At the joint sitting of the Committee on the Judiciary, Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the MPs reviewed the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) 2017 Activity Report, submitted by the Ombudsman and presented by the Ombudsman’s Secretary-General Olja Jovicic.
Jovicic said that this is the Ombudsman’s sixth annual report on the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) in the Republic of Serbia. After visits to 61 locations housing detained persons in 2017, based on the irregularities noted, the authorities were issued 309 recommendations.
NPM visited 8 police stations to examine the police treatment of arrested and detained persons. The treatment of detainees was also supervised in the visits to penal institutions since persons detained under the Criminal Procedure Code are accommodated in penitentiaries. The 6 reports on police treatment contain 41 recommendations. The Secretary-General said that according to these reports a great many detention facilities are not up to code and very few police stations have the facilities to accommodate detainees for longer than 24 hours.
NPM visited 12 institutions for the execution of criminal sanctions and drafted 10 reports containing 168 recommendations how to eliminate the irregularities noted and improve operation. 110 of these recommendations were followed, 5 were not and 53 need further monitoring. The predominant problem is a lacking video surveillance system as regards coverage and length of period records are kept. Some of the institutions, due to their location and architecture, cannot fully meet the modern standards of treatment of incarcerated persons.
NPM also visited two psychiatric hospitals in 2017, housing a great many long-term patients because the community lacks the conditions for their release. The psychiatric hospitals also lack staff which can have a negative impact on the quality of care and patient rights. Social welfare housing facilities are faced with similar problems.
NPM also paid 36 topical visits to monitor the treatment of refugees and migrants and drafted 26 reports containing 52 recommendations how to eliminate the irregularities noted and improve operation. 29 of these recommendations were followed, 3 were not and 19 need further monitoring. According to the data supplied by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, in December 2017 the centres were home to 85 migrants interested in seeking asylum in Serbia. This shows that despite the 6000 asylum applications issued, the number of real asylum-seekers is much lower and these documents are issued mainly for the sake of record-keeping. In September, more than 500 migrant children were enrolled in 27 elementary schools in Serbia and according to NPM’s data, these children attended two to three classes a day in local schools.
The protection of rights of detainees, enforcement of police authority, prevention of torture and maltreatment in Serbia are all following a trend of improvement. There are no incidences of organized torture incited by state authorities.
The sitting was chaired by the Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, Public Administration and Local Self-Government Petar Petrovic and attended by the members and deputy members of the three committees.