Today, pursuant to the Law on the Protector of Citizens, the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, submitted to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Regular Annual Report for 2020.
Today, pursuant to the Law on the Protector of Citizens, the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, submitted to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Regular Annual Report for 2020.
Upon learning from the media about a family’s suspicion that a baby was replaced in a Belgrade maternity hospital in 2016, the Protector of Citizens has initiated own initiative investigation of work regularity and legality of GAK "Narodni Front", Institute of Forensic Medicine of Faculty of Medicine in Belgrade, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia.
The Protector of Citizens has requested GAK "Narodni Front" to submit detailed information and documentation on this case within 15 days, with special reference to the hospital protocol numbers of the mother and the baby, which, reportedly, were identical immediately after giving birth and subsequently different, arousing suspicion about baby replacement, as well as regarding the numbers entered upon birth registration.
GAK "Narodni Front" should submit to the Protector of Citizens a report from the pediatrician of that healthcare institution, which, according to media information, implies that DNA analysis indicated that family members who suspect baby replacement are the child's parents, but which further states different father's name, as well as different time of the child's birth.
Within the same deadline, the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Medical Faculty in Belgrade should submit all information and documentation on the DNA analysis that this family conducted in the Institution.
The Protector of Citizens has requested the Ministry of Health to conduct monitoring over the work of healthcare workers on duty, within 15 days, in order to ascertain whether there were omissions in their work raising parents’ suspicion that the baby was replaced in GAK "Narodni Front” maternity hospital.
The Protector of Citizens has requested the Ministry of Interior to inform him about the actions taken so far in this case within the same deadline, considering the media reports that the child's father reported the case to the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia.
The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić urged Mr. Đorđe Joksimović, whose children have been in a foster family for five years, to endure in implementing the Plan of Services and Measures for the Family and Child, which he signed for the first time, and together with Kragujevac Social Welfare Center participated in drafting it, since he has the opportunity to step up his parenting competences and restore custody over his children precisely on the grounds of that Plan.
“I urge Mr. Joksimović to fully cooperate with the guardianship authority in Kragujevac for the best interest of the children. Basic Court in Kragujevac reached the decision on partial deprivation of parental rights, and it was confirmed by two higher-instance courts. Therefore, Mr. Joksimović may restore the right to parental care only in the proceedings before the Basic Court in Kragujevac which is ongoing, and on the basis of the expert’s estimate that parenting competencies have been improved” Mr. Pašalić said.
In this light, Mr. Pašalić requested Kragujevac Social Welfare Center to keep providing continuous expert support to Joksimović in building parental competences with the ultimate goal of returning his three children to the primary family.
On 18 January 2021, upon learning from the media that Mr. Joksimović has been trying for years to return his three children under custody and that he could not make contact with the officers in the Center, the Protector of Citizens instigated own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of the Solidarnost Social Welfare Center in Kragujevac and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy.
On 25 January 2021, Kragujevac SWC submitted to the Protector of Citizens extensive paperwork on the numerous activities regarding stabilization and rehabilitation of children since their removal to the foster family in 2015, as well as the documentation on working with Joksimović family which has been on the Center’s records since 2012. Subsequently, the Center submitted as well the information that Mr. Đorđe Joksimović filed to the Basic Court in Kragujevac the petition for the restoration of parental rights for the first time which the SWC received on 2 March 2021.
In addition, the Center notified the Protector of Citizens that, after the Basic Court in Kragujevac informed him about the filed petition, the Center’s expert team held a meeting on 16 March 2021 with Mr. Joksimović and his attorney, where a Plan of Services and Measures for the Family and Child was agreed and signed by Joksimović for the first time since 2015, which included improving parenting skills with clearly defined tasks and outcomes with the aim of returning the children to the primary family.
In 2015, the Protector of Citizens conducted an investigation of control after Jokismović contacted him following the children’s urgent removal to a foster family and ascertained at that point that children rights were not harmed. On the grounds of the statement by the competent Ministry, it was ascertained then that the Center made the decision on urgent removal of children to the foster family pursuant to an expert estimate that their life and health have been endangered, and initiated the procedure to deprive both parents of parental rights because the children suffered health, intellectual and developmental harm and neglect.
With regard to the new information in the media that Mr. Joksimović has long ago met all the conditions to return his children, but that he cannot establish contact with the Center’s officials, the Protector of Citizens has launched a new investigation to control the work of the competent authorities in the course of which it was re-determined that all the activities that Center has taken were implemented with a view to protecting the rights and best interests of the children.
Within the new investigation, the Protector of Citizens talked with Mr. Joksimović who acquainted him with his case. Having in mind that he did not submit the promised documentation, the Protector of Citizens has contacted Mr. Joksimović again, and after that his attorneys, who submitted the documentation received on 10 February 2021, where there were no new proofs as compared to the documentation submitted by the Center, nor were there any proofs of initiating court proceedings for the restoration of parental rights.
SWC’s documentation indicates that Đorđe Joksimović’s family has been on their records since April 2012 following the request by the Kragujevac Basic Court, in order to give an opinion in the procedure of entrusting two children born in the common law marriage of Joksimović and their mother, which was terminated that year. The court, through a decision from May 2012 entrusted the children to the mother’s custody, and set the obligation for Joksimović to participate by child support.
After two years of exercising parental rights solely by the mother, in May 2014, the SWC has activated again the work with the family after officially learning that another child has been born to that family in September 2013. At the end of the same year, the mother was provided with the family support service as additional support in caring for her three children.
In March 2015, according to SWC’s reports, the mother and children were placed in the Shelter for Victims of Domestic Violence, after which the mother was placed in an adult care facility, where she remains. Before being placed in the Shelter, police officers tried that very same night to establish contact with Mr. Joksimović, but they did not find him at home. In the following days, even the closest relatives did not accept to look after children.
Considering that the children’s mother was hospitalized, that it was not possible to get in touch with the children’s father, that the contacted relatives were not ready undertake child care, in March 2015 SWC decided to urgently place three children in a foster family. At that point, Joksimović made a statement that he agreed for the children to be temporarily placed in a foster family, but that he wanted the way of maintaining contacts with them to be arranged.
In mid-2016, Basic Court in Kragujevac reached a decision which partially deprived both parents of their parental rights, except for the right to maintain personal relationship with their children because their children were neglected, their health was endangered and their primary developmental needs were not met. This decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeals in Kragujevac at the end of the same year, as well as the Supreme Court of Cassation in the review procedure two years later.
As the decision on deprivation of parental rights did not arrange the manner of parent – children contacts, SWC has continuously made plans for seeing children which Joksimović was always acquainted with, but he refused to sign any and take a copy for himself. The SWC documentation indicates that Joksimović did not come to see the children on a regular basis, that he was not found in the house during most of the field visits, and that the mother periodically kept in touch with children since children’s removal to a foster family. In the statement, the Center stated that Joksimović was deceiving SWC workers for months that he had filed a petition to regulate personal relations with children and that the Basic Court in Kragujevac informed them that there was no evidence that he had done so, so the Center filed a lawsuit with this court for arranging personal contacts between Đorđe Joksimović and children in March 2020.
SWC has stated that since the court decision on partial deprivation of parental rights became final in 2016, Joksimović did not initiate proceedings with the competent court to restore his parental rights, although the Center instructed him to do so. SWC believes that Joksimović's parenting capacities have not been improved at this point to be able to adequately take care of his three children and meet all their health, social, educational, emotional and developmental needs. The Center also points out that Joksimović submitted three requests to the guardianship authority from 2015 until present for the termination of placement of children in a foster family, of which the last one on 19 January 2021, as well as two requests for children to be moved to a foster family in Kragujevac.
Upon learning from the media that in an Elementary School near Jagodina, according to parent’s allegations, a teacher has physically harmed a pupil, the Protector of Citizens issued an own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of “Joca Milosavljević” Elementary School, Jagodina Social Welfare Center, as well as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.
Due to the possibility of child’s rights and best interests being endangered, the Protector of Citizens has requested “Joca Milosavljević” Elementary School in Miloševo near Jagodina, to submit, within 15 days, a detailed report on actions, measures and activities undertaken in this case by the school.
The Protector of Citizens requests Jagodina Social Welfare Center to submit within 15 days the report on whether the boy’s family has been on the Center’s records, and whether there have been any reports, knowledge or suspicions of possible violence against the boy before.
The Protector of Citizens has requested the line ministry to monitor the work of the said school and to submit within the same deadline the report on actions, measures and activities undertaken in this case.
Following press reports about the attempt to remove two children from Suvi Do village in the vicinity of Blace who live with their grandmother, the Protector of Citizens launched own-initiative investigation to control work legality and regularity of Blace Social Welfare Center.
The Protector of Citizens learned from the media that children’s mother had passed away, the father had abandoned them, that the grandmother had reported the father for violence against children on multiple occasions, and as she alleged the police reacted only at that moment and imposed urgent measure, and that the grandmother had applied for custody of the children.
Due to all the above, the Protector of Citizens has asked SWC Blace to submit a report within 15 days on whether the family, in which the children have been living, has been on the Center’s records, whether there have been reports of domestic violence and what activities the Center undertook to provide protection and support to family members.
The Protector of Citizens has also asked SWC Blace to provide him with data on the activities it undertook in the process of removing children, as well as data on cooperation with the police in this case.
Simultaneously with this procedure, the Protector of Citizens requested the Ministry of Family Care and Demography to control the work of SWC Blace and to submit a report on monitoring and activities undertaken within 15 days.
Considering the announcement of the Minister of Police covered by the media that the police activities on all reports of violence in this family will be investigated, the Protector of Citizens requested the Ministry of the Interior to submit data on police activities regarding the current report of violence against children, as well as on the activities undertaken regarding the previous reports of violence.
Mr. Zoran Pašalić, the Protector of Citizens, extends best wishes to all women on 8th March, International Women’s Day, underlining that despite the state's efforts to improve their rights in all segments of life, women and girls in Serbia are still not fully equal in our society. They are frequently faced with violence and insults in the family, in intimate partner relations, in the work place, in the public space. Unfortunately, the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic mostly affect women, who face an increased volume of unpaid housework, but also economic insecurity and exploitation in the workplace.
Due to frequent violations of women’s rights and dignity over the last year, the Protector of Citizens emphasizes that strengthening economic and social position of women must be included into states’ priorities, whereas the state and society need to provide particular support to women from intersectionally marginalized social groups - women victims of violence, elderly women, women with disabilities, single mothers, migrant women, refugees, as well as internally displaced women, women of different sexual orientation and gender identity, Roma women, and women in rural areas who face violations of their rights on a daily basis.
In October last year, the Protector of Citizens presented the Report on the work of groups for coordination and cooperation the City of Belgrade, whose data suggest that since the beginning of its implementation, the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence has brought improvements in the system of protection against domestic and intimate partner violence, primarily in terms of communication between bodies competent for recording, preventing and sanctioning domestic violence. However, there are still shortcomings in the Law implementation and the work of coordination and cooperation groups, the elimination of which is necessary in order to establish more efficient and effective systemic protection of victims of violence, and a serious problem remains the lack of professional staff in social welfare centers, so the Protector of Citizens initiated activities within his competence to address the identified problems, some of which have already been rectified, Zoran Pašalić has underlined.
With the aim of improving the position of LGBTI people in the Republic of Serbia, this year, the Protector of Citizens will conduct 15 trainings for local self-government units’ staff in order to facilitate the inclusion of this community into the activities of the environment they live in, said Ms. Jelena Stojanović, the Deputy Protector of Citizens for Gender Equality.
The Protector of Citizens, in cooperation with “Duga” Association, organizes the project of trainings in local self-government units, which envisages that local self-government units explicitly include LGBTI people in their local action plans, proscribe measures and activities for improving their position and allocate adequate budgetary funds for those activities, Stojanović has underlined at the Second Meeting of the Beneficiary Steering Committee of Horizontal Facility II for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022.
Within the online session “Promotion of diversity and equality in Serbia”, Stojanović has said that LGBTI people have been facing hate speech, threats and violence and that the Protector of Citizens has been advocating for a long time for systemic solution to the problems faced by LGBTI population.
Stojanović recalled that the Protector of Citizens had issued to all local self-government units the Recommendation to include LGBTI community members into their local action plans three years before and had repeated the Recommendation every year. She added that, due to the conditions imposed by Covid-19 virus pandemic, 7 trainings were held, attended by 47 representatives from 16 local self-government units.
Ms. Stojanović said that the Protector of Citizens, within the project activities in 2021, expected support for drafting and presenting a publication for children and youth on the rights of LGBTI people, in order to point out their rights and to acquaint children and youth with competencies of the Protector of Citizens and the way how to address the Institution.
All activities are held within the Council of Europe project "Promoting Diversity and Equality", financially supported by the European Union.
The trainings on raising awareness of LGBTI people’s rights in their local communities will not be a final engagement of the Protector of Citizens on the protection of the rights of minorities and particularly vulnerable groups, said Stojanović adding that within the same project the Protector of Citizens should conduct trainings for the Councils for Interethnic Relations in cooperation with the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government.
During today’s visit to the Belgrade District Prison, the Protector of Citizens, Mr. Zoran Pašalić, talked with detainee Mr. Miroslav Aleksić about the conditions of his stay and how he is treated in the prison during the detention imposed on him on charges of sexual assault and harassment.
Further to a complaint filed by Mr. Aleksić’s lawyer, Mr. Zoran Jakovljević, Mr. Pašalić talked to Mr. Aleksić who has been detained since mid-January on charges by former female students from the acting school for sexual abuse and harassment.
The Protector of Citizens visited the premises of detainees in Belgrade District Prison and talked with several other detainees about their accommodation and how they can exercise their rights.