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Deputy Protectors of Citizens, Mr. Slobodan Tomić, Ms. Nataša Tanjević and Ms. Jelena Stojanović and Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Protector of Citizens Ms. Olja Jovićić participated today in a video conference attended by more than 20 EU member states Ombudsmen representatives as well as the states which are in the EU accession process.

The main topic of the conference, organized by the European Union Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly, was related to the impacts of the health crisis caused by the coronavirus in the field of human and minority rights, especially in exercising and observing the rights of vulnerable groups (elderly population, migrants, persons deprived of liberty), and also to the repercussions for the healthcare and social system and further democratic and economic development of states.

Deputy Protector of Citizens Natasa Tanjević said that since the declaration of the state of emergency in Serbia (15 March 2020), the Protector of Citizens was paying special attention to the respect for and protection of human rights in Serbia. The institution was available to citizens seven days a week, through a large number of newly opened telephone lines, by sending complaints via e-mail, but also by going out on the field. In the protection of human rights, special attention was paid to vulnerable groups, the protection of the rights of children, women, national minorities, persons with disabilities, migrants and persons deprived of liberty.

Ms. Tanjević said that during this period, NPM representatives continued visiting the institutions for the execution of penal sanctions, in order to check how measures are implemented in the fight against the spread of coronavirus and how in those circumstances the exercise of fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty was ensured. In addition, several migrants and asylum seekers reception centers were visited, in order to monitor how they were treated. The NPM opened a special telephone line that was available all 7 days a week from 8 am to 10 pm and responded to each complaint. The outcome of these activities were Recommendations issued to the authorities to rectify the identified shortcomings in the work.

The Protector of Citizens issued an opinion to the Ministry of Justice regarding the exercise of the right to a fair trial and urged the Ministry to take all measures within its competence to enable access to alternative means and assets of communication (Skype) between the defendant and defense attorney in a separate room without third parties present, with video, not audio, surveillance, without 30 minutes restriction on communication duration, in order to create necessary conditions for conducting confidential conversation and preparation of the defendant’s defense.

Ms. Tanjević concluded by stating that in addition to numerous activities in that period, the Protector of Citizens would continue to work in the coming period on human rights and freedoms protection and promotion.

Ms. Emily O'Reilly commended the Protector of Citizens on the activities undertaken regarding visits to reception centers for migrants and monitoring how those institutions treated the migrants.