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Events

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.

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

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been adopted and is open for signature, ratification and accession by UN General Assembly Resolution no. 39/46 of 10 December 1984, and it entered into force on 26 June 1987. The Convention, as one of the key instruments in the fight against torture in the world, obliges Member States to take all legal, administrative, judicial or other effective measures to prevent the execution of acts of torture in its territory.

On this occasion, as well as on the occasion of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations, 26 June was defined in the United Nations Calendar as the International Day for the Support to Victims of Torture.

To date, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been signed by over 160 countries around the world, and based on the Optional Protocol to the Convention, over 80 national preventive mechanisms have been established.

The SFR Yugoslavia ratified the Convention in 1991, and the Republic of Serbia has been, based on the succession of previous states, a member of the Convention since 2001. In addition to the Convention, the Republic of Serbia signed and ratified its Optional Protocol in 2011, by which the Protector of Citizens was designated to perform the activities of the national mechanism for the prevention of torture. By ratifying the Optional Protocol, the Republic of Serbia undertook the obligation to increase the protection of persons deprived of liberty by means of preventive activities based on regular visits to places where there are people who are deprived of liberty or where people who are deprived of liberty might be found.

In carrying out the work of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, the Protector of Citizens has visited 550 of the places where there are people who are deprived of liberty or where people who are deprived of liberty might be found since 2012, and has sent over 2000 recommendations for remedying the deficiencies identified. The recommendations related, first of all, to material conditions in institutions where persons deprived of their liberty are, to the improvement of nutrition and hygiene, improvement of treatment and health care of convicted persons, respect for the privacy of users, as well as engagement of an adequate number of employees. In the first half of 2019, the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture conducted 29 visits to places where there are people who are deprived of liberty or where people who are deprived of liberty might be found and sent 69 recommendations to the institutions visited and to the line ministries.

Based on numerous visits, it is certain that in the Republic of Serbia there is no systematic torture against persons deprived of their liberty. However, inadequate material conditions and insufficient and/or inadequate human resources in institutions where persons deprived of their liberty are accommodated are risk factors that can lead to degrading treatment and in some cases to abuse.

In order to further improve, it is necessary to align the provisions of the Criminal Code with the definition of torture under Article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; to improve the protection of persons deprived of their liberty, first of all people with mental disorders and elderly persons in psychiatric institutions, and social protection institutions of the home-type, to develop a system of continuous training for human rights for all who treat these particularly vulnerable groups, so that certain actions would not become degrading or inhuman. In order to prevent torture, it is particularly important to conduct effective investigations into all allegations of possible abuse, adequate and timely support to all victims of abuse and the certainty of the punishment of the perpetrators.