28th December 2021
Today, the Institution of the Protector of Citizens marked ten years of work of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM). The jubilee celebration was organized in the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade, with guests and representatives of international organizations, the Provincial Ombudsman, civil sector organizations and state authorities, with whom the NPM has achieved successful cooperation over the past decade.
The NPM was established in 2011 by the Law on Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture. The Law on the Ratification of the Optional Protocol stipulates that the Protector of Citizens performs duties of the NPM, as well as that he cooperates, in performing those duties, with the ombudsmen of the autonomous provinces and associations whose statute envisages the promotion and protection of human rights and freedoms as the purpose of the association.
The NPM is part of the activities of the Protector of Citizens to which special attention is paid. The Protector of Citizens can proudly point out that he was the initiator of the establishment of numerous networks, among others, in 2013, the South-Eastern Europe NPM Network, said the Protector of Citizens, Zoran Pašalić, MSc, in his opening address. As he said, in the past ten years, the NPM has done a lot to improve the protection of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty and the prevention of torture, but he also pointed out that the competent authorities, acting on the recommendations of the NPM, have undertaken significant activities to improve the situation.
Milica Đorđević, in front of the Office of the Council of Europe in Belgrade, said that in the last two years, the work of the NPM has been visibly improved, and in this regard, she particularly highlighted the activities of the NPM during the pandemic. Speaking about the cooperation with the NPM, she pointed out that the biggest impression on her was the enthusiasm of the NPM team, which achieves a lot with not so large capacities, which can be seen in the number of visits made and the number of reports they made and recommendations they issued.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens and head of the NPM, Nataša Tanjević, stated that in the past ten years, the NPM has made close to 800 announced and unannounced visits and prepared several hundred individual reports and nine annual reports, which contain about three thousand recommendations issued to state authorities. "This written material, carefully noted and documented, also represents a kind of review of the position of persons deprived of their liberty over the course of a decade and the manner in which state authorities and institutions behaved towards them", Tanjević said and expressed her satisfaction that the recommendations from the reports that the NPM has been sending after the conducted visits were largely acted upon.
Dr. Tanjević pointed out that this contributed to the improvement of the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, the improvement of the work of the authorities and the overall prevention of torture and other forms of abuse, and that the fact that there is a prevailing awareness of civil servants who treat persons deprived of their liberty, as well as their managers, that torture is a form of illegal conduct, is encouraging.
The Deputy Protector of Citizens added that individual cases of torture or abuse are always possible, because torture, like any other form of abuse, is often conditioned or encouraged by the circumstances of a specific situation and event, but it is never 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 the suppression of inadequate conduct does not only mean the adoption of appropriate legal norms, but also taking the necessary steps to ensure their application, including timely forwarding of information about inadequate treatment to competent prosecutorial and judicial authorities, as well as conducting effective investigations into allegations of inadequate conduct, all with the aim of achieving "zero tolerance" for torture and building a culture of punishment, determining individual responsibility and sanctioning the perpetrators."
"The fight against torture is not only a fight for the victims of torture, but also a fight for the dignity of us all, and the right to dignity, according to the Constitution, among the provisions on human rights and freedoms, comes before the right to life", Tanjević pointed out, adding that it is an obligation of us all to act like people in all situations, because there is no excuse, no interest, general or individual, that is allowed to change that.
Dr. Tanjević thanked all the individuals, civil society organizations, international organizations and state authorities with whom the Protector of Citizens cooperated in the previous 10 years in performing the work of the NPM. "Through our work and activities, as well as through the celebration of this anniversary, we tried to contribute to the construction of a torture-free society in which the physical and psychological integrity and dignity of every citizen is respected, in every situation, without exception and regardless of the circumstances."
As part of the jubilee celebration, a short film made by the NPM employees was shown, with the support of film participants from the civil sector, state authorities and institutions with which the NPM has particularly successfully collaborated over the past ten years.