Today, the Institution of the Protector of Citizens celebrated ten years of the functioning of National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). The celebration of this anniversary took place in Palace of Serbia in Belgrade and was attended by guests and representatives from international organizations, Provincial Ombudsman, civil sector organizations, as well as state authorities with which the Protector of Citizens cooperated successfully over the previous decade.
The NPM was set up in 2011 pursuant to the Law on Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Law on the Ratification of the Optional Protocol specifies that the Protector of Citizens performs the tasks of the NPM, and that in performing those tasks it cooperates with the Ombudspersons of Autonomous Provinces and Associations whose statute intended goal is the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms.
The NPM forms part of the Protector of Citizens activities which we pay special attention to. The Protector of Citizens proudly emphasizes that the Institution initiated setting-up of numerous networks, one of them being the South East Europe NPM Network in 2013, the Protector of Citizens Mr. Zoran Pašalić, emphasized in his keynote address. In his words, during previous decade, the NPM has done much on advancing the protection of the rights of persons deprived of liberty and torture prevention, indicating at the same time that the competent authorities, in their acting upon NPM recommendations, have taken important activities to improve the situation.
Ms. Milica Đorđević, on behalf of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade, said that over previous two years the NPM’s work had been significantly improved and in this regard she underscored the NPM’s activities during the course of the pandemic. Speaking about the cooperation with the NPM, she pointed out that she was most impressed by the enthusiasm of the NPM team, who achieved a lot with not that big capacities, which is reflected by the number of conducted visits and the number of issued reports and recommendations.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens and Head of the NPM, Nataša Tanjević PhD. stated that over last ten years the NPM had conducted nearly 800 announced and unannounced visits and issued hundreds of individual reports and nine annual reports containing around three thousand recommendations issued to state authorities. “This written material, carefully recorded and documented, is a kind of an overview of the position of persons deprived of liberty in a decade and an outline of the manner how they have been treated by state authorities and institutions” said Ms. Tanjević and voiced satisfaction with the fact that the recommendations from the reports issued by the NPM after the conducted visits were largely acted upon.
Dr. Tanjević has emphasized that it had contributed to stepping up the conduct towards persons deprived of liberty, improvement in the work of the authorities and overall prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and that awareness about torture being impermissible behavior prevails among civil servants who treat persons deprived of liberty and among their managers.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens added that individual cases of torture or ill-treatment were always possible, because, torture, just like any other ill-treatment, was frequently conditioned or encouraged by the circumstances of specific situations and events, but that it can never be justified. “Namely, the prohibition of torture is absolute so that no circumstance, situation or incentive can justify it. It should be borne in mind that combating inadequate treatment does not only encompass adopting appropriate legal norms, but also taking the necessary steps to ensure their implementation, including promptly forwarding the data on inadequate action to competent prosecutors and court authorities, as well as conducting efficient investigations about the allegations on inadequate acting, all this with the aim of “zero tolerance” for torture and building the culture of punitiveness , determining individual responsibility and sanctioning the perpetrators.”
“The fight against torture is not just the fight for the victims of torture, but the fight for the dignity of all of us, and the right to dignity according to the Constitution, among the provisions on human rights and freedoms, comes before the right to life” said Ms. Tanjević, adding that it was the obligation of all of us to act humanely in every situation, because there is no excuse, no interest, be it general or individual, that may change this.
Dr. Tanjević thanked all the individuals, civil society organizations, international organizations and state authorities with which the Protector of Citizens cooperated in previous 10 years in performing the tasks of the NPM. “Through our work and activities and by marking this anniversary, we have sought to contribute to building a society without torture that respects physical and mental integrity and dignity of every citizen in every situation, without exception and regardless of circumstances.”
As part of the jubilee marking, a short film made by NPM employees was shown supported by film participants from the civil sector, state authorities and Institutions with which the NPM has cooperated with particular success over the past ten years.