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Statements

The Protector of Citizens, in the control investigation, determined omissions in the work of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (KIRS) and the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MOI RS) over failing to escort and accommodate 16 migrants in the premises of Preševo Reception Center, which is why they arbitrarily went in an unknown direction. KIRS and the Ministry of Interior submitted to the Protector of Citizens divergent data on the time of transfer of migrants from the Tutin Asylum Center to the Preševo Reception Center on 3 April 2020.

In doing so, Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, RC Preševo and the Ministry of Interior, Novi Pazar Police Administration failed to prevent free movement of persons who may be COVID-19 virus carriers, thus augmenting the danger of spreading the contagious disease in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the Protector of Citizens’ Recommendation reads.

After learning that the media published details from the verdict for sexual intercourse with a child, which they excerpted from the Novi Sad High Court’s press release, the Protector of Citizens instigated the investigation of controlling work legality and regularity of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia requesting the monitoring of the Court’s administration work.

Given the possibility that the child's right to privacy has been violated, the Protector of Citizens requires the Ministry of Justice to monitor the work of the court administration of the High Court in Novi Sad to determine whether the court’s press release, published by the media, was in accordance with the provision of Article 58 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure and the child’s best interests.

The texts published in the media and on social networks provided information from the aggrieved child’s personal and family life, as well as details regarding the events that constitute criminal offences, which, according to the texts, were taken from the Novi Sad High Court’s press release, the Protector of Citizens states.

"I have seen for myself on multiple occassions that newspaper articles and publications that can cause an immediate sensation in the public leave severe consequences and great trauma for children for the rest of their lives," the Protector of Citizens Mr. Zoran Pašalić said.

Mr. Pašalić once again urges all journalists and media editors to take care primarily of the protection of child’s best interests and then to the protection of their privacy, which does the Law, when publishing any data on child abuse, even court decisions.

The Protector of Citizens requests the Ministry of Justice to submit information on the results of the performed supervision within 15 days, with a copy of the relevant documentation.

The Protector of Citizens determined that the Social Welfare Center in Novi Sad, by failing to carry out its competencies during the state of emergency imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic, denied the right to protection against exploitation, violence, abuse and neglect to children whose family was under the Center’s correctional supervision.

In own-initiative investigation of controlling work legality and regularity instigated upon learning from the media that one child was sexually abused at the shipyard, the Protector of Citizens has determined that the SWC in Novi Sad did not carry out its activities, during the state of emergency, although it had been acquainted with the abused children’s family since 2016 and despite of the fact that they suspected of the elder child being abused even before the state of emergency.

By completely suspending the work during the state of emergency, the SWC in Novi Sad did not timely protect the minors’ rights and interests which is why the Protector of Citizens requested that Center’s manager to review the work of the employees who were tasked with protecting them and who did not take a single action from 10 March 2020 to 8 May 2020, despite the confirmed suspicion of child sexual abuse.

The Protector of Citizens determined that the family has been on the Center's records since 2016 when the disappearance of the elder child was reported, that in 2018 a younger child was found on the beach without supervision, that neighbors reported that children were without adequate supervision, that in 2019, the school reported suspicions of physical punishment of the child and that in the same year there was a suspicion of sexual harassment of the elder child, which was confirmed in 2020.

It was also determined that the Novi Sad SWC initiated correctional supervision over the exercise of parental rights, but that from 10 March 2020 until 8 May 2020, none of the activities within that supervision have been carried out.
Using the state of emergency as a reason for failing to act and conduct correctional supervision in such difficult family circumstances is impermissible because child rights cannot and must not be limited, the Protector of Citizens points out adding that the competent public authorities should make a plan of work and manner how to provide services to citizens in emergency circumstances.

The Protector of Citizens asks the Novi Sad SWC to provide immediate and continuous correctional supervision, especially in case of suspicion of sexual abuse of a child, and to set clear priorities in the work in case of emergency and extraordinary circumstances.

Today, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, announced that the new Law on the Protector of Citizens, drafted by the experts from the Institution, would significantly improve the field of child rights protection by strengthening the independence and autonomy of the Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights within the Institution and strengthening the Deputy’s capacities.

At the moment, we are not entitled to directly control the work of the court administration, but we can do that by controlling the work of the Ministry of Justice, which we did a few days ago when the details of the verdict for sexual abuse of a child were published in the media, Mr. Pašalić said at the conference “The Rights of Particularly Vulnerable Children Groups in the Serbian Judiciary”.

Mr. Pašalić urged the judiciary bodies and the media not to make public the details of court verdicts on child rights violation since it traumatizes children manifold for the rest of their lives. “In our contacts with the children who experienced traumas, we learned that they were secondarily traumatized in court proceedings, and then additionally in the media", the Protector of Citizens accentuated.

The Deputy Protector of Citizens for Child Rights and Gender Equality, Ms. Jelena Stojanović, stated in the panel discussion that this institution had been successful in addressing child rights protection for 13 years by rectifying omissions and shortcomings made by the competent state authorities.

Further to the announcement of the Minister of Labor, Mr. Zoran Đorđević that he will table to the Parliament for adoption the Draft Law on Child Rights Protection and the Protector of Child Rights, Ms. Stojanovic said that there was already an institution that worked on it - the Protector of Citizens.

She stated that the establishment of a new institution, which implied additional costs for equipment, salaries of new civil servants and starting the practice from the beginning, posed an unnecessary budgetary cost, and that the new protector of child rights would have no new competencies or powers other than those that already existed within the Ombudsman Institution.

Ms. Stojanović believes that the issue of the protector of child rights credibility also arises, considering that, the Ministry of Labor has had the most omissions in the work regarding child rights protection, which was why the Protector of Citizens had to intervene. They neither established social and health institutions for eight years, nor provided conditions for the work of the Centers for Family Accommodation, nor did they increase the number of employees, although the number of cases in the social welfare centers is constantly on the rise, she said.

Ms. Stojanović also reminded that the social welfare centers, which were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor, by suspending activities during the state of emergency declared due to the Covid-19 pandemic, had an adverse effect on the situation in the field of child rights protection, which was why the Protector of Citizens had to intervene.

Upon learning from the social media about the alleged shortcomings in protecting the best interests of a child in the vicinity of the town of Zaječar, the Protector of Citizens launched own-initiative investigation to control the regularity and legality of the work of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy and Social Welfare Center in Zaječar with the aim of determining all the relevant circumstances.

The Protector of Citizens requires SWC Zaječar to inform him within 15 days at the latest whether and since when the child's family is on the Center’s record, what activities and measures in the field of family law protection the Center has taken so far, where the child is currently accommodated, who is currently in charge of the child’s rights and interests protection and on what legal basis.

The Protector of Citizens demands from the competent Ministry to submit within the same legal deadline the report on monitoring, which was initiated on Sunday, 27 September 2020, over the professional work of the SWC together with all the documentation, as well as to inform him whether it undertook any activities (if yes, which?) within its competencies to protect the best interests of the child prior to 27 September 2020.

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