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Statements

Upon completing the investigation instigated over a child falling from the building of the Center for the Protection of Infants, Children and Youth - "Drinka Pavlović" in Belgrade, the Protector of Citizens suggested that the institution immediately set up physical barriers, ease isolation measures due to adverse effects they may have on beneficiaries and provide for a more adequate accommodation for children with pronounced behavioral disorders.

In the report, the Protector of Citizens suggested that the center urgently set up physical barriers in risky areas, both at the place where the child fell in July 2020 and died as a result of the injuries and in all other places where the safety of beneficiaries could be endangered, given the already identified risks in the behavior of individual beneficiaries.

The Protector of Citizens further suggests that "Drinka Pavlović" Home should review the isolation measures taken so far and consult in that regard the epidemiological service and the line ministry, in order to take less restrictive measures in the event of a risk of infection communicability among the beneficiaries, having primarily in mind the impact (negative effects) of long-term isolation of the children in an institutionalized accommodation.

In the report, the Protector of Citizens highlights the need for the Home "Drinka Pavlović" to achieve the necessary cooperation with the competent institutions in order to provide more adequate accommodation for children with severe behavioral disorders, the work of their care in the form of protection or treatment that is in accordance with their functioning.

Assessing the actions of the controlled bodies in the domain of their competencies, the Protector of Citizens determined that there was no personal accountability of the employees of the Home "Drinka Pavlović" in this unfortunate event, but that existing measures should be reviewed and improved in order to improve beneficiaries’ safety.

The Protector of Citizens believes that it is necessary for the Home "Drinka Pavlović" to take activities and measures to ensure the safety of beneficiaries in cases where they put themselves in situations risky for life and health, and especially in conditions where such behavior can be expected due to isolation measures imposed due to the spread of Covid-19 virus infection.

After learning from the media about a child being pimped for sexual intercourse in Aleksinac and the other one molested in Bogatić, the Protector of Citizens initiated multiple own-initiative investigations to control the work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy and Social Welfare Centers in these two towns.

Taking into account the fact that the Ministry has announced that it will monitor the work of the Social Welfare Centers in Aleksinac and Bogatić, the Protector of Citizens requests from the competent ministry to submit within 15 days a report on the monitoring over their work.

The Protector of Citizens requests from the SWCs in Aleksinac and Bogatić to submit information within 15 days whether the families of these abused children were previously on the centers’ records, and if so, which activities within the competence of the centers were undertaken in the previous period.

Furthermore, it is necessary to submit data on the activities within their competence that have been undertaken in connection with the mentioned information in order to protect the rights and best interests of children.

The Protector of Citizens requested from Higher Public Prosecutor's Office in Zaječar, simultaneously with the own-initiative investigation instigated following media allegations on sexual abuse of a child from that town, to take actions during the interrogation of the injured child to avoid secondary victimization of the victim and to protect child’s best interests.

In the request to the Prosecutor's Office, the Protector of Citizens has pointed out that during the interrogation of the injured child from Zaječar, technical means should be used to transmit images and sound whenever possible, in specially equipped and child-friendly rooms.

The Protector of Citizens addressed the Zaječar Higher Prosecutor's Office within the obligation of all state bodies of the Republic of Serbia to undertake activities and exchange information in order to protect guaranteed human rights and freedoms of all citizens, given that the Protector of Citizens is not competent to control the work of public prosecutor's offices, among other things.

In addition, upon the information from the media, the Protector of Citizens issued own-initiative investigations of controlling work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy and Social Welfare Center Zaječar requesting to be informed within 15 days on the measures and activities taken in this case.

The Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, underlined that journalists’ economic position was one of the most important requirements for the existence of professional and free media and announced that he would insist on setting up a single database on the attacks on journalists, where economic pressures would be singled out as a separate segment.

“The prerequisite for objective media are objective journalists. And one of the conditions for journalists’ objectivity is that they should be relieved from all sorts of pressures, primarily the economic ones, as their daily lives and work depend on it”, Mr. Pašalić stated ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Working Group for the development of media platform.

“An economic pressure might be the fact that, based on our data, journalists in Serbia are frequently engaged without a working contract or with a contract that can easily be terminated, their wages are low and often below the national average and the payment is often late, they work overtime, particularly now, during the epidemic, and they are constantly faced with augmenting the workload, freelancers are in a tough position”, Mr. Pašalić added.

The Protector of Citizens considers that such working conditions jeopardize the objectivity and professionalism of journalists and media workers, frequently leading up to self-censorship since there is no motivation nor desire for a professional job performance in those working conditions eventually causing this profession’s implosion.

“I will not give up the idea of forming a single database on attacks on journalists, where economic pressures will be singled out as a separate segment, and we will seek the manner to root out the pressures and disable them from reoccurring, in cooperation with all the competent bodies and media associations”, Mr. Pašalić said.

Journalists in Serbia are working in difficult conditions, and in the current pandemic they are exposed to additional economic pressures, particularly the ones that cooperate with media companies on a freelance basis, so it is necessary to make additional efforts in order to prevent the complete degradation of this profession, to ensure the independence of the media and the quality of reporting which the citizens of Serbia are entitled to pursuant to the Constitution, Mr. Pašalić has emphasized.

Children and youth must be consulted when adopting policies that affect them and the exercise of their rights – was highlighted at a two-day conference hosted by the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) in the work of which Ms. Jelena Stojanović, the Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights and Gender Equality, participated.

Ms. Stojanovic, in the discussion on the impact of new measures and laws on the rights and needs of children and youth, stressed that it was vital that decision makers in each country "look through the prism" of child rights and always think, when designing changes through new legal solutions or measures, whether and in what way the new changes will impact the life of every individual child.

Due to the epidemiological situation, the annual conference of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children was organized online on 21 and 22 September.

The conference saw a presentation of ENOC’s study on how much the states, when adopting new measures and legislation, have been taking into account the extent to which the changes will affect the rights, needs and interests of children and youth.

The members believe that prior to adopting measures, new policies, new regulations or amending the existing ones, the States must first assess how and to what extent all these changes will impact child rights (CRIA – Child Rights Impact Assessment), and then to evaluate the impact of the adopted amendments on child rights (CRIE - Child Rights Impact Evaluation).

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