make a team completely. So, figuratively speaking, from the driver to his deputies. But that was abandoned.
- It was abandoned because we believe that in that way the position of the employees in the institution would be endangered and what I insisted on the whole time, which there are still certain dilemmas about, was to give better conditions to the employees, primarily material conditions, which employees certainly insist on the most.
As the Protector of Citizens, can you and to what extent legally do you have the possibility to help the victims of peer violence?
- There is a sequence of institutions dealing with the protection of victims of peer violence and the Protector of Citizens appears either when they schedule it or immediately, if he can prevent further violence by urgent actions, i.e., prevent that violence or in some way keep it under control in the worst possible case.
I am asking you because there were a lot of contradictory and different information about the students of the Elementary School "Đura Jakšić" who beat a thirteen-year-old girl because they did not like her haircut, they dislocated the child's jaw, the child is currently eating through a straw. When the mother addressed the parents of these bullies, the mothers said that their children had the right to do what they wanted, to beat whoever they wanted, and that the institutions would solve that.
- This is a great statement. Often institutions react with a certain reservation whether they will prevent violence or prevent some negative phenomenon which violates some other law, i.e., some other rules, and then in the midst of all those regulations, they practically become uncertain how they should implement or ultimately must implement them, eventually not implementing them at all, which leads to the escalation of such a phenomenon. It's not just about peer violence, you have it in your work, you have insults through the media. First of all, to whom will you assign the status of a journalist? Give me a definition.
Here, we now have cursing, insulting the mother, family, cousin of President Vučić, the last story, we all saw it.
- That's right. I am completely for the protection of journalists. Let's for once define who a journalist is, so that we may know who to protect and which are primarily rights, but certainly also the limitations in mutual communication in public appearances, primarily.
Again, protection from insults or from offensive tones or protection from violence as well. A journalist cannot enjoy protection if he implements that, right?
- A journalist should definitely enjoy protection, but be careful, there are always two settings. You have a certain right and you have a certain obligation. You have a certain protection but also a certain sanction if you exceed certain norms.
Absolutely. I think there was also a question in our media about whether those who are not vaccinated will have unpaid sick leave. You were in Russia, for example, and we heard that in Russia, if someone is unvaccinated, employers can suspend him and fire him. Is that correct?
- I don't know about that information because I didn't deal with it specifically, I was an observer in the elections in Russia at the invitation of my colleague Tatyana Nikolaeva Moskalkova, the Ombudsman of Russia. I don't know about that information, but I know one thing, from my personal experience, as well as from the experience of many friends and, unfortunately, from the experience of the families of those who tragically passed away, and that is that you can show resistance to something normative in terms of law, human rights, conventions, but the question here is the practical part of it all. How much does the whole society pay? I don't mean in financial terms. How much does it pay because someone, after all, simply does not want to be vaccinated?
Yes. Covid passports, many say that it is now a violation of human rights, I don't know what the people against vaccines still haven’t stated. We saw the gathering, people there talked about earth as a flat plate, and that the vaccines contain chips, or I don't know what. To what extent do those people endanger public health?
- I repeat again, we must start from the right...
… that everyone may say what they want.
- Not say everything, because there should be responsibility involved, especially if it is a public word. And now we will measure what a public word is, whether it is that which is reported in the newspaper, that what you say on television, or whether every post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram is a public word. That is the constant dilemma, but it is certain that the law that protects human rights is also binding when it comes to the general interests or the interests of the whole society. We are the first country or among the first countries that had the possibility of vaccination, and yet here we are. You see the data every day. Now there is a key issue here, which my dear fellow Ombudsman of Montenegro mentioned, if I may quote him, I hope he would allow it, who said – people believe in Covid only when they see a coffin in their building or in front of their house. Everything else is in the domain of theorizing.
Many countries have introduced a rule that certain professions are to be vaccinated, doctors, soldiers, police officers, professors, because they have to perform their duty. This process of immunization was introduced. If they introduced that in our country today, many would start talking about human rights violations.
- It would immediately be a job for the Protector of Citizens, and I think the institution and I are always ready to answer, and to answer adequately, by quoting certain regulations. Talking about basic conventions, I saw an interpretation of a convention recently which was similar to mine, and that is the European Convention on Human Rights and Biology and Medicine or Biomedicine. You have that convention, but you also have the general one, so to speak, theConvention on Human Rights, which talks about the right to life. Let the one who invokes rights read both it and paragraph 2 of that convention which gives the right to protect society in the most drastic way if there are extreme situations involved. And where will you find a more extreme situation than this one.
Yes, a kind of suspension of human rights is possible in such situations and we see...
- Not all human rights, but restrictions on the duration of certain rights.
Okay, thanks a lot. There are many more topics for you. See you again soon.