The Protector of Citizens submitted to the National Assembly the Annual Report on the activities implemented in the performance of the activities of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) in the Republic of Serbia in 2018. In the reporting period, the NPM paid 44 visits to the locations where persons deprived of their liberty were located or may be located and based on confirmed irregularities in the operation of competent bodies 296 recommendations were issued.

The Report presents that in the previous year the progress was made with regards to the prevention and elimination of torture, but there was still inadequate treatment of official persons towards persons deprived of their liberty present in certain number of cases, which is, inter alia, the consequence of insufficient number of employees, rooted stereotypes and mild punishment policy toward official persons.

This year, too, the Report records poor material conditions at the premises for police detention, their insufficient equipment, lack of possibility for staying in an open space for detained persons and insufficient number of premises. In the field of operation of the Administration for Execution of Criminal Sanctions in the report it is stated that prisons in Serbia have been overcrowded for years, that they are in poor material conditions and in facilities which do not fulfill contemporary requests for the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty. In the institutions of social protection there still is a great number of users accommodated for a longer period of time, while in the process of deinstitutionalization no significant progress has been noticed.

During 2018 the trend of the decrease of the number of migrants entering the Republic of Serbia was continued, which resulted in temporary closing of three reception centers and improved conditions for the staying of migrants at existing facilities. Their health protection has been well organized and the inclusion of children of migrants in preschool and primary education has continued.

The Protector of Citizens symbolically presented the report on the activities of the National Preventive Mechanism on the day of birth of the president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Rolilala Mandela, which by the Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly from 2010 has been celebrated as the International Day of Nelson Mandela as recognition of his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

In 2015 the General Assembly expanded the scope of the International Day of Nelson Mandela using this day to promote humane conditions of prison, values of the work of prison employees as social service of special importance and for raising of the awareness about prisoners being part of the society.

On the second day of the visit to the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia, the representative of the institution of the Ombudsman of the Netherlands, Ian Prince, met the representatives of the National Preventive Mechanism, who, first at the meeting, introduced him to the establishment of the NPM in Serbia, its competence, manner and scope of operation, and then together with him visited the Institute for persons with developmental delays “Heart in apple” (“Srce u jabuci”) in the village of Jabuka near Pančevo.

b_280_0_16777215_00_images_20190717janprins.jpgPrince was presented with the data about 500 visits paid by the NPM to the locations of detention and institutions where persons deprived of their liberty are or may be accommodated and around 2000 recommendations to competent state authorities and institutions since 2012, when NPM started functioning operatively in Serbia. In prisons, detention, psychiatric hospitals and social institutions of home type in Serbia there are 25 thousand persons deprived of their liberty. The competence of the NPM comprises protection and improvement of their rights, position and status primarily through preventive visits to the locations where they are, execution of reports and issuing of recommendations to competent bodies.

Even though the Netherlands is the signatory of the Optional protocol from 1988, as it was explained by the representative of the Dutch Ombudsman, due to specific system of social and health protection and unclear division of competence between existing inspectorates and commissions, this country still does not have an independent Mechanism for prevention of torture in the manner defined by OPCAT. Therefore, he expressed interest in the practice, manner of operation and functioning of the NPM, which have already been developed in Serbia, so future mutual cooperation and exchange of experience in this field was agreed.

The representative of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Tamara Blagojevic participated today at the first meeting of the Steering Committee of the second phase of the horizontal facility of the Council of Europe and European Commission for Western Balkan and Turkey titled “Strengthening of human rights of detained and convicted persons in the Republic of Serbia”, which is financed by the European Commission and Council of Europe and implemented by the Council of Europe.

The Protector of Citizens, who is authorized to perform the activities of the National Preventive Mechanism and in charge of the protection and improvement of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty and convicted persons, at the first phase of the project had the role of an observer while during the second phase he was a fully-fledged participant in the program. At the meeting of the Steering Committee the plan of activities for the following three years was explained, as well as the duration of the second phase of the project, while all the activities in which the Protector of Citizens participates will be defined in greater details during six-month plans.

At this meeting three publications were presented: “Review of findings and recommendation of the Protector of Citizens on the protection of persons with mental disabilities in social and health care institutions (2011–2016)“, “Review of findings and recommendation of the Protector of Citizens on the protection of rights of persons detained at police stations (2008 – 2017)“ and “Review of findings and recommendation of the Protector of Citizens on the protection of persons deprived of their liberty (2008 – 2017)“, which were prepared and printed within the first phase of the project and will be published at the website of the NPM and Council of Europe.

The need for the provision of translation services during the visits of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to asylum centers, reception centers and institutions of social protection of home type where minor migrants are accommodated was the topic of the meeting of NPM representatives with the representatives of the United Nation High Commissariat for Refugees (UNHCR).

Taking into account that, even though the so-called Balkan route is currently closed, according to the UNHCR data around 20 thousand migrants cross Serbia and currently in Serbia there are three thousand five hundred migrants, among them between 400 and 500 unaccompanied minors, it is clearly needed, as it was pointed out at the meeting, to improve the protection and exercise of human rights of migrants. One of the preconditions is the immediate communication with migrants, since it is the manner for the NPM to obtain complete information on the position of migrants, protection of their rights and potential problems they face during the visits to the locations where migrants are accommodated. Therefore, it was agreed at the meeting to sign the corresponding Memorandum based on which the translators who would accompany the NPM representatives during the visit to migrants would be engaged.

UNHCR supported the efforts of the NPM to pay attention to unaccompanied minors, since some of them are still accommodated at the asylum centers, where, unlike social institutions, there is a prominent problem regarding their safety. The level of protection of minors which exists at social institutions is standardized and at a higher level than the one which exists at the asylum center, which is why, as they say, it is necessary to provide better surveillance of minors at the asylum centers if they are staying there.

The plan of the NPM is to visit by the end of the year the Asylum Center in Krnjača, reception centers in Šid, Principovac and Adaševci, the Konstantin the Great airport in Niš and institutions of social protection of home type where minor migrants are accommodated. This year the NPM started supervising the procedure of coercive removal of foreigners, but the number of coercively removals and the manner in which they would be performed is impossible to estimate, since the NPM activities depend on the information obtained by the Ministry of Interior immediately before the coercive removal.

The Association “Observatory of national preventive mechanisms against torture” (NPM Obs.) published with the consent of NPM the report on the visit to the National Preventive Mechanism of the Republic of Serbia. The Report refers to years 2017 and 2018 during which the Observatory visited the Protector of Citizens twice and observed the NPM operation. Based on this, the Report presents observations and suggestions which might be considered by the Serbian NPM in order to improve methodological approach in the visits to locations where persons deprived of their liberty are or might be accommodated.

The delegation of the Observatory met during the preliminary visit in June 2017 the employees of the National Preventive Mechanism of the Protector of Citizens, representatives of Provincial Ombudsman, representatives of associations collaborating with the Protector of Citizens in the performance of NPM activities, state authorities in whose competence the institutions visited by NPM are and other persons. During the main visit, in June 2018 the delegation of the NPM Observatory followed the NPM of the Republic of Serbia in their visits to the Special Hospital for Psychiatric Diseases Kovin, Punishment-Correctional Institute in Belgrade -Padinska Skela and Police station Zemun, as well as the preparations of these visits and reporting about them.

The Report on the visit to the Republic of Serbia is of utmost importance for NPM of the Republic of Serbia because it is the first report of this type of the NPM Observatory. Members of NPM team shall review the suggestions from the report of the NPM Observatory since they will unquestionably contribute to the improvement of their operation.

The NPM Observatory is an international non-profit organization which offers to national preventive mechanisms the possibility of independent insight and analysis of their capacities for efficient implementation of tasks assigned by the Optional Protocol with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment.

Download this file (NPM OBS Serbia NPM report.pdf)NPM OBS Report