The elderly, especially those in institutional care, are one of the most vulnerable groups and are at a greater risk of discrimination, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment, the National Preventive Mechanism assessed on the occasion of the International Day for Older Persons, on October 1. Due to their very difficult position in certain situations, the Protector of Citizens, through the mandate of the National Preventive Mechanism, pays special attention to monitoring the actions of the competent authorities towards these persons, especially in closed departments of gerontology centers where mobile and immobile beneficiaries with dementia are housed.

In performing the tasks of the NPM, the Protector of Citizens made 52 recommendations to the competent authorities in reports on visits to the homes for the elderly, with the aim of improving the position of the elderly and eliminating the identified shortcomings in the work of the visited institutions. The recommendations were given, first of all, to improve the material conditions of the beneficiaries’ stay, to equip rooms and exercise the right to privacy and other rights of beneficiaries, as well as to ensure adequate staffing and greater involvement of beneficiaries in work occupational and culturally entertaining activities. In particular, the Protector of Citizens identified a high degree of restriction of the freedom of movement of beneficiaries inside and outside the institution and accordingly recommended that the competent ministry regulate this issue legally. The competent authorities acted on most of the recommendations.

In order to further improve the position of the elderly in institutional care, the Protector of Citizens reminded on this day that it is necessary to increase the human resources for working with the elderly in nursing homes, their constant education and sensitization is required, as well as continuous support to the beneficiaries in order to protect and preserve their dignity.

In accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution of 14 December 1990, the International Day for Older Persons is celebrated on 1 October with the aim of highlighting the importance of adapting the environment in which we live to the needs and capabilities of the elderly.

The Protector of Citizens Zoran Pašalić and members of the NPM team met yesterday with the president of the Commission for the Implementation of Standards for Police Conduct in the Field of Torture Prevention, Milivoj Nedimović, and his associates. The meeting was held in order to establish regular and continuous cooperation between the NPM and the MIA Commission in the field of torture prevention and with the aim of mutual identification of problems that the NPM and the Commission perceive in the course of their visits to the Police Directorates and police stations regarding the position of persons in police detention and the conditions in which they reside.

The task of the Commission, which was established within the Ministry of the Interior by the Minister in 2014, is to work on the execution and implementation of the recommendations of international treaty bodies in the ministry's practice and to contribute to the improvement of position of persons deprived of their liberty. To this end, members of the Commission visit police departments and stations within their constituency, have unrestricted access to all premises, and upon completion of the visit, they report to organizational units and issue binding orders to remedy the identified deficiencies. This year, as they pointed out at a meeting with the Protector of Citizens, they visited 13 Police Directorates and 25 police stations within them, and in their practice so far, they recorded the handling of all orders that have been sent through the reports.

The NPM representatives briefed members of the MIA Commission about their this year's results achieved in 13 visits to Police Directorates and police stations. The NPM visits, one of which was nightly, are realized without prior notice, a practice established by the NPM this year. Also, in a number of cases, except for visiting the police stations, the NPM team members also visited detention units within institutions for the enforcement of criminal sanctions.

Establishing cooperation with the MIA Commission is important for the NPM, as, among other things, they agreed to hold regular quarterly meetings, which will at the same time be an opportunity to consider implementing the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), since this is an obligation of the Republic of Serbia stipulated by the action plans for Chapters 23 and 24.

Within the Nišville Jazz Festival, in front of the Prince's Villa at the Special Hospital for Psychiatric Diseases in Gornja Toponica, the International Youth Orchestra and the Slide Ride band from Niš held a concert for patients and employees, as well as for all interested citizens, Nišville fans.

In this way, the organizers of the festival pointed out that the Prince's villa, which is in a very bad condition, needed reconstruction, but they also contributed to the destigmatization of psychiatric patients, who are often marginalized and excluded from social communities.

The Protector of Citizens welcomes the efforts of socially responsible organizations and activists and calls for a more frequent practice of holding concerts, art colonies, theater shows and similar programs within psychiatric institutions, thus promoting the socialization of patients and counteracting rooted prejudices and widely accepted behaviors towards persons with mental disabilities and other marginalized social groups.

The National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture of the Protector of Citizens pays special attention this year to the situation of people with mental disabilities in psychiatric and social care institutions, since the conditions in which they live are poor and inadequate, and they themselves are often prevented from exercising their rights. Broader social support in this area is almost completely lacking, while the public and media's interest in the problems of persons with mental disorders is minimal and reduced to sporadic and unprofessional reporting, often including violation of professional ethics.

The Kragujevac District Prison acted in part on the recommendations of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture, which were sent to it after an announced control visit of the NPM on January 29, 2019.

The District Prison's response submitted to the NPM states that the District Prison acted on the recommendation of the NPM and that in the future, the first medical examination upon admission would include an examination of all bodily areas with special attention given to injuries and photographing them, and that it would notify the public prosecutor's office if it suspected that the injuries indicate abuse. The response also stated that the medical staff had received the necessary training required for this type of examination and treatment.

In accordance with the recommendations, a disinsectization of the dormitories was carried out, while in detainment unit, the rooms were painted and a shared bathroom was repaired. The procedure for roof repair has been started and, as the answer states, the tender procedure for the contractor is underway.

However, the institute cannot comply with the NPM recommendation and provide regular health check-ups for employees, because it lacks the necessary resources. The answer also states the institute is not able to increase the level of engagement of convicts and detainees, since there are no job positions or technical conditions where they could perform tasks without requiring additional conditions in terms of security.

The last time the NPM visited the District Prison in Kragujevac was in 2013. The last visit was a regular visit in order to systematically control the situation in the institution with regard to respect for the rights of persons deprived of their liberty. A Report was prepared on the visit, outlining the established situation and recommendations for eliminating the identified deficiencies.

Acting on the recommendations of the NPM, the Gerontology Center of Kragujevac undertook activities aimed at enabling smooth functioning and improving the accommodation conditions and the quality of life of its users. During the year, the Center will prepare the project documentation for the renovation of Facility 3, including the enhanced surveillance block, where mobile users with dementia are housed, and will request funding from the competent ministry. In the meantime, closets and non-functional locks have been repaired and notifications on the existence of video surveillance have been posted, and video surveillance cameras have been removed from some rooms in order to preserve privacy.

In order to improve the treatment of patients, support from the Republic Institute for Social Protection has been sought, and in order to create a safe and comfortable environment, the Center will implement restrictive procedures and measures in accordance with the established standards. In order to give the users access to open spaces and fresh air, the Center also organized daily walks outside for the users.

The NPM visited the Kragujevac Gerontology Center on February 26, 2019. A Report on the visit was drafted with recommendations for removing the identified shortcomings.