GENEVA (24 January 2017) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined second and third report of Serbia on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Introducing the report, Suzana Paunović, Director of the Office for Human and Minority Rights of Serbia, said that Serbia had established the strategic, legislative and institutional framework for the protection of children; the Constitution prohibited every discrimination, direct or indirect, while the rights of the child were incorporated into the specific legislation on education, health, home affairs, justice, social welfare, child protection and other laws. The Deputy Ombudsman for Children’s Rights had been appointed in 2008 and was also in charge of the independent supervision of the protection of the rights of the child in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. The strategy for the prevention and protection from discrimination aimed to establish an integrated system for the prevention of children from discrimination, with special attention to children at risk of multiple discrimination such as Roma children and children with disabilities. The new law on the prevention of domestic violence, adopted in 2016, provided for additional support to victims, as well as measures for the immediate removal of perpetrators from the family, thus further contributing to the more effective protection of children from violence.
In the ensuing dialogue, Committee Experts welcomed the efforts made to reform the legislation and public policy in areas relevant to child rights, and recognized the existence of good sounding laws addressing most issues relating to children; however, the implementation of those laws was problematic, there was no statutory definition of a child, and a comprehensive child act was not yet in place. Experts raised concern about the situation of Roma children: many were sent to special schools simply for not performing well on school entry tests conducted in Serbian, about 60 per cent of Roma girls married before the age of 18, Roma infant and child mortality rates were much higher than in general population, and some 8,500 Roma children needed birth registration. The delegation was asked about legal and policy mechanisms to protect children from violence and abuse, and steps taken to change the attitude that what happened in the family was a family matter; about the impact of austerity measures on budgetary allocations for children; and the assistance and support to families to ensure they could care for their children with disabilities.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Serbia, recognized the positive response of Serbia to the influx of migrant and refugee children and noted that much remained to be done in providing the necessary protection to the children and alleviating their suffering, particularly for unaccompanied and separated children. The formal framework for the early identification of such children and their referral to child protection services was not in place, while the law on asylum was silent on a minimum age of persons to legally claim asylum and it did not have age assessment procedures. The children were appointed three guardians in different stages of the process, which made the children more vulnerable to smugglers and human traffickers who seem to be very active in Serbia in this context. There were reports that refugees and migrants, including children, had been pushed back across the border to Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.