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Committee against Torture considers the report of Serbia

Committee against Torture

30 April 2015 

The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Serbia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Introducing the report, Radomir Ilic, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice of Serbia, said Serbia was party to many international and European human rights treaties and as a candidate for European Union accession was undergoing comprehensive judicial and legislative reform.   Mr. Ilic said although Kosovo and Metohija were an integral part of Serbia’s territory, the Government was unable to monitor the application of the Convention there because they had been administrated by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo since 1999 and advised the Committee to ask the Mission for information in that regard.  In July 2011 Serbia had finalized its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in relation to the delivery of accused persons and had approved all 2,160 requests from the Tribunal for access to Government archives and documents.  Serbia placed special focus on assisting the high number of persons in protracted displacement, including 44,000 refugees and 220,000 internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija.  Between 2008 and 2014 Serbia received 30,710 requests for asylum, and had taken many measures to combat trafficking in persons and to protect and assist victims.  

During the interactive dialogue Committee Experts appreciated the legislative reforms carried out in recent years, including the introduction of new standards for and laws on the penal code.  Serbia was commended for its efforts to combat organized crime, for establishing a national preventative mechanism, for the provision of detailed disaggregated statistics and for its many legislative reforms in general.  However, Experts said living standards in some places of detention, notably police detention facilities, were sub-standard and inhumane, and overcrowding in the penitentiary system remained a major problem.  Experts asked about measures to reduce the use of pre-trial detention and tackle a rise in cases of femicide and violence against women.  Serbia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was discussed, and Experts asked about the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and investigations into hidden mass graves dating back to the 1990s conflict in general.  They also asked about Serbia’s asylum system and the process of forced returns, efforts to prevent trafficking in persons and about the protection of persons with mental disabilities, particularly in institutions. 

In concluding remarks, George Tugushi, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the comprehensive dialogue and said he looked forward to the next exchange with Serbia. 

Mr. Ilic, in concluding remarks, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to address it and for its great interest in the measures the Government of Serbia was taking to prevent acts of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment.

The delegation of Serbia included representatives of the Office for the Prosecutor of War Crimes, Ministry of Justice, Ministry for the Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs, Commission for Refugees and Migration, Directorate for Prison Sanctions, Office for Human and Minority Rights, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation and representatives of the Permanent Mission of Serbia to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Friday, 1 May to conclude its review of the fifth periodic report of Colombia (CAT/C/COL/5).

Report
 
The second periodic report of Serbia is available here: CAT/C/SRB/2.
 
Presentation of the Report

RADOMIR ILIC, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice of Serbia, said Serbia was a State party to eight international human rights treaties and its constitution ensured that they were an integral part of the national legal system and could be directly applied.  Serbia had ratified many human and minority rights conventions of the Council of Europe and was actively on the ‘human rights dimension’ in its current role as Chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.  Serbia was a candidate country for European Union accession and within the comprehensive reforms involved in that process paid special attention to strengthening institutional capacities, press freedom, and judicial and legislative reform.   New legislation included the 2009 Law on Prohibition of Discrimination and the development of a penal sanctions enforcement system, the prevention of domestic violence and the implementation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.  An internal complaints system for convicted persons was introduced in 2006 and penal facilities were monitored by the national preventative mechanism under the Office of the Ombudsperson. 

Although Kosovo and Metohija were an integral part of Serbia’s territory, the Government was unable to monitor the application of the Convention against Torture there because they had been administrated by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since 1999, said Mr. Ilic.  Therefore the report did not contain detailed information on the application of the Convention in those provinces.  Mr. Ilic proposed the Committee invited UNMIK to submit information, adding that in that context Serbia was willing to submit all the information it held. 

Serbia placed special focus on assisting the high number of persons in protracted displacement, who included refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and internally displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija.  There were 44,000 persons with refugee status in Serbia, a figure that had been decreasing by 10,000 annually thanks in part to the granting of citizenship and assistance in their local integration.  Since 1999 Serbia had supported 220,000 internally displaced persons but 16 years later sustainable conditions for their return to Kosovo and Metohija had not yet been provided and only an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 persons had achieved a sustainable return.  Obstacles to return included the dire security situation, attacks on minority communities and returnees, and the usurpation and arson of property, which went unpunished.  Mr. Ilic highlighted a Council of Europe report which cited cases of inhumane and degrading treatment and forced disappearances perpetrated in the course of an organ trafficking operation. 

In July 2011 Serbia finalized its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in relation to the delivery of the accused persons.  Serbia had approved all 2,160 requests from the International Criminal Tribunal for documents, access to Government archives and the release of witnesses from the obligation to keep State, military or official secrets.  Mr. Ilic also described the work of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of Serbia, which included creating a list of priority war crimes cases and close cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Between 2008 and 2014 Serbia received 30,710 requests for asylum.  In addition to accommodation, food and clothing, asylum seekers received free legal assistance, psycho-social support and translators, while minors were assigned guardians by competent social care centres.  The Criminal Code recently introduced a new type of crime ‘facilitating abuse of seeking asylum in a foreign State’ in order to reduce the number of false asylum seekers and preserve the current visa-free regime.  That criminal offence included a sanction of imprisonment between three months and eight years for any organizer of the transportation of false asylum seekers.  Many measures had been taken to combat trafficking in persons and to protect and assist victims, including the establishment of the Centre for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking in April 2012. 

Questions from the Experts
 
Experts commended the large and well-represented delegation, which included judges and members of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, and said the Committee appreciated the legislative reforms carried out in recent years, including the introduction of new standards for and laws on the penal code.  How many cases of torture had been investigated, and how many perpetrators had been charged and prosecuted, asked an Expert. 

Concerning the treatment of persons subjected to arrest, detention or imprisonment, an Expert said that the Committee was aware that detainees were given access to a doctor, could inform their next of kin from the point of arrest, and were informed of their rights.  Reports stated that the time limits, for example in being given access to a lawyer or doctor, were largely respected but there were concerns about the registration process of detainees.  He asked whether checks to screen for injuries at the point of arrest or initial detention were carried out in a satisfactory manner.  The Committee had reports that investigations were not promptly carried out and in particular that medical evidence was severely lacking because of the poor quality of check-ups at the initial point of detention. 

Overcrowding in the penitentiary system had been reduced somewhat but nevertheless remained a major problem, said an Expert.   Regarding living conditions in places of detention, he said a number of police detention facilities were sub-standard and did not provide humane conditions.  There were a number of old prisons in operation which had sub-standard living conditions.  Some cells were over-crowded, housing many more prisoners than the official capacity.  How many prisoners were there in Serbia and on average how many square metres did each prisoner have, he asked. 

There was a very high number of persons detained in custody, said an Expert, asking why the frequent ordering of pre-trial detention was used by courts despite a growing number of viable alternatives available. 

Experts asked a number of other questions about conditions in and the operation of places of detention.  The delegation was asked to comment on reports that there was an acute shortage of prison staff, about measures taken to deal with inter-prisoner violence and reports of poor conditions in the Serbia Mental Hospital in Belgrade.  The Committee welcomed the establishment of an internal complaints mechanism for prisoners, which was now fully functioning, and asked how many complaints had been lodged, investigated and resulted in disciplinary sanctions or any other change. 

How were the rights of vulnerable persons deprived of their liberty protected and upheld, asked an Expert, in particular members of the Roma community, women, persons suffering from mental illness and children. 

How were the specific needs of women prisoners, such as menstruation, pregnancy and vulnerability to sexual violence and other abuses, taken into account, asked an Expert, requesting more information on prisons for women.  She asked the delegation to explain why there was a particularly high number of women in psychiatric hospitals

The number of cases of femicide and violence against women were reportedly growing in Serbia, noted an Expert, adding that 70 per cent of persons charged received a suspended sentence.  Could the delegation please comment on the deferment of prosecution and use of suspended sentences which appeared to indicate that violence against women and femicide was not taken seriously.  What was the definition of rape in law, and did it have any relation to the prosecution of cases and provision of justice to victims, the Expert asked.

A large number of children were kept in specialized institutions for persons with disabilities, said an Expert, and the Committee was concerned by the apparent lack of a de-institutionalization process for them.  Furthermore, adults often stayed for many years in mental health institutions and residential homes.  The Expert asked what progress had been made to ensure that persons who did not need to be kept in specialized facilities were reintegrated into the local community.  The delegation was also asked about the use of physical restraints and isolation on persons with mental health problems.  

The law permitted the forced hospitalization of persons with a mental disability without consent of the person, said an Expert, asking whether legislation stating that any person hospitalized without consent had to be taken before a judge within 48 hours was applied in practice. 

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the prosecution of historic war crimes in general were referred to by an Expert, including Serbia’s ongoing cooperation with the Tribunal, as well as the case of Ratko Mladić, the former Bosnian Serb military leader accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. 

The discovery in December 2013 of a second mass grave in Rudnica containing the bodies of between 250 and 400 Kosovo Albanian persons who were killed during the conflict, estimated to be between the years 1999 to 2002, was raised by an Expert.  She asked the delegation about allegations that the authorities had attempted to conceal the existence of the Rudnica mass grave, even from the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, and nobody had been charged for the concealment.  The Committee had received concerns from non-governmental organizations that there were other mass graves concealed in secret locations and that the State was refusing access to its archives to assist in their discovery.

The Committee had received reports and complaints of inaction by the Government authorities concerning the investigation of cases of enforced disappearance, most notably during the conflict from 1999.  Of the 34,833 persons who disappeared during the conflict, some 12,000 were still missing, said an Expert. 

The Committee had been informed about problems with the asylum system.  Often asylum seekers did not receive timely decisions from the Government related to their request, and there were communication and capacity problems, it was reported.  An Expert asked for details on the number of persons, disaggregated by country, who had been granted asylum and for the number of persons who had been returned, extradited or expelled during the reporting period.  He also asked about the living conditions in places in which asylum seekers were detained. 

The delegation was asked for information on the number of cases of refoulement and the acceptance of diplomatic assurances.  What measures had Serbia taken to ensure that applications for asylum by persons from States to which the concepts ‘safe country of origin’ or ‘safe third countries’ applied.  Which countries were considered to be ‘safe’?  How did Serbia take into account its obligations of non refoulement and ensure it did not return any person to a country where there was a risk they may be tortured?   

Trafficking was a modern form of slavery and the Committee took note of the efforts taken by Serbia to combat it, said an Expert.  Nevertheless, Serbia remained a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in persons, generally for use in forced labour, forced begging, as domestic workers or for purposes of sexual exploitation.  The Committee had received complaints that the periods of prosecution of perpetrators of trafficking were so lengthy that they sometimes resulted in the intimidation of witnesses, or even the punishment of victims themselves for being involved in trafficking.  An Expert asked whether the Government had improved its victim-identification process and increased funding for the Government-run shelter for victims, and whether Serbia had any bilateral agreements regarding combatting trafficking. 

The well-represented delegation, which included two high-profile judges, was appreciated by an Expert who also commended Serbia for the great detail included in the report.  He then spoke about judicial reform, saying that the independence of the judiciary did not mean an absence of accountability.  He asked what disciplinary actions judges were liable to and how many deaths in custody had been investigated by the judiciary. 

Serbia was commended for translating important documents into the Roma language, which was rare, by an Expert who asked about discrimination against members of minority communities.  The Expert cited a report that 31 Roma, including 12 children, were denied access to an emergency reception centre in Belgrade during the flooding in May, and were instead housed in an inadequate war-time shelter.  He noted the developments in upholding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and the permits given to Gay Pride parades in Belgrade, but asked about cases in September 2013 on members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. 

The existence of a statute of limitation for crimes involving torture continued to be a concern for the Committee, said an Expert.  The statute of limitation was no longer than 10 years, and no longer than three years if a person in an official capacity ill-treated another person.   She asked whether the statute of limitation denied justice for victims.  The delegation was asked how the Government took action to combat reprisals in the form of threats and abuses against human rights defenders and members of civil society.

The Committee welcomed the commencement of preventive visits to detention centres by the Ombudsperson in 2012 and his new mandate as the national preventative mechanism, said an Expert.  However, the Committee had received reports from the Office of the Ombudsperson saying that in some cases the Government, with the approval of Parliament, had denied him access to information he required to investigate cases.  He asked the delegation to comment on the allegations.

Serbia was commended for its efforts to combat organized crime, for establishing a national preventative mechanism, for the provision of detailed disaggregated statistics and for its many legislative reforms in general.  The Expert then asked if there were more recent statistics, from 2014 onwards, available.  She also asked for separate data on pre-trial and convicted prisoners, as the statistics provided combined the two categories.  The Expert noted that information on training for law enforcement officials in the report was limited to 2011 and asked whether training on the prohibition of torture and human rights in general was conducted regularly, whether the curriculum included new policies and procedures, and how it was evaluated. 

Response by the Delegation

Prison overcrowding was the greatest problem in the Serbian penal system.  Significant results had been achieved by the Strategy to Reduce Prison Overcrowding in Serbia between 2010 and 2015.  Laws on amnesty, amending the criminal code, amending the criminal procedural code, on sanctions and on non-custodial sanctions had been adopted.  The current capacity in penal institutions was 9,000 places and the current prison population of Serbia today was 10,500.  Serbia aimed to provide each detainee with four square metres of space, in accordance with European Union rules, and currently the average space per prisoner was 3.5 square metres.  Significant results had been achieved through a decision on conditional release and in 2014, 20 per cent of the total number of releases were conditional releases, and 1,566 alternative non-custodial sanctions were handed down.  In February 2012 a new high-security prison had opened and in February 2015 a new juvenile detention facility had been completed.  In 2013 and 2014 three units in the Belgrade district prison and two units in the prison hospital were renovated. 

In 2014 a ‘prison rulebook’ on the management of prisons was adopted which set out many measures to uphold the rights of detainees and protect them.  The rulebook set out that a person had to undergo a medical examination upon detention.  If a prisoner reported a case of torture or ill-treatment a medical examination would take place immediately.  In his 2014 report the Ombudsperson expressed satisfaction that his recommendations regarding the management of prisons and upholding the rights of detainees were accepted. 

A delegate spoke about Serbia’s strong cooperation with the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Serbia had opened its archives to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and investigators had paid more than 50 visits to the Serbian archives where they had spent time going through the records.  Thanks to the evidence they found in the archives it was possible to find Vlastimir Đorđević, who had been responsible for the transport and concealment of bodies.  The delegate also spoke about Serbia’s efforts to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Responding to the question about whether rape could be prosecuted as a war crime, the delegate noted that the judgements provided solid definitions of rape and called upon the Serbian courts to follow the practice of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and other international bodies in that regard.

Bringing justice to those responsible for mass killings and mass graves was taken very seriously and the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor had prioritized finding the perpetrators.  In at least four cases the persons responsible had been indicted, said the delegate, providing the Committee with the names and dates of the cases. 

A delegate informed the Committee that the definition of torture in the Criminal Code was currently being amended in a process expected to be complete by the end of 2015, to make it in line with the Convention.   He also spoke about the Institute for the Protection of Citizens, saying it was still a very young body but was registering progress on a daily basis.  The capacity of the Protector of Citizens was being strengthened and would soon encompass more duties.  Its budget had been increased on an annual basis since 2013.   Judicial reform had led to positive results and greater independence.  It was true that the economic crisis in Serbia had been reflected in the judicial budget but thanks to various financial grants the courts continued to be well equipped.

A delegate spoke about compensation for offences from the war period in the 1990s, in the context of the statute of limitations.  The Constitutional Court had ruled that the statute of limitations to seek damages was related to the law on armed conflict, and that the statute of limitations for war crimes was 15 years.  The Supreme Court, and particularly the Appellate Court in Belgrade had done much in terms of awarding compensation.  A delegate spoke about a case from 1995, regarding the torture of 55 Muslim persons in Srebrenica, which led to a new statute of limitations for seeking non-material damages for post-traumatic syndrome.  The court ruled that torture had taken place, referred to the European Convention against Torture and other treaties, and decided that the statute of limitation should begin at the point at which a person discovered they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Concerning procedures for asylum seekers, the Committee was informed that a new law on asylum was being drafted that would also encompass the issues regarding the list of ‘safe countries’.  Serbia endorsed the Committee’s suggestion that the list, which had not been updated since 2009, was not a good practice and the Government was making efforts to improve the methodology and standards for updating the list.  The Constitutional Court had ruled that when institutions made use of a list of ‘safe countries’ they should not blindly adhere to it but consider every decision on a case-by-case basis.

Outlining the rights of detainees in Serbia, a delegate said that from the moment a citizen was detained by the police, he or she had to have a defence counsel, in fulfilment of their right to defence.   Any interrogation by the police could only take place in front of the defence counsel of the detainee’s choice, failing which an ex-officio attorney would be appointed by the police.  A detainee must appear before a judge within 48 hours of being detained.  A delegate noted reports from non-governmental organizations on the ex-officio attorneys and their efficiency, and clarified that in order to avoid having privileged lawyers the ex-officio attorney was taken from a Bar Association list.

A delegate spoke about the use of ‘remand’ or pre-trial detention.  She noted that remand was reviewed monthly and could not last for longer than six months.  The delegate shared statistics with the Committee which showed that the number of persons on remand had decreased in recent years and informed it that a database tracking all the persons on remand was maintained by the courts.  Alternatives to detention were being promoted and included prohibition from leaving a place of residence, house arrest, community service, prohibition from leaving the country and prohibition from communicating with certain persons. 

The Government of Serbia had appointed a Coordinator in the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and a National Strategy for the Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Persons and the Protection of Victims.  Trafficking was defined as a crime in the Criminal Code and Serbia had ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.  The judiciary had been educated on the principles that the consent of the victim to exploitation did not eliminate criminal liability, and to not punish victims of trafficking if it could be proven that the criminal offence of which they were accused was perpetrated as a result of threat, coercion or forced measures, for example forced begging. 

There was no fund to pay compensation to victims of trafficking but the new Anti-Trafficking Strategy, which was currently being drafted, once adopted would establish a State fund to provide grants to victims.  Additionally perpetrators would be made to pay compensation directly to their victims.  There were many cases of the prosecution of perpetrators of trafficking, for example persons who had used sexual services while fully aware that the person was a trafficking victim.  In 2013 81 persons were convicted of trafficking and their sentences ranged from 10 to 20 years imprisonment.  Serbia was in full compliance with the Palermo Protocol (to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children), added the delegate. 

Street children were particularly vulnerable to trafficking, said a delegate, and to protect them special teams had been established by the Ministries for Education and Social Care in 2014, which so far had removed 60 children from the streets and taken them into care.  In the first three months of 2015 the capacities of those teams had been expanded and more personnel had been trained on how to assist street children.


Follow-Up Questions from the Experts

An Expert asked about the forced returns of persons to Hungary from Serbia, noting that many ended up in The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  He asked whether those persons had received the option to request asylum in Serbia, as well as free legal aid and information about their forced return.

How many police officers had been convicted of the crimes of torture and ill-treatment?  An Expert said the Committee was aware of 13 investigations into allegations against police officers in 2009, and said that out of 79 court proceedings from 2012 to 2014 only two were procedures, and one of those cases was suspended while the other resulted in an eight-month prison sentence.  Those figures were alarming, raised doubts about the efficiency of investigations and indicated that impunity was still a serious issue. 

It was encouraging that the State party was now cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, particularly in opening up its archives to the Prosecutor’s Office, said an Expert.   However, the Committee had received reports of personnel concealing war crimes, she said, such as the failure to prosecute senior officials, for example the case of the murder of over 200 Croatian civilians.  He asked the delegation to comment on that and on reports of corruption among immigration officials.  There was dire need to specifically include the provisions of the Convention in the police training programme, commented an Expert. 

The fact was that about 15 per cent of those indicted for war crimes in Serbia were, at the time of indictment, in active police or military service, as reported by the civil society organization ‘The Humanitarian Law Centre’.  An Expert said that the statistics showed the need for background checks and vetting of persons to prevent them being given a position where they could continue a history of abuse.  Had Serbia considered running such background checks and making a rule that any person serving as a law-enforcement officer who had criminal proceedings started against them would be removed from service?

An Expert asked about compensation paid to victims of fundamental human rights violations committed by members of Serbian armed forces and other parties, noting that only minimal compensation amounts had been paid over the last 10 years. 

Response from the Delegation

The allegations that personnel were concealing war crimes were very grave, said a delegate, and asked the Expert to substantiate her claims.  The Prosecutor for War Crimes took up every such complaint.  So far 175 persons had been prosecuted for war crimes, and 68 persons had been convicted in second instance.  Currently there were 24 cases under investigation concerning 89 suspects.   More than 40 cases were currently in a pre-investigative phase.  Together, the cases currently being considered concerned 4,300 victims.  A further 320 cases of war crimes were being investigated thanks to regional cooperation.  Serbia acknowledged that more could be done but the Committee had to bear in mind that it was prosecuting more than twice as many cases as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  

It was likely that there would be more cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity which would become increasingly complex in the future, commented the delegate.  There was no judgement saying crimes against humanity could not be applied in Serbia but no such crimes had been prosecuted yet, commented the delegate. 

Currently five persons were being prosecuted for crimes of torture and ill-treatment, confirmed a delegate.  Concrete statistical data on the convictions of police officers was not currently available today but would be handed over to the Committee. 

Background checks were important and it was envisioned that members of the Ministry of Interior Witness Protection Unit would be vetted.  This would also be applied to staff investigating war crimes.  The delegate noted that any persons suspected of a war crime would be suspended from their duties. 

The huge number of asylum seekers was a problem in Serbia simply because the country was not ready to cope with such a huge increase in refugees.  In 2014 Serbia received 16,490 asylum seekers and this year, from January to mid-April, so far 10,400 asylum-seekers had been received.  There was almost a humanitarian disaster last winter in Serbia’s struggle to house, accommodate, feed and care for all those people.  It was true that not many asylum applications were granted, said the delegate, adding that in 2014 1,039 asylum-seekers were registered with the authorities, 388 of those submitted applications, of those the cases of 88 persons were heard, and a final decision granted asylum to only six people.

Asylum-seekers enjoyed full freedom of movement and may come and go from the National Asylum Centre until 11 p.m. without asking for permission.  The majority of asylum seekers did not stay in Serbia for more than 15 days, which was the registration period.   In 2009 90 per cent of asylum-seekers registered immediately with the National Asylum Centre, but in 2014 that number dropped to 65 per cent, and in the first months of 2015 only 43 per cent registered and reported to the National Asylum Centre. 

The National Law on Asylum prohibited the forced return of any asylum seeker to a country where there was a risk they may be tortured.  Practically there was no refoulement and asylum seekers could not be punished for unlawful entry or stay in Serbia so long as they submitted an application for asylum. 

In 2013 the law on the protection of persons with mental disabilities was adopted along with a rule book on the use of restraints for persons in institutions.  Restraints could only be used on condition that all less restrictive interventions had been exhausted beforehand and proven to be ineffective.  Any reports of involuntary hospitalization were due to statistical error, said a delegate, adding that the courts did not hear all cases with the person directly, he added. 

Concluding Remarks

RADOMIR ILIC, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice of Serbia, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to address it and for its great interest in the measures that the Government of Serbia was taking to prevent acts of torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment.  Answers to any questions which had inadvertently not been responded to would be submitted to the Committee in writing, he noted. 

GEORGE TUGUSHI, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the delegation for the comprehensive dialogue and said he looked forward to the next exchange with Serbia. 

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