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Serbia: Legal Response to Covid-19

Serbia [rs]

Ivana Krstic, Marko Davinic

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 15 July 2024

General editors: Prof. Jeff King; Prof. Octavio Ferraz
Area editors: Dr. Pedro Villarreal; Dr. Andrew Jones; Prof. Alan Bogg; Prof. Nicola Countouris; Prof. Eva Pils; Prof. Nico Steytler; Dr. Elena de Nictolis; Dr. Bryan Thomas; Dr. Michael Veale; Dr. Silvia Suteu; Prof. Colleen Flood; Prof. Cathryn Costello; Dr. Natalie Byrom.


© The several contributors 2021. Some rights reserved. This is an open access publication, available online and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0), a copy of which is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/. Enquiries concerning use outside the scope of the licence terms should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press.

Preferred Citation: I Krstic, M Davinic, ‘Serbia: Legal Response to Covid-19’, in Jeff King and Octávio LM Ferraz et al (eds), The Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19 (OUP 2021). doi: 10.1093/law-occ19/e7.013.7

For Parts I–IV, except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 16 December 2020

For Parts V–VI, except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 1 April 2021

I.  Constitutional Framework

1.  Serbia is a unitary parliamentary democracy with a codified constitution.1 Its National Assembly is unicameral, directly elected, and composed of 250 MPs.2 The National Assembly elects its President (the Speaker), who represents the Assembly, convokes its sessions, presides over them, and performs other activities laid out within the Constitution, the National Assembly Act, and the Rules of Procedure.3

2.  The constitutional system of the Republic of Serbia is established on the basis of a division of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, among which there is to be a relationship of balance and mutual control.4 However, the widespread dominance of the executive—in particular the institution of the President of the Republic—is evident. The Constitution vests executive power in the Government, which consists of the Prime Minister, one or more Vice Presidents, and various ministers.5 The Prime Minister is elected by the National Assembly on the proposal of the President of the Republic (‘President’), following consultations with all parliamentary leaders. Cabinet ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and confirmed by the National Assembly. The President is elected by popular vote as an expression of state unity.6 The office of President is formally a predominantly ceremonial position, yet in practice it is the strongest institution in Serbia.

3.  The Constitution envisages three levels of governance: central, provincial, and local. Although municipalities play an important role in providing social and health services, the central government takes priority in the event of a conflict. Many services are regulated by statute but managed—with considerable discretion—by local government. There are 174 local self-government units in Serbia as of 2020: 145 municipalities and 29 cities.7 Approximately half of their revenue arises from central government grants; the remainder is derived from local taxation, mainly in the form of property taxes. Health and social protection fall within the concurrent competence of local self-government bodies.8 Serbia boasts a universal health care system, managed by the National Health Insurance Fund, which covers all citizens and permanent residents. There is a wide network of public care institutions owned and controlled by the Ministry of Health. Primary care is provided in health care centres and health care stations throughout the country, which provide different services. Secondary and tertiary health care services are offered in health institutions across the country, including general hospitals, specialized hospitals or institutes, and academic hospitals.

4.  The National Assembly exercises supreme legislative power and adopts the budget. The Government conducts the policy of the Republic of Serbia and executes acts of the National Assembly by, among other means, passing bylaws.9 ‘Bylaw’ is the generic term for all acts of lower legal force than laws. They can be issued by the Government, ministries, or the National Assembly. However, only the Government can issue special forms of bylaws such as decrees. The Government proposes bills to the National Assembly and gives opinions on draft bills that it had not itself proposed.10 The state administration is a part of the executive and consists of ministries, administrative authorities within these ministries, and special organizations.11

5.  Emergency powers are reserved to the National Assembly, although it is primarily the responsibility of the executive to respond to emergencies.

6.  The response to the pandemic did not involve a formal change in the basic constitutional structure of the state. However, the practical reality was that all decisions had been placed in the hands of the executive.

II.  Applicable Legal Framework

A.  Constitutional and international law

7.  Serbia has a monist legal order insofar as its Constitution gives direct effect to ratified international treaties and customary international law.12 Serbia is a party to many international human rights instruments—including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—which contain provisions on human rights derogation.13 As of March 2004, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR) has had direct effect: any public executive action that violates the ECHR is thus unlawful and can be challenged before the Constitutional Court.14 The only limitation on Serbia’s monism is that ratified international treaties must accord with the Constitution, which is the highest act in Serbia.15 Also, it is important to note that the European Council granted Serbia the status of candidate country in 2012, while the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Serbia and the European Union (EU) entered into force in September 2013. As part of its accession efforts, Serbia is constantly working towards aligning its legislation with the EU acquis.

8.  Relying on Article 200 of the Constition, Serbia declared a state of emergency on 15 March 2020,16 which was then lifted on 6 May 2020.17 However, the Decision on the Declaration of State Emergency did not contain any provision detailing the list of basic rights and freedoms suspended during the state of emergency. Likewise, in a note verbale to the Council of Europe, which was submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in accordance with Article 15 of the ECHR, the Government solely acknowledged that ‘[t]he measures implemented by the Republic of Serbia have derogated from certain obligations provided for in the [ECHR] to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the epidemilogical situation and medical necessity.’18

9.  There is a formal constitutional procedure for declaring a national state of emergency. The Constitution authorises the National Assembly to make a declaration ‘when the survival of the state or its citizens is threatened by a public danger.’19 On such an occasion, the National Assembly convenes without any special call for assembly and may not be dissmissed.20 This decision can be effective for 90 days, and can be extended for another 90 days. When the National Assembly is not in a position to convene, the decision is adopted by the President, together with the Speaker and the Prime Minister, as was the case in 2020.21 However, even then, the Assembly must approve the state of emergency as soon as possible. During this period, the National Assembly is permitted to prescribe measures which may derogate from human rights and freedoms, however the Constitution contains a long list of rights which are absolute and cannot be subject to derogation.22

10.  The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) are binding on Serbia without any reservation.23 Serbia’s Act on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases (‘Infectious Diseases Act’), which relies on WHO recommendations and announcements, allows for a quarantine and other restrictions on freedom of movement.24 In its note verbale to the Council of Europe, Serbia expressly announced that its measures had been based in whole or in part on the recommendations of the WHO.25 In other words, the authorities had aligned their pandemic response with WHO recommendations, as was expressed in their statements. However, the legal instruments adopted did not expressly quote WHO standards.

B.  Statutory provisions

11.  There was no new general law introduced to provide emergency powers to respond to Covid-19. The legal framework for dealing with Covid-19 in Serbia is instead based on two distinct foundations. First, it is based on constitutional provisions providing powers to declare the state of emergency, under which numerous bylaws were adopted by the Government in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The National Assembly subsequently passed the Act (retroactively) confirming these bylaws.26

12.  The legal basis for the adoption of public health measures prior to and after the state of emeregency has been provided by two acts, adopted before the pandemic: the Infectious Diseases Act27 and the Act on the Reduction of Risks from Disasters and on the Management of Emergency Situations (‘Disaster Risk Reduction Act’).28

13.  The Infectious Diseases Act was adopted in 2016. On 10 March 2020, the Government adopted the Decision proclaiming Covid-19 as an infectious disease29 in accordance with Article 6(1) of the Act, which first introduced restrictions on the arrival, entry, and movement of persons. On 19 March 2020, according to Article 6(2) of the Infectious Diseases Act, the Minister of Health issued an Order declaring Covid-19 an epidemic.30 The Act regulates the protection of the population from infectious diseases, defines diseases, and prescribes epidemiological surveillance and appropriate measures for their eradication. The Act prescribes that the Institute of Public Health coordinates the implementation of epidemiological surveillance in the entire territory and issues expert instructions. The Institute consolidates, analyzes, and interprets data obtained via epidemiological surveillance of the territory of the Republic of Serbia. It then shares this data with other countries, the WHO, and other international organizations. Epidemiological surveillance is carried out on the basis of the programmes adopted by the Government, with the Minister of Health prescribing the type and means of conducting epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases and special health issues. The Act also introduces a range of general and special meaures that protect the population from infectious diseases. These measures mainly restrict freedom of movement, such as a health supervision regime following international travel, travel restrictions, and a quarantine (see further in Part IV below). The Act was amended during the state of emergency in a fast-track proceedure. The changes made were minor ones allowing the Government to deal more efficiently with Covid-19.31 Another, more significant amendment to this Act was adopted on 13 November 2020,32 in a regular procedure. This Act defines the conditions under which vaccination against Covid-19 would be mandatory, the scope of authority of communal inspectors and police officers, quarantine and isolation measures, sanctions for non-compliance with measures, as well as some new competences given to the Minister of Health during the pandemic.

14.  The Disaster Risk Reduction Act,33 adopted in 2018, replaced the Emergency Situation Act from 2009.34 It regulates the operation, declaration, and management of emergency situations. An emergency situation has been defined as a

situation that arises from the proclamation by the competent authority when the risks, threats or consequences for the population, environment and material and cultural goods are of such scope and intensity that their occurrence or consequences are not possible to prevent or eliminate by regular action of the competent bodies and services, which is why for their mitigation and elimination it is necessary to use special measures, forces and means with an intensified regime of work.35

15.  The Act provides that the coordination and management of protection and rescue in emergency situations is performed by operational-professional bodies: (1) for the territory of the Republic of Serbia this is the Republic Headquarters for Emergency Situations, formed by the Government; (2) for the territory of the autonomous province this is the provincial headquarters; (3) for the territory of the city and municiplaity this is the city or municipality headquarters for emergency situations, and other institutions and bodies whose role is defined in the Act.

16.  The National Assembly was almost inactive from March to October 2020. As explained above, it merely adopted minor changes to the Infectious Diseases Act in order to deal more efficiently with Covid-19,36 and passed two election-related acts.37 After the state of emergency was lifted, parliamentary and local elections were organized and the National Assembly was inactive until the constitution of the new Government. Thereafter, on 13 November 2020, the Assembly adopted significant amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act.38

C.  Executive rule-making powers

17.  During the Covid-19 crisis, the executive played a preponderant rulemaking role in order to deal with the crisis. Those executive bylaws made between 15 March to 29 April 2020 were not subject to parliamentary scrutiny, as the Assembly was not in session until 28 April 2020. On 29 April 2020, the National Assembly met and simply approved all the bylaws.39 Many have criticized this inactivity and passivity of the National Assembly.40 For over six weeks the executive was not subject to formal parliamentary control, in a situation where human rights had been significantly restricted. Moreover, bylaws adopted after the state of emergency was lifted were also not subject to scrutiny of the National Assembly.

18.  During the Covid-19 crisis, the National Assembly adopted three laws and one decision, while the Government adopted 14 decrees with the co-signature of the President and the subsequent confirmation of the National Assembly. Furthermore, the Government promulgated or made 39 other legal acts (10 decrees, 16 decisions, 10 conclusions, and three rulings), ministries adopted 10 acts (four regulations, four orders, and two instructions), and the Serbian National Bank enacted six decisions.41 However, not all of them contain public health measures. The Government, with the co-sign of the President, adopted the Decision proclaiming Covid-19 to be an infectious disease on 10 March 2020 and has amended it 29 times—it is still in force.42 This Decision was followed by the Order of the Minister of Health declaring Covid-19 an epidemic,43 which was adopted on 19 March 2020 and is still in force. In general, all legal acts in Serbia remain in force until the adoption of a legal act of the same or higher legal force which terminates their validity.

19.  The other major bylaw which was adopted by the Government with the co-sign of the President was the Decree on measures during the state of emergency adopted on 16 March 2020 and amended 11 times before it ceased to be valid on 6 May 2020,44 in accordance with the Act on the validity of decrees adopted by the Government.45 The Government adopted the Conclusion on the designation of a facility for the execution of quarantine measures in order to prevent the ocurrence, spread, and control of Covid-19 on 17 March 2020,46 which is still in force. The Minister of Health enacted the Order on the prohibition of visits and restriction of movement in facilities for elderly47 from 14 March 2020, which has been amended twice—it is still in force. The Minister of Health also enacted the Order on the organisation and implementation of quarantine measures on 17 March 2020,48 which is still in force. The Conclusion on the safe work of religious communities was adopted by the Government on 27 March 2020 and remains in force.49 The Government also adopted the Conclusion on the suspension of work with clients through direct contact in public institutions on 18 March and amended it the following day—it is still in force.50 The Conclusion on the establishment of unified and centralized information system on Covid-19 was adopted on 28 March 2020 and ceased to be valid on 3 April 2020.51 Several decisions on opening temporary facilities for accomodation and treatment of persons affected by Covid-19 were adopted by the Government.52 These remain in force.

20.  After the state of emergency was lifted, several important bylaws were adopted. The Decree on measures for prevention and control of infectious disease Covid-19 was adopted by the Government on 7 May 2020 and amended 12 times, most recently on 3 December 2020, and is still in force.53 It is accompanied by three orders on the appointment of its members.54 The Decision on the establishment of the Working Group for coordination of activities and determination of the needs of microbiological laboratories in public ownership that perform laboratory tests for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus was adopted on 31 July 2020 and is still in force.55 Furthermore, the following bylaws were adopted by ministries: the Minister of Education adopted the Regulation on special education program on 26 August 2020 (still in force);56 the Minister of Labour adopted the Regulation on preventive measures for safe and healthy work from 3 July 2020 (still in force);57 the Minister of Health adopted the Order on the prohibition of gathering on public places from 16 July 2020, amended two times on 28 August and 6 November 2020—it is still in force.58 The Minister of Health also adopted the Instruction on the implementation of the Decision on the Order declaring an epidemic of Covid-19, partly restricting the entry of persons into Serbia,59 on 20 August 2020. This has been amended twice and remains in force.

21.  As was mentioned above, many bylaws were amended on several occasions to address the need for either more or less restrictive measures. The National Assembly passed the Act indicating which specific bylaws were no longer valid, as well as to provide for the duration of validity of other acts still in force.60

22.  All of the legal acts described above are subject to constitutional scrutiny by the Constitutional Court. During the state of emergency, 66 initiatives (cases) challenging the constitutionality of the emergency measures and 10 constitutional appeals concerning possible human rights violations were filed with the Constitutional Court. However, as of 31 October 2020, the Constitutional Court has rendered only two judgments. In the first, the Court dismissed a challenge which argued that the declaration of the state of emergency had been unconstitutional because it was not declared by the National Assembly when it had the capacity to do so.61 However, the Constitutional Court noted that the state of emergency is also regulated by the Defence Act62 and the Rulebook of the National Assembly,63 and that the Constitution does not determine who assesses the basis, criteria, and reasons for which the National Assembly is not able to convene. Therefore, the Constitutional Court accepted that the Speaker was competent to inform the President and the Government that the National Assembly was unable to convene. In its explanation of the decision, the Constitutional Court elaborated on the danger imposed by the coronavirus, but did not assess the decision declaring the state of emergency in accordance with the Constitution, international law, and other acts. This was criticized by the European Commission.64 In the second case, the Court suspended the procedure for the assessment of the constitutionality of several bylaws, finding that they were not contrary to the Constitution.65 The Constitutional Court accepted that the Government, with the co-signature of the President, prescribed measures to derogate from human rights by authorizing the Ministry of Interior to adopt general acts on restrictions of movement in public places. However, the issue of the proportionality of the prescribed measures with respect to the restriction of freedom of movement during the state of emergency was not elaborated upon.

23.  A relevant principle of proportionality is recognized by the Constitution. Article 202(1) provides that upon proclamation of the state of emergency, human rights derogations are permitted ‘only to the extent deemed necessary.’ Furthermore, Article 20(1) stipulates principles for human rights restrictions: restrictions are permitted only to the extent necessary in a democratic society, and without encroaching upon the substance of the relevant right. The Constitution also requires courts to take into account the following issues when assessing the restriction: (1) the content of the restricted right; (2) the pertinence of the restriction; (3) the nature and extent of the restriction; (4) the relation between the restriction and its purpose; and (5) the existence of less restrictive means for achieving the same purpose. In its Note to the Council of Europe, Serbia underlined that its measures derogating from certain obligations provided for in the ECHR were implemented to ‘the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the epidemiological situation and medical necessity.’66

24.  In summary, bylaws in Serbia enacting public health measures are theoretically subject to legislative and judicial scrutiny. However, in reality, legislative scrutiny has been weak to the extent that the legislature has merely ratified rather than varied the instruments adopted, while judicial scrutiny has remained quite deferential. The same can be said for bylaws adopted after the state of emergency was lifted.

D.  Guidance

25.  All information concerning the pandemic, including all executive decisions and recommendations, is published on the Government’s Legal Information System website,67 as well as on the Covid-19 website,68 which is maintained by the Ministry of Health and the Institute for Public Health. Recommendations are mainly given by the Covid-19 Infectious Disease Crisis Response Team (‘Crisis Team’). The Crisis Team was established on 13 March 2020,69 but the formal decision on its foundation was adopted and published on 30 October 2020.70 This team was established by the Government, and initially was composed of the President of Serbia, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance, the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Governor of the National Bank, the Director of the Health Insurance Fund, the Provincial Secretary of Health, as well as directors of the relevant institutes, clinics, and other relevant bodies. The Crisis Team cannot formally issue any binding decisions; it may only propose to the Government and other competent bodies and organizations appropriate measures within their competences. However, all these organizations will in practice comply with the Crisis Team’s recommendations, given that it is comprised of the Prime Minister and 12 ministers, thus enjoying significant authority.

26.  During the state of emergency, a daily press conference was held at 3pm to provide an update on the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and other relevant information. From 9 August 2020, the frequency was reduced to a few times a week. During this conference, the Crisis Team informs the public of compulsory measures that will be introduced by the competent institutions and makes recommendations to the public. A good example of this would be the Crisis Team’s recommendation to wear masks indoors, before they were introduced as mandatory in city and suburban transport.71

III.  Institutions and Oversight

A.  The role of legislatures in supervising the executive

27.  The Serbian National Assembly oversees the regulation-making powers of the Government. As noted above, the Assembly took 44 days to convene after the declaration of the state of emergency (see Part II.C above). When it finally did, it merely confirmed adopted decisions. In addition, as mentioned in Part III.D below, although parliamentary elections were held on 21 June 2020—the mandate of the previous session had expired on 3 June—the National Assembly had not been constituted and its Speaker had not been elected until 22 October, despite there being no objective obstacle to this.

28.  The National Assembly posseses the competence to enact acts,72 while the Government executes them, proposes them, and gives its opinions on them to the National Assembly. The Government also adopts regulations and other general acts for the purpose of law enforcement.73 Therefore, there exist parliamentary scrutiny mechanisms for public health regulations. However, no such scrutiny has occurred regarding pandemic regulations in practice, even though these regulations have been in operation for weeks and, in some cases, even months.

29.  As the National Assembly did not meet for 44 days (from 16 March to 28 April 2020) and was dissolved on 3 June 2020, it was unable to perform its oversight functions, which are traditionally exercised through the work of committees, (especially the Health and Family Committee), public hearings, and parliamentary questions.

30.  The National Assembly has the power to scrutinize Government by way of interpellation, by passing a motion of no confidence in the Government or in a Government member, as well as the power to review the Government and ministries reporting on its work.74 However, none of these powers were exercised during the Covid-19 crisis, from its beginning until December 2020.

31.  The executive may not extend its own powers without further action on the part of the legislature, which is why the National Assembly on 29 April 2020 adopted the Act on confirmation of decrees adopted by the Government with the co-signature of the President of the Republic during the state of emergency.75 The session was held without any significant debate on the inactivity of the National Assembly during the state of emergency, which was expected bearing in mind that the opposition has boycotted the work of the Assembly since February 2019.76 However, the opposition parties argued from the Assembly building’s hall that the state of emergency was illegal.77 On 6 May 2020, after lifting the state of emergency, the National Assembly adopted the Act on the validity of those decrees, which determined whether these decrees ceased to be valid, or if they would continue to be valid until the entry into force of certain Acts.78

B.  The functioning of the legislature where its ordinary business is disrupted

32.  The National Assembly convened only six weeks after the state of emergency was declared. The Speaker explained that a session had not been possible due to the Government measure banning gatherings of more than 50 people.79 As the operations of the Assembly had been suspended, its ability to scrutinize the executive during this period was naturally limited.80

33.  Upon its resumption on 29 April 2020, the National Assembly was active until 3 June 2020, when it was then dissolved due to the elections to be held on 21 June 2020.

34.  MPs were unable to participate in oral questions, urgent questions, and ministerial statements. Alternatives, such as a virtual session, were not explored, even though parliaments in other countries had meanwhile introduced video or hybrid sessions.

35.  There have been significant complaints in the press and by opposition parties concerning the disproportionate political constraints imposed on parliamentary scrutiny during the pandemic. Some have argued that the failure to hold a parliamentary session was a political decision, as no official explanation had been offered for why the National Assembly could not convene when many other parliaments worldwide had continued to operate.81 For example, Ms. Natasa Vuckovic, MP of the Democratic Party, stated that ‘it is disputable who determined that the National Assembly cannot convene and how. … For me as an MP, it is unacceptable that the Assembly hadn’t decided if the Assembly may and should be convened.’82 She also criticized the fact that there was no attempt to organize an online session, although other parliaments had resorted to this practice.

36.  An explanation was given by the Speaker after the request of eight MPs, all of whom were members of opposition parties.83 The manner of declaring the state of emergency—by the President, together with the President of the National Assembly (the Speaker) and the Prime Minister—also came under criticism, as did the reason provided for declaring it—namely, that it was the only legal way to postpone electoral activities such as the collection of signatures, campaigning, and voting.84

37.  Parliamentary committees did not continue to meet. They had not been able to conduct their business given that the National Assembly was in a caretaker period in anticipation of the elections initially called for 26 April 2020.

C.  Role of and access to courts

38.  The pandemic prompted significant and rapid changes to the operation of courts. On 17 March 2020, the Minister of Justice issued a recommendation for the functioning of courts and prosecutorial offices.85 It was recommended that judges and prosecutors work from home, except in emergency cases. Work from home was particularly recommended for people above the age of 60, people with chronic diseases, and for those with children up to 12 years of age. On the same day, the High Judicial Council issued an Instruction declaring that it would cease to work in person with parties, who could thus only communicate with the Council via post or email.86 This Instruction was followed by similar instructions across courts of all jurisdictions and the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office.87 On 19 March 2020, the Bar Association issued a declaration that lawyers would represent clients only in emergency cases.88

39.  In his recommendation, the Minister of Justice identified the following as emergency cases in criminal proceedings: detention cases, illegal trade, failure to act pursuant to health regulations during an epidemic, transmission of a contagious disease, cases against minors, domestic violence, cases where there is a risk of being time-barred, and other criminal acts for which a greater number of criminal charges are submitted and executed during a state of emergency. With respect to civil proceedings, urgent cases were deemed to be those involving international legal assistance, bankruptcy proceedings, cases dealing with the ban on dissemination of information by the press and mass media, maternity or paternity disputes, discrimination cases, and cases of mobbing. In misdemeanour proceedings, urgent cases consisted of those involving minors, domestic violence, public order cases, a risk of the case being time-barred, and other acts for which a greater number of misdemeanour charges are submitted and executed during a state of emergency. Therefore, oral hearings were held in the court building only in a few very urgent matters in criminal, civil, and misdemeanour proceedings. Hearings were postponed in non-urgent cases, though case-related time limits and the statute of limitations were suspended for the duration of the state of emergency.89 Parties were able to obtain information about their case either by telephone, or through the portal of the Ministry of Justice; they were also allowed to send written submissions by post. On 18 March 2020, the High Judicial Council confirmed the list of urgent cases, as proposed by the Minister of Justice. The Republic Prosecutor issued a General Mandatory Instruction on the work of prosecutor’s offices.90 In addition, the Republic Prosecutor issued a General Mandatory Instruction,91 establishing a policy of criminal prosecution for the failure to comply with health regulations during the pandemic (Article 248 of the Criminal Code), and for causing panic and disorder (Article 343 of the Criminal Code).92

40.  In reality, the work of the courts was limited to processing urgent cases, which were mainly related to violations of the emergency measures. Some of these urgent hearings were held via Skype. It is important to underline that all criminal hearings were conducted from detained settings. On 26 March 2020, the Ministry of Justice issued a Recommendation on the organization of Skype proceedings against people who had violated self-isolation orders, so as to protect employees and defendants.93 The Ministry informed the courts that their IT staff should provide the necessary conditions and equipment to enable proceedings to be conducted against people who had violated the self-isolation measure—in particular, computers with a camera, microphone, and Skype installed. On 1 April 2020, a Decree was issued to authorize a criminal judge in the first instance to opt for a hearing ‘through technical means for the transmission of sound and images’ when it was difficult to secure the presence of the accused in custody due to the danger of spreading a contagious disease.94 On 9 April 2020, the High Judicial Council issued a Conclusion that the Decree applies only to defendants who are in custody in relation to three criminal offenses: failure to comply with health regulations during the time of the pandemic, the spread of a contagious disease, and illicit trafficking.95 However, many academics, as well as attorneys and judges, argued that Skype hearings lack legal legitimacy and are unconstitutional.96

41.  Skype hearings were organized in such a way that the accused would be in a detention facility, while other participants—the judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer—would be in the courtroom. This gave rise to concerns about the violation of the right to fair trial, which is an absolute right under the Serbian Constitution.97 Three detention facilities were prepared—in Vršac, Požarevac, and Pirot. The first decision to come out of such a hearing was issued on 27 March 2020 by the criminal Basic Court of Dimitrovgrad for the accused’s failure to act pursuant to health regulations during the pandemic. The maximum sentence provided for in Article 248 of the Criminal Code—three years’ imprisonment—was given. Interestingly, the decision was delivered before a Decree was issued to authorize a criminal judge in the first instance to opt for a skype hearing.98 However, in two subsequent cases involving the same criminal offence, the Basic Court in Zrenjanin merely issued fines of €680 euros and €850 euros respectively. During the state of emergency (until 6 May 2020), at least 945 Skype hearings were organized.99

42.  In Serbia, the High Judicial Council has very important competences, including the election of permanent judges, the adoption of rules on the termination of a judge’s office, and performing judicial administration tasks. On 7 May 2020, the High Judicial Council adopted a Conclusion announcing that conditions for the normalization of the functioning of courts had been met, and instructing the Serbian courts to re-open under detailed health safety instructions from 11 May 2020 onwards.100 Part of the Conclusion was an instruction for the operation of courts and application of preventive health measures.101 It introduced the Rules of conduct for employees and parties in courts with the aim of preventing the spread of infection.102 No other requirements or alteration to courtroom practice has been introduced.

43.  The Constitutional Court of Serbia has a power of review over declarations of a state of emergency and public health emergencies. It can initiate the procedure for assessing the constitutionality or legality of such measures independently (proprio motu).103 However, the Constitutional Court did not use this power. On the contrary, even though it received some 66 initiatives for assessing the constitutionality of the emergency measures and 10 appeals over possible violations of human rights, it has delivered only two decisions. On 21 May 2020, the Constitutional Court decided to dismiss the request to review the constitutionality of the procedure by which the state of emergency was introduced.104 The court elaborated on the facts surrounding the pandemic, and held that while it is difficult to differentiate between a state of emergency and an emergency situation, there is no doubt that Covid-19 posed a public danger. The Court has not provided clear guidance on when it is necessary to proclaim the state of emergency and to derogate from certain rights and freedoms, nor on whether the restriction may be achieved by less intrusive means. As for the claim that the constitutional procedure for the declaration of the state of emergency had not been adhered to, the Court concluded that a spirit of balance was preserved by the fact that the state of emergency was declared by the President, the Prime Minister, and the Speaker. Finally, it rejected the argument that the lack of explanation of the decision to declare the state of emergency was problematic, for the reason that other general acts also do not contain such explanations. Unfortunately, the Constitutional Court did not assess the state of emergency decision in light of the Serbian Constitution and other legislation.105 Other courts lack the power to review the constitutionality of the declaration itself, though they retain the jurisdiction to deal with excessive use of force, discriminatory measures, or other human rights violations that may have occured during the state of emergency.

D.  Elections

44.  The parliamentary, provincial, and municipal elections in Serbia were initially scheduled for 26 April 2020.106 The elections were called on 4 March 2020 and initially scheduled for 26 April 2020,107 but on 15 March 2020 the decision was taken to suspend them.108 The state of emergency was lifted on 6 May 2020, along with several precautionary measures. Therefore, on 10 May 2020, the President of the Republic adopted the Decision that elections will be held on 21 June 2020,109 and on the following day the Republic Election Commission adopted an Order on continuation of all election activities.110

45.  The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) deployed a Special Election Assessment Mission to observe the election held on 21 June 2020. The Mission found that the elections ‘were administered efficiently, despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, although the dominance of the ruling party, including within the media, was of concern.’111 Voter turnout was 48.9%, a drop from 56% in 2016. A number of opposition parties had already sought to boycott the elections prior to the Covid-19 crisis due to the governing party’s overwhelming advantage, as evidenced by the promotion of government policies by most major media in Serbia.112 The boycott declaration was adopted on 1 February 2020. According to CRTA, in the period from 4 to 16 March 2020, ruling parties were represented in 91.1% of all media featuring politicians as guests. As a result, only three party lists passed the 3% electoral threshold113 despite the fact that in February 2020 an amendment to diminish the threshold from 5% to 3% had been adopted.114 Such a change of conditions only a year prior to the election is a violation of the Venice Commission’s Code of good practice in electoral matters.115 Another controversial change occurred on 10 May 2020, during the election campaign and immediately after the state of emergency was lifted authorization was granted to city and municipal administrations, not just to notaries, to verify the signatures of citizens for the candidacy of electoral lists.116 This was essentially a reversal of the 2017 election reform limiting authorization to certify signatures to notaries, but the OSCE Mission found this to be a positive amendment as it would reduce the workload of notaries and courts during the pandemic.117

46.  Elections were held regularly. Protective measures consisted of the use of masks and safe physical distancing between voters. However, at the end of June and in early July 2020, Serbia saw an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. The President announced the reintroduction of a stricter curfew, which then led to protests in Belgrade and several other cities in Serbia. The dominant view, as proven by the Balcan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN),118 was that the officially declared number of positive Covid-19 cases had been suppressed with the intention of holding elections and increasing voter turnout119 by giving the false impression that it was safe to go to polling stations. However, in July 2020, the pandemic had escalated and the situation in Serbia was much worse than in neighboring countries.

E.  Scientific advice

47.  The Institute for Public Health and a regular scientific advisory body—the Republic Expert Commission for the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases (‘Expert Commission’)—are competent to give scientific advice concerning the pandemic. The Permanent Epidemic Commission of the Ministry of Health was founded in 1919, and was renamed in 2006 to the Institute for Public Health. It is an expert institution which provides advice, support, and guidance for the Government, and conducts independent research. The Institute for Public Health had regularly published recommendations concerning issues such as physical exercise, work behaviour, and suicide prevention. The Expert Commission was established by the Ministry of Health pursuant to Article 11 of the Infectious Diseases Act. It has an advisory role in the field of prevention and supression of infectious diseases, and the development of health services dealing with the prevention, control, and treatment of infectious diseases as well as patient support. Pursuant to Article 50 of the Infectious Diseases Act, the Minister of Health declared the outbreak an infectious disease of greater epidemiological significance, on the proposal of the Institute and Expert Commission.

48.  However, the public only became aware of the existence of the Expert Commission at a press conference on 30 July 2020, and was nonetheless left without a clear answer as to its role in relation to the crisis.120 The only direct mention of the Commission was contained in an Order stipulating that passenger control and health warnings for all passengers at airports and other border crossings in Serbia would be performed in accordance with the instructions of the Expert Commission.121

49.  Notwithstanding the existence of the Expert Commission, two ad hoc bodies were established by a Conclusion of the Government on 13 March 2020: the Covid-19 Infectious Disease Crisis Response Team and the Crisis Response Team for the Prevention of the Harmful Consequences of the Covid-19 Infectious Disease on the Economy.122 Both teams consisted of representatives of the Government and experts in the field. The role of the first Crisis Team was to inform the public of the number of positive Covid-19 cases, give recommendations, announce possible measures, and explain the importance of these measures from a scientific point of view. The role of the second Crisis Team will be discussed in Part V below.

50.  The Government is not expressly obligated to follow scientific advice with primary or secondary legislation. Thus, the recommendations of the two crisis teams are not binding. Their advice is simply presented during press conferences, as well as on the Covid-19 website.

51.  Notably, these crisis teams are not independent in either a de jure or de facto sense, bearing in mind that they are not composed solely of experts, but also of a significant number of Government representatives. Given that many recommendations put forth by the expert part of the Crisis Team are not supported by its political members,123 the dominant view is that the recommendations made and expressed by doctors are greatly altered by politics. That was the main reason why a group of 3000 doctors gathered in the informal initiative ‘United Against Covid’ to write an open letter sent to the Government sharply distancing themselves from the Crisis Team and demanding its removal. Among other things, they demanded the ‘formation of a new Crisis Team consisting of experts with proven professional and moral qualities. The reasons for the failure of the current Crisis Team should be urgently clarified to the public and new members.’124 They also demanded ‘the end to intimidation and politicization that especially in the time of the epidemic interfere with good practice and violate human dignity in health care.’125 Not only did the Government not act on this letter, some signatories of the petition were fired over time.126

F.  Freedom of the press and freedom of information

52.  There were many instances of press restrictions imposed by the Government during the pandemic. On 28 March 2020, the Government adopted a Conclusion mandating the centralization of public information about the Covid-19 pandemic during the state of emergency.127 In particular, it stipulated that all information regarding the pandemic should only be communicated to the public by the Prime Minister or a person authorized by the Crisis Team. On 1 April 2020, the OSCE expressed concern that this would limit the freedom of access to information,128 following which the Government revoked the Conclusion.129 Research has shown that a significant percentage of citizens have expressed general distrust in public institutions (32%), especially in the Crisis Team (35%), the media (36%), the President (39%), and the Government (41%).130 An average of 29% of the total number of respondents expressed trust in these six actors; an average of 32% expressed distrust.

53.  Research conducted in April 2020 also found that citizens felt completely or partially uninformed on Covid-19 conditions on a national level—2% felt completely uninfomed, 8% partially uninfomed, 39% partially infomed, 22% completely infomed, while 29% did not feel either informed or uninformed—or within their local community—16% felt completely uninfomed, 30% partially uninfomed, 29% partially infomed, 9% completely infomed, while 22% did not feel either informed or uninfomed.131 Even prior to the pandemic, freedom of information was one of the most endangered rights in Serbia.132 According to Reporters without Borders, Serbia was ranked at 93rd place in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index and is marked as ‘a worrying state’. Freedom House found that in 2019, a number of important journalists faced smear campaigns, punitive tax inspections, and other forms of pressure. Reports of journalists facing pressure, verbal threats, attacks on their property, physical attacks, and even arrests have been common, even more so during the pandemic.133 One journalist was arrested for publishing an article asserting a lack of protective equipment and medical workers in the Clinical Centre of Vojvodina. The explanation for her detention, the search of her apartment, and confiscation of her mobile phone and laptop was that she had disturbed the public and had damaged the reputation of the institution.134 Many international and domestic organizations criticized Serbian authorities’ response for its chilling effect, and the journalist was subsequently released.135 This is just a continuation of a very poor record on freedom of media in Serbia and attacks on journalists.136

54.  Exacerbating this phenomenon is the fact that the Covid-19 crisis has weakened the economic position of certain media outlets. In a local survey, 87% of electronic media respondents, as well as 77% and 64% of print and online media respondents respectively, stated that their survival had been endangered.137

G.  Ombuds and oversight bodies

55.  There are three important independent bodies with the role of overseeing the actions of the executive during the Covid-19 crisis. Firstly, the Protector of Citizens (the Ombudsman) plays a key role in protecting citizens’ right to good administration.138 The Ombudsman has reacted to implemented measures on several occasions. For example, it was by virtue of his intervention that the number of telephone lines providing Covid-19 information was increased.139 The Ombudsman also permitted an increase in the number of visits to detention facilities, and in some cases recommended milder measures of isolation and more adequate accommodation.140 Secondly, the Commissioner for Protection of Equality (CPE) has a wide range of comptences in the prevention of and protection from discrimination.141 The CPE received many complaints of discriminatory measures having been taken during the state of emergency. It issued several general recommendations finding that certain adopted measures were discriminatory, or that special attention should have been accorded to certain vulnerable groups.142 However, the mandate of the CPE expired on 26 May 2020, and was only renewed on 26 November 2020, after six months of inactivity of this independent body. This was a consequence of a failure to elect the new Commissioner in a timely manner and prior to parliamentary elections. The state of emergency further contributed to this delay.

56.  Finally, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (‘Commissioner’) monitors public authorities’ adherence to their obligations with respect to access to information and protection of personal data.143 During the pandemic, the Commissioner issued a recommendation on data protection in distance learning environments and dealt with complaints by the public of not having received pandemic-related information.144 The information requested mainly concerned infection and death rates, in addition to protective equipment and means of treatment.

57.  No special independent reviewer of Covid-19 legislation or policy has been appointed.

IV.  Public Health Measures, Enforcement and Compliance

A.  Public health measures

58.  Public health measures covered in this Part have been enacted by the Government, mainly in the form of a decree or a decision. The first main source is the Decree on measures during a state of emergency from 16 March 2020, adopted by the Government with the co-sign of the President of the Republic, and confirmed by the National Assembly on 29 April 2020.145 It ceased to be valid on 7 May 2020, when the state of emergency was lifted. Another significant decision is the Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19,146 adopted by the Government on 7 May 2020 pursuant the Article 6(1) of the Act on the protection of population from infectious diseases.147 This decree was amended 12 times, the last being on 3 December 2020. It ceased to be valid with the adoption of the new Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, which entered into force on 16 December 2020.148 However, many other bylaws, mentioned in Part IV, have introduced special health measures. The role of local governments in enacting public health measures has been significant, as they have the ability to proclaim an emergency situation under the Disaster Risk Reduction Act.149 The latter Act prescribes in Article 5 that in a time of crisis, local governments have a primary role in disaster risk management.

59.  A complete list of public health regulations is published on the website of the Covid-19 Information system, but there is no summarized discussion of each instrument.150

1.  Individual mobility restrictions on citizens (stay-at-home, curfews, etc)

60.  On 10 March 2020, the Government adopted a Decision proclaiming that Covid-19 is an infectious disease.151 On 15 March 2020, the state of emergency and lockdown in Serbia were announced by the President on television and stipulated in a Decree on measures during a state of emergency.152 Just two weeks prior to this, at the end of February, there had been no recommended health measures and the coronavirus had been deemed ‘ridiculous’.153 The Decree would be in force until 6 May 2020.

61.  After the state of emergency was proclaimed, general mobility restrictions were imposed from 6pm–5am on working days, and from 6pm on Friday to 5am on Monday. The longest continuous curfew in 2020 was from 17 April (Friday) 6pm to 21 April (Tuesday) 5am. The restriction did not apply to: (1) health workers with a license; (2) servants of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, the Serbian Army, and the security services in the performance of their tasks; (3) persons to whom the Ministry of Interior had issued a movement permit; (4) crew members of freight motor vehicles, cargo ships, railway vehicles, and aircraft; and (5) persons who urgently need medical assistance and who are accompanied by a maximum of two persons. Since 21 April 2020, persons with pets were allowed to go outside during the curfew hours from 11pm–1am, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8–10am, for 20 minutes, up to a maximum of 200 metres from their place of residence. Additionally, during curfew hours, persons with developmental disabilities and autism were allowed to go outside accompanied by an adult (parent or guradian), up to a maximum of 200 metres from their place of residence.154

62.  Movement restrictions in the form of a stay-at-home order were imposed on particular groups, including seniors over the age of 65. From 15–22 March 2020, seniors were not allowed to leave their home. From 22 March 2020, seniors were allowed to leave their home, but only once a week, to buy groceries, and from 4–7am in the morning. Starting on 21 April 2020, seniors were allowed to leave their home for 60 minutes within curfew hours on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, albeit only within a radius of up to 600 metres from their place of residence. These highly strict limitations on movement also applied to asylum seekers and irregular migrants accommodated in asylum and reception centres.155

63.  As the general lockdown was lifted, there was a steady switch to local lockdowns and other restrictive measures. The substance of these local lockdowns is variable. In general, they are not stay-at-home orders, but rather a combination of restrictions relating to gatherings, business closures, and limitations on the hours of operation for businesses. After the state of emergency was lifted on 6 May 2020, a Decree proclaiming different restrictive measures was adopted, and is still in force (as of 31 October 2020).156

62.  As of the time of writing, some Crisis Team members are of the opinion that Serbia will not return to another general lockdown arrangement like the one in March 2020, while others believe that this is an option that is still being seriously considered.157

2.  Restrictions on international and internal travel

65.  On 10 March 2020, the Government of Serbia adopted a Decision proclaiming that Covid-19 is an infectious disease.158 It introduced a temporary ban on entry into Serbia for persons entering from listed countries with high transmission rates of Covid-19.159 The level of risk of each country was determined on the basis of the WHO’s weekly list on the number of infected persons.

66.  On 12 March 2020, the Government adopted a Decision on closing its borders to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.160 On 19 March 2020, the Decision on the closing of all border crossing for the entry into Serbia introduced an entry ban on all foreign citizens, as well as mandatory referral to isolation (for 14 or 28 days) after entry for domestic citizens and foreign citizens who had been granted temporary or permanent residence in Serbia.161 The Decision was extended on 28 March and 7 May 2020. Since 21 May 2020, border crossings have been reopened, and this Decision ceased to be valid on 22 May 2020.162 Afterwards, the Government only changed the regime for passengers entering from countries with a high level of risk. For example, if passengers are arriving from Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the passport control stage they will receive a warning to report to the Covid-19 clinic within 24 hours of the border crossing.163 However, the Government decided that all foreign passengers arriving into Serbia will need to have a negative RT-PCR test for SARS CoV-2 issued by the reference laboratory at most 48 hours prior, while citizens can have either a negative test, or undergo a mandatory quarantine of 10 days.164

67.  On 15 March 2020, the Decision on the establishment of the Commission for granting entry permits into the territory of the Republic of Serbia was adopted.165 An Order of 17 March 2020 provided for the implementation of quarantine measures in order to control and prevent the occurrence and spread of the virus.166 These included passenger controls, health warnings for all passengers at airports and other border crossings in Serbia, as well as a restriction of freedom of movement and mandatory medical examinations for persons who were or are suspected to have been in contact with someone suffering from a contagious disease during the maximum incubation period. The risk was assessed by relying on the information given by the passengers, who were required to inform authorities whether they had been in contact with an infected person in other countries.

68.  Restrictions on air travel were imposed by a Decree prohibiting the international air transport of passengers.167 The Decree also limited internal travel within Serbia in terms of the public transport of passengers from 21 March to 8 May 2020. The decision of whether to ease prohibitive measures before the end of the state of emergency was left to the Government, taking into account the epidemiological situation. The restriction was abandoned after the state of emergency was lifted.

3.  Limitations on public and private gatherings and events

70.  Public gatherings were restricted by the Minister of Health, relying on regular law in the form of the Infectious Diseases Act.168 On 15 March 2020, the Minister issued an Order prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people in indoor public places.169 On 21 March 2020, the Minister of Health issued another Order prohibiting indoor gatherings of more than five people in public places.170 The exception was that up to 50 persons could gather in public places indoors and in official premises at the same time if the gathering is organized by a competent state body, an autonomous province body, or a local self-government unit for uninterrupted work, with targeted measures taken in order to prevent the spread of the infectious disease and with all preventive measures related to disinfection and hygiene conditions having been applied in preparation for and during the gathering. On 7 May 2020, the Order also limited outdoor gatherings to 30 people and provided that the distance between persons must be at least 1.5 meters.171 The restrictions were relaxed on 10 June 2020 to allow for indoor gatherings of up to 500 people.172 However, on 16 July 2020, the deterioration of the epidemiological situation necessitated a new Order limiting both indoor and outdoor public gatherings to 10 people, provided that they keep a minimum physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other.173 This Order did not apply to cultural events (cinemas, theatres, concerts), where it was possible for up to 500 people to gather, both indoors and outdoors.174 The measure was loosened on 28 August 2020 limiting both indoor and outdoor public gatherings to 30 people. Since 7 November 2020, with the deterioration of the epidemiological situation, this Decree was amended to limit both indoor and outdoor public gatherings to only 5 people.175 However, indoor cultural events are still allowed for up to 500 people, with the implementation of protective measures.176

71.  On several occasions, the Crisis Team specifically recommended that the public refrain from conducting private gatherings, expecially during the holidays.177

4.  Closure of premises and facilities (eg schools, shops, parks)

72.  On 15 March 2020, the Government adopted a Decision on closing preschools, schools, and higher education institutions.178 It was determined that higher education institutions and secondary and primary schools with the appropriate equipment and means would transition into distance learning. Other institutions were organizing distance teaching through the RTS public television channel, as well as through internet learning platforms. Primary and seconday schools were closed, and only reopened on 1 September 2020.179 The new school year started on time, but operated under a modified regime, with either distance learning or classes divided into smaller groups with fewer and shortened lessons. Parents were given the choice to opt for their children to remain under the distance learning regime. Universities were reopened on 18 May 2020. The new university academic year started on 1 October 2020, likewise under a modified regime, with both online lectures and face-to-face workshops and consultations. However, with the deterioration of the epidemiological situation, the decision was made to shorten the first semester for primary and secondary schools, and have winter vacation start on 21 December 2020 instead of 1 February 2021.180

73.  The Decree on measures during the state of emergency prohibited any movement in parks and public areas intended for recreation and sports from 9–30 April 2020.181 This measure was loosened on 30 April 2020,182 allowing movement in all parks and public areas intended for recreation and sport, albeit with the application of preventive measures: a mandatory social distance of two metres between people not residing in the same household, and the mandatory use of protective equipment. This Decision was valid until 7 May 2020. However, after the state of emergency was lifted, mandatory social distance and the use of protective equipment were imposed by amendment to the Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, and by the new Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, which entered into force on 16 December 2020.183

74.  The regulation of business hours consisted of both mandatory closures and restrictions on operating hours. From 21 March to 8 May 2020, shopping malls were closed, as were shops selling goods in premises that had to be entered from a larger enclosed space.184 This decision excluded legal entities and entrepreneurs selling food products, medicines, and medical devices. However, affected businesses could continue to provide goods under special conditions, as stipulated in another Decision.185 Since the state of emergency was lifted, operating hours of cafes and restaurants have been changed on several ocassions by the amendement to the Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, starting with a restrictive decision on 7 October 2020 limiting operating hours to 11pm. Since 17 November 2020, catering and trade companies, restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, shopping malls, playrooms, bookmakers, shops and all other stores, beauty and hairdressing salons, fitness centers, gyms, spas, and swimming pools have been allowed to operate every day until 9pm. Several days later, on 24 November, the working day was shortened to 6pm, while on 4 December 2020, additional restrictions were adopted by the Government, including shortening working hours to 5pm and prohibiting working on weekends.

5.  Physical distancing

75.  The official recommendation since the declaration of the state of emergency has been a two metre physical distance rule. However, this became a mandatory requirement between members of the public once movement restrictions were loosened. Therefore, people are required to wear protective masks in public places indoors, as well as in open public places, when it is not possible to maintain a distance between two persons of at least 1.5 meters (shops, pharmacies, bus stops, etc). Furthermore, businesses in the gastronomy and entertainment industry—such as cinemas and theatres—were required to maintain various social distancing protocols even after the general lockdown ended.186 According to Article 6 of the new Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, which entered into force on 16 December,187 the required physical distance is two metres.

6.  Use of face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE)

76.  The usage of face coverings was recommended from the moment the state of emergency was declared. This became a mandatory requirement for public transport on 23 June 2020, and continued to be recommended for enclosed spaces, especially post offices, banks, public institutions, shops, and malls.188 Pursuant to Article 2 of the amendements to the Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19,189 it was mandatory to wear protective masks in all public places indoors, as well as in open public places, when it is not possible to maintain a distance between two persons of at least 1.5 meters (shops, pharmacies, bus stops, etc). It was also mandatory to wear masks on public road and rail passenger transport. According to Article 6 of the Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, which entered into force on 16 December 2020,190 the required physical distance is two metres.

7.  Isolation of infected individuals and quarantine of individuals suspected of infection

77.  In the Decision proclaiming that Covid-19 is an infectious disease, Article 2(3) stipulated that infected people are obliged to accept isolation in designated facilities and to adhere to the instructions given by a competent doctor.191 A person who does not comply with the above would be forcibly isolated in healthcare facilities (Article 2(4)). Persons who have tested positive, but who do not exhibit any symptoms or have only mild symptoms, are required to isolate at home with health surveillance for 14 days, after which they are to report to a primary care physician (a Covid clinic) at a health centre within their area of residence (Article 2(5)). Persons who, after their hospital treatment, test negative once would be discharged for home treatment, though they would be obliged to remain under home health supervision for 14 days (Article 2(b)). The new Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19, which entered into force on 16 December 2020,192 prescribes the same conditions for isolation and a quarantine (Article 2).

78.  On 17 March 2020, the Government adopted an Order on quarantine measures.193 The Order covered the control of travel flows, the designation of the Reference Laboratory, the training of medical teams for health monitoring for people in quarantine, restrictions on freedom of movement, and mandatory medical examinations of people who were or are suspected to have been in contact with someone suffering from Covid-19 during the maximum incubation period. On the same day, the Government adopted a Conclusion that those in quarantine would be held in facilities within the military institution ‘Morović’, Šid and Miratovačko polje.194 On 27 March 2020, a Decision was adopted obliging Serbian citizens and foreign citizens who have been granted temporary residence or permanent residence in Serbia, to undergo quarantine in the facilities of the military institution ‘Morović’, Šid and Miratovačko polje, unless the Minister of Health designates another health surveillance measure and special facilities in which the measure should be implemented.195 These citizens were informed in writing whether they would undergo a 14 or 28-day quarantine, if they had come from areas with high transmission rates of Covid-19. The criteria for determining ‘high transmission’ was the number of infections in the country of origin, and therefore Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland were the first countries considered for 28-day quarantine.196 Many have claimed that the conditions in these facilities were inhuman and degrading.197 After the state of emergency was lifted, the Government considered introducing a mandatory quarantine for citizens returning from vacation and for foreign citizens arriving from certain countries, but such measures have not been reintroduced up to time of writing.

8.  Testing, treatment, and vaccination

79.  Forced testing was possible only during the state of emergency, where passengers had been or were suspected to have been in contact with someone suffering from a contagious disease during the maximum incubation period.198 The legal basis for forced testing is provided in Article 53(5) of the Infectious Diseases Act, which was adopted in 2016.199 Furthermore, pursuant to Article 9 of the Amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act,200 which entered into force on 13 November 2020, it is possible to prescribe mandatory immunization. Moreover, according to Article 4(2) of the new Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19,201 Serbian citizens and foreign citizens with temporary or permanent residence in Serbia need to have a negative RT-PCR test for SARS CoV-2 issued by the reference laboratory which is not older than 48 hours from the date of issuance of the result. However, should they not posses the test, they cannot be exposed to forced testing, but they can be exposed to forced quarantine for 10 days.

9.  Contact tracing procedures

80.  There is at present no statutory basis for contact tracing. While a large-scale public discussion on contact tracing technology has not yet been inititated in Serbia, the digital orientation of the Government makes it likely that the country will soon follow wider trends towards its implementation.202 Some of the challenges include issues of privacy and data protection, as well as low public trust and user acceptance. It is also worth mentioning that on 19 March 2020, the President made the highly problematic remark that citizens’ phones—including the phones of those returning from countries at risk—were being tracked.203 He did not provide more specifics. The Commissioner reacted to this statement by stressing the importance of respecting the lawful, limited, and proportional processing of health and other sensitive personal data.204

10.  Measures in long-term care facilities or homes for the elderly, restrictions on visitors etc.

81  On 10 April 2020, the Government regulated residential care for the elderly, which ceased to be valid as of 7 May 2020.205 These measures related to the health treatment and isolation of residents and employees of these institutions. Where the employer, employee, or resident is affected by Covid-19, that person is immediately referred for treatment to a health institution. Others remain within the institution in isolation for 14 days. If a new case of infection emerges, that person is also referred for treatment, while the isolation of other persons in the institution would be extended for another 14 days. In addition, an Order prohibiting visits and restricting movement was issued on 14 March 2020, and is still in force.206 All outside visits are prohibited and residents are not allowed to leave residental care. Persons who provide services necessary for the functioning of residental care, but who are not employed, are allowed to stay and move into the facilities exclusively for the purpose of performing activities that ensure the continuity of accommodation services. The admission of new residents is allowed only if the person has health documentation confirming that they are not infected. The person then has to be preventively isolated for a period of 14 days. Furthermore, all employees and residents who were in contact with an infected person need to be in islolation. Isolation measures for both residents and employees are implemented within the institution itself.

82.  On 21 August 2020, the Crisis Team recommended visits of 15 minutes to nursing homes on the basis of a more favorable epidemiological situation, so as to preserve the mental health and social life of the residents.207

B.  Enforcement and compliance

1.  Enforcement

83.  The primary enforcement agency, as with any law enforcement, has been the police. The Ministry of Interior has a central role in emergency situations, regulated by the Disaster Risk Reduction Act.208 The Act also regulates the role of other bodies, such as the Ministry of Defense and military.209 Therefore, since the state of emergency was declared, the military has also played a significant role in enforcing these public health regulations. On 14 March 2020, pursuant to Article 88 of the Defense Act, the Minister of Defense submitted a pandemic risk assessment to the President of Republic. The military had a very important role during the pandemic and possessed an extremely broad mandate. The military was engaged for maintaining order and peace on the streets of the capital, for internal security (in asylum and reception centres and Covid-19 hospitals), border control, the installation and securing of quarantinee facilities (such as ‘Morović’), the securing of additional medical facilities (such as Belgrade Fair, Novi Sad Fair, Chair Hall, etc), the transport of infected patients, and the disinfection of public areas.210 According to one media statement, the orders engaging the Army were issued by the Minister of Defense, but were not published in the Official Military Gazette; other press releases have stated that the Army acted in accordance with the President’s orders, which were not published in any official gazette either.211 Therefore, the legal basis for the engagement of the Army during the Covid-19 crisis has not been clear.

84.  Violations of the public health regulations, such as the failure to wear a mask or the operation of shops or restaurants outside of the prescribed hours, may also lead to the imposition of a civil fine. Section VII of the Infectious Diseases Act regulates penal provisions.212 Pursuant to Article 85, an individual can be fined between 50,000–150,000 RSD (€420–1300 euros) for different violations, including for giving false and incomplete data of importance for detecting the source and mode of transmission of infectious diseases, for not complying with quarantine measures, for refusing compulsory immunization, and for not acting upon the decision of a sanitary inspector in order to protect the population from infectious diseases. Personal protection requires the implementation of measures aimed at protecting people’s health and life from infectious diseases, especially the use of PPE (the wearing of masks, etc). In addition, Article 85(a)(5) provides that the individual will be punished with a fine of 5,000 RSD (€42 euros) for not wearing a mask and for the failure to respect other personal protective measures. Pursuant to Article 46(a), the control of the implementation of personal protection measures is performed by sanitary inspectors and communal inspectors, who can issue fines on the spot. This provision entered into force on 13 November 2020, in order to secure the more efficient punishment of citizens who do not act in accordance with protective measures.

85.  There is no available information on the number of fines issued by the police in relation to these health measures.

86.  The Public Prosecutor’s office is the sole prosecuting authority. At time of writing, it has not yet published any data on prosecutions for violations of public health regulations in relation to Covid-19.

V.  Social and Employment Protection Measures

A.  Social protection measures

87.  Serbia is among the countries least economically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe, with a relatively low economic contraction of –0.9% in 2020.213 While the GDP fell 0.9% in 2020, it subsequently increased 7.4% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022.214 However, it does not mean that many individuals and professions were not severely affected by the pandemic, as the economic contraction has negatively impacted the already limited social protection budget.215 At the same time, state welfare expenditure already constitutes a 1/4 of Serbia’s GDP, which requires reliance on external financial instruments, such as loans and grants, in order to recover the economy.216 The World Bank's projection is that the economic crisis could cause between 125,000 and 327,000 Serbian citizens to become newly poor,217 which illustrates the magnitude of challenges for the Serbian State. Notwithstanding, ‘Serbia adopted the most generous and comprehensive economic package among the Western Balkan economies.’218 The Government implemented three comprehensive packages of emergency measures between March 2020 and March 2021 in order to diminish the negative economic impact of the pandemic, amounting to a total of EUR 8 billion.219 These monetary, fiscal, and banking measures caused budgetary imbalance, and were impacted by lower revenues from non-tax revenue (-6.8%), social contributions (-2.2%), and corporate income tax (-4%).220 Despite this, the Government introduced many measures in the form of social assistance, social insurance, and wage subsidies. They were adopted at a central level, while local institutions had an operational role in implementing strategies and programs at the central level, and provided assistance packages. However, the handling of the crisis was difficult at the local level, as municipalities differed in their resilience, capacity to respond, and territorial inequalities, and required an improvement in coordination and information exchange.221 Many NGOs also claimed that decision-making on a local level was non-transparent and access to information very limited.222 It should also be highlighted that Serbia has not increased the adequacy of coverage of programs targeting the most impoverished population.223 While many governments in the region introduced new cash benefits schemes intended for the unemployed, Serbia did so for all adult citizens, which was a costly measure (amounting to 1.3% of the 2019 GDP) that was criticized by many.224 Therefore, benefits were mostly inadequate, compared to other countries the measures reached huge populations, however the most vulnerable groups did not receive enough support, such as informal workers, small farmers families with children, single parents, children, the elderly, and residents of substandard settlements (mainly Roma).225 On a positive note, local communities, businesses, and civil society organizations showed a willingness to help the economy and society through donations and volunteering work.226 Also, in 2022, the Government adopted the Recovery and Development Investment Program establishing a new credit line for the allocation of favourable credit funds to entities for the implementation of new investments, with the aim to accelerate recovery and growth of economic activity in Serbia in difficult economic conditions caused by the pandemic. Funds are provided by the credit line of the European Investment Bank and the Development Fund of the Republic of Serbia.227

1.  Social assistance

88.  The Government implemented different social assistance measures to minimize the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis. First, the social benefit recipients’ entitlements (which expired on 15 March 2020 and later) were automatically renewed for a maximum of three months.228 Cash transfers were also extended for the following programs: financial social assistance, caregiver allowance, child allowance, and maternity leave benefit for child care. However, the Government did not expand pre-pandemic coverage and these social assistance measures were only one-time limited. Some municipalities distributed assistance packages and enabled deferred payment of public utility bills, while the Electric Power Industry of Serbia (Elektroprivreda Srbije) announced that it would not charge any interest for overdue bills.229 Alongside this, some in-kind benefits were reserved for covering basic needs in the form of distribution of food, hygiene packages, protection gear, medicines, and deferrals of public utility and rental payments.230 These packages were given to Roma living in substandard settlements (see Parts VI.C and VI.D below), vulnerable women, women in situations of violence, homeless persons, the elderly, and low-income households. However, all of the in-kind packages were provided by donors and NGOs, and were not paid for by the State budget.231

89.  As part of the social protection efforts, cash assistance was awarded to children with disabilities (child recipients of the caregiver allowance)232 in the amount of RSD 4,000 (around EUR 35). Another social assistance measure was introduced through the use of vouchers for subsidized accommodation services on Serbia's territory, for a period of at least five nights, outside the residence of the voucher user. The beneficiaries of these vouchers were pensioners, unemployed persons, beneficiaries of caregiver allowance, employed persons with a salary of less than EUR 600, persons with disabilities, and students.233 The aim of this measure was also to improve the situation in domestic tourism and to help those working in this sector. However, no increased claim rates were noted.

90.  A one-off cash transfer was also given to agricultural holdings. Those eligible under the Decree were entitled to a maximum of EUR 760 for registered land for growing vegetables, EUR 250 for cows, and EUR 170 for sheep, goats, and beehives.234 Support was also provided to bars and nightclubs due to business difficulties.235 The most disputable measure was a one-off universal cash transfer for all adults, paid after the state of emergency was lifted, in the amount of EUR 100, covering five million people.236 The only condition to receive this payment was to register with the Temporary Register.237 This cash benefit cost around EUR 650 million, which was part of the EUR 3.9 billion stimulus package. Half of the benefit was financed by a Eurobond valued at EUR 2 billion, reprioritized existing budget, and currency reserves.238 In February 2021, the Government adopted the third package of assistance, which stipulated that all adult citizens will receive a one-off payment in May and November 2021, amounting to EUR 60.239 In May 2021, the Fiscal Council published an economic analysis of non-selective cash payments and urged the Government to stop the indiscriminate distribution of financial support as a ‘bad measure of economic policy’.240 This cash benefit was also criticized by some analysts and politicians.241 Despite this criticism, in 2022 the Government paid a one-off cash transfer to all citizens of Serbia, aged 16 to 29, in the amount of EUR 100.242

2.  Social insurance

91.  The social insurance measures implemented were extended coverage of unemployment benefits, extended social assistance entitlements, and one-off cash assistance to all pensioners.243 During the state of emergency, a one-off assistance was awarded to all pensioners in Serbia of RSD 4,000 (around EUR 35).244 The Government also recommended that the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund pays pensions and other benefits at the full monthly amount.245

92.  Furthermore, the Government issued a decision regarding a new method for pensions payment. Pensioners were instructed to give special authorization to someone to collect their pension on their behalf, due to restrictions on the freedom of movement of the elderly (see Part IV.A.1 above). The other option was to have pensions delivered to recipients in cash, with the cost of delivery covered by the Government.246 In February 2021, the Government adopted a third assistance package, according to which all pensioners would receive a one-off assistance in the amount of EUR 50 by the end of the year.247

93.  The Government issued a decision regarding a new method to submit applications for unemployment benefit and to register with the National Employment Service. Applicants were able to submit their requests via email or by post and the decision-making period for the received requests was extended.248

94.  No other measures were implemented in relation to pensions, health insurance support, and social security contributions, except paid sick leave (see Part V.B.7 below).

3.  Tax relief and other social measures

95.  During the crisis, the Government adopted several programs aiming to minimize the risk of job loss and the termination of some enterprises’ work, including providing tax relief and other measures (see Part V.B.1 below). Decisions were adopted on a central level and mainly in the form of decrees. Also, tax policy measures had the greatest impact on the budget. The dominant effect was the postponement of liabilities to the private sector for taxes on salaries, contributions, and profit, followed by payment of minimum wages to the private sector.249 However, it was required that the number of employees not be reduced more than 10%.

96.  An important decision concerned postponing the payment of the debt tax by individuals and enterprises.250 The payment of taxes and contributions was deferred to a maximum of 24 equal monthly instalments, without interest for the deferral payment duration. This measure applied for taxes and contributions on salaries and wage compensations, taxes and subsidies on entrepreneurs and farmers’ earnings, payments of corporate income tax, and tax payments on income from self-employment for entrepreneurs and farmers.

97.  In addition, the National Bank adopted a decision on provisional measures to preserve the stability of the financial system.251 The decision regulated measures and activities applied by the bank during the pandemic to minimize the risk of repaying debtors. Therefore, the bank was obliged to offer debtors (individuals, farmers, entrepreneurs, and companies) a delay in repayment of obligations (moratorium) within three days from the date of entry into force of this decision. The bank was obliged to publish a notice of the offer on its website, meaning the offer was submitted to all debtors. If the debtor did not reject the offer within ten days from the day of publishing the notice, it was considered that they had accepted that offer. The moratorium had a legal effect upon the deadline's expiration and could not be shorter than 90 days. Another decision adopted by the National Bank concerned suspension for financial leasing providers.252 Also, financial support for agricultural holdings through a facilitated access to loans was introduced.253

98.  It is interesting to note that in October 2020 the Serbian Tax Administration tried to collect taxes from persons who pursued flexible forms of work for employers or clients from abroad. Namely, the Covid-19 crisis revealed some shortcomings in the personal income taxation system in Serbia and that in certain segments of the economy, such as the IT sector, there is a growing number of service contracts instead of formal employment contracts. This attempt led to demonstrations by freelancers and to subsequent negotiations with the Serbian Government. These negotiations resulted in an agreement on a three-year transitional regime and a fixed non-taxable amount starting from 1 January 2023.254

B.  Employment protection measures

99.  The majority of implemented employment protection measures were aimed to support the prevention of job loss and to support small- and medium-sized enterprises. In some cases, measures were directly linked to employment, while in others they were meant to preserve certain professions and activities that were hit the most by Covid-19. Measures were also introduced progressively, assessing the risk of the pandemic. The Government package of support included direct support to large enterprises in the private sector: assistance in the amount of 50% of the minimum wage for employees who were temporarily removed from work.255 The key was to ensure that all workers take home a minimum amount that is enough to cover basic expenses, that workers keep their employment relationship, and that enterprises do not need to dismiss workers and be liable for severance pay.256 Another form of direct assistance was designed for micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs in the private sector who are taxed at a flat rate and paid real income tax in the amount of 3 minimum wages (this assistance was available in March–May 2020, or April–June 2020).257

100.  In September 2020, the Government increased the minimum wage by 6.6% (from EUR 255 to EUR 273). However, union representatives claimed that this increase was not enough for a decent living as ‘the minimum consumer basket’ was EUR 314 at that time.258 However, this measure had a positive effect for some 350,000 workers or around 16% of the total employed in Serbia, although some employers warned that this might put more pressure on them to dismiss workers. Also, since 21 September, the Government started to subsidise wages for two employees at newly established businesses. 259

1.  Economic support for employers

101.  The first decree was adopted with the aim to minimize the economic consequences of the pandemic relating to enterprises in the private sector.260 The condition for eligibility was that, from 15 March until 11 April 2020, enterprises had not reduced the number of employees by more than 10%—not counting employees who concluded fixed-term contracts that expired during this time.261 Fiscal benefits and direct benefits could also be used by entrepreneurs, farmers, and flat-rate entrepreneurs who had registered a temporary cessation of activities on 15 March 2020 at the earliest. Enterprises in the private sector could use the fiscal benefits and direct benefits if they were established and registered with the competent authority or organization before 15 March 2020 or became VAT payers during the specified period. This programme allowed beneficiaries to defer payment due for taxes and contributions on salaries and salary compensations until 4 January 2021, advance payments of corporate income tax for March, April, and May 2020, and advance payment of income tax for the self-employed for March, April, and May 2020. This program also included direct payments from the budget to economic entities in the private sector—payment of non-refundable funds to economic entities, which could be used exclusively for the payment of salaries and compensation of wages to employees, directly related to the number of employees.262 Payment of direct benefits was made from a particular account opened for that purpose with the Treasury of the Ministry of Finance.

102.  The Government also adopted the following State aid for market participants: subsidies, debt write-offs, tax reliefs, subsidized interest rates for loans, loan guarantees under conditions more favourable than the market conditions, deferred payment of taxes and/or social security contributions, subsidies for employees’ salaries in order to avoid dismissal during the Covid-19 pandemic, short-term export insurance, and the cover of part of fixed costs.263 Allowances were also allocated for the catering and tourism sectors,264 including tourist guides,265 who were severely affected by the crisis.

103.  The Government adopted a decision on the conditions and criteria for granting State aid to market participants who did not have difficulties on 31 December 2019.266 However, without the State’s intervention, those market participants would cease operations or face serious difficulties. Furthermore, to intervene, the State must have an interest—such as the prevention of social problems and market failure due to significant loss of employment, the exit of an innovative or systemically important company, risk of interruption of the provision of essential services or goods, and other similar circumstances. In order to qualify for this aid, the market participants had to prove that they could not obtain financing on the market under affordable conditions and had to submit a written, reasoned request for State aid to the State Aid Control Commission.

104.  The National Assembly subsequently confirmed the Decree on establishing the Program of financial support to economic entities for maintaining liquidity and working capital.267 The program referred to the allocation of credit funds to economic entities for maintaining liquidity and working capital to preserve the stability of Serbia’s financial and economic system. Funds were provided in Serbia’s budget for 2020 (within Section 21 of the budget – Ministry of Economic, in the amount of around EUR 203 million) and the Development Fund of Serbia. The Government implemented the program in cooperation with the Fund. The program’s primary goals were to provide support to economic entities to procure working capital and maintain current liquidity to regularly settle obligations to business partners, employees, and the State. Beneficiaries of this program could be entrepreneurs, cooperatives, micro-, small-, and medium-sized companies of majority private or cooperative ownership that performed production, service, trade, and agricultural activities.

105.  The Decree on establishing the program of financial support to agricultural producers through the purchase of market surpluses of fattening cattle provided financial support to agricultural producers.268 This program also determined the conditions for exercising one’s right to financial support for the purchase of market surplus fattening cattle, the procedure for its realization, the amount and means of payment, the deadlines, and the required documentation and forms. Funds were provided in Serbia’s budget for 2020 (within Section 24 of the budget – Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, in the amount of around EUR 2 million) and the program was implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management – Directorate for Agrarian Payments. The beneficiaries were: (1) an economic entity that performs activities in a facility for the slaughter of animals, ie a facility for production and trade of food of animal origin; and (2) a legal entity, entrepreneur, and natural person—holder of a commercial family farm who sold fattening cattle to a person performing activities in a facility for slaughtering animals, or a facility approved for the export of live animals.

106.  The Decree on establishing the program of financial support to sports organizations referred to the allocation of grants to sports organizations, with the aim of preserving the stability of Olympic and Paralympic sport.269 Funds for its implementation were provided in the budget, within several sections in the amount of around EUR 9 million, for four collective sports, 11 individual sports, and paralympic sports. The Government implemented the program through the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The main goal was to provide support to sports organizations that have a long sports tradition in Serbia, gather a large number of athletes of all ages, and have significant results atinajor international sports competitions (eg basketball, volleyball, handball, water polo, wrestling, taekwondo, rowing, kayaking, athletics, archery, swimming, tennis, table tennis, karate, and judo). Funds under this program could be used for: (1) salaries, fees, and scholarships of licensed athletes in the competent national sports federation; (2) wages and costs of sports experts who have a work permit issued by the competent national sports federation; (3) renting and leasing facilities for the training and competition process; (4) costs of participation in international competitions and maintenance of fulfilment of conditions for participation in international contests in the current and next competition season; (5) transport and transportation costs; and (6) costs of procurement of equipment.

2.  Worker protection from dismissal and other contractual protections

107.  During the pandemic, the State provided several economic aid packages. Still, employees were not protected from dismissal, except in rare cases where the package required that their number was not reduced (see Part V.A.3 above). However, in many cases, salaries were reduced and employees were sent on forced leave for up to 45 days (with 60% of their salary).270 In the private sector, it was possible to dismiss workers if their work was no longer needed due to the reduced amount of work.271 Dismissal of employees was allowed for newly established companies, as they could quickly declare workers redundant. However, large companies are required, in accordance with the Labour Act, to write a program on which the trade unions and the National Employment Service could give their opinion. For example, the social program was prepared by Fiat Kragujevac, a firm for the production of cars and car parts.272 They also needed to pay severance pay for workers or the labour inspector could send them back to work.273 Workers who were dismissed from work were entitled to regular unemployment benefits, regulated by the Employment and Unemployment Insurance Act.274 Also, in the case of termination of employment due to redundancy, it is mandatory to provide employees with a severance payment. The amount cannot be lower than the sum of one-third of the employee's salary for each full year of employment. The minimum amount of the severance payment guaranteed by the Labour Law is not taxable. Also, the Labour Act protects certain categories of employees from redundancy: an employee who has temporary work impairment, a pregnant worker, a worker on maternity leave, workers on leave for nursing the child, and workers on leave for special care of the child.275

108.  Some packages brought support to employees who were dismissed from work—for three months, they received 50% of the minimum wage, in addition to the severance pay they received from their employer. Particularly vulnerable to dismissals were employees with fixed-term contracts and informal economy workers,276 whose livelihoods were significantly endangered during the lockdown but were almost entirely unaccounted for in support packages.277 For example, some 70% of informal workers claimed that their financial situation worsened during the pandemic, but the entire package program was designed for employers and employees in the formal employment sector.278 Also, women count for 76% of workers in the health and care sector and were on the frontline of the crisis, and are over-represented in some informal sectors (eg apparel manufacturing).279 Some categories of women were particularly affected, such as those with lesser professional qualifications working lower lower-paid jobs, as well as single mothers, and women that provide necessary care to close family members (see also Part VI.C below).280 The youth has also been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, as 20% reported a disruption in work, 12% reported reduced wages, and 5% reported dismissal.281 However, none of these groups were particularly addressed in support packages or were addressed in a general way (eg, all citizens age 16 to 29). Also, in some cases, employees testified that they were forced to seek unpaid leave, as an employer may grant a leave without compensation of salary only if employee asks for it.282 In some situations employers paid only a portion of wages with the aim of receiving State aid.283

3.  Other worker protections

109.  Programs described above (see Parts V.B.1 and V.B.2 above) rarely mentioned workers directly, but if they did, they were directed towards employees with permanent contracts. However, many measures were also directed towards the self-employed. Particular interventions targeted vulnerable sectors and professions, but not groups in the labour market with specific needs or vulnerabilities (non-standard workers, casual or ‘zero hours’ workers, etc). However, some categories of workers were protected as work from home was particularly recommended for people above the age of 60, people with chronic diseases, and those with children of up to 12 years of age.284 Also, flexible work arrangements became the norm for both employers and employees during the pandemic, despite the fact that remote work or work from home is defined as a sui generis employment agreement in the Labour Act (Article 42).285 However, there were some shortcomings with the practice of work-from-home, as the following issues were not regulated: equipment required for performing tasks which the employer is obliged to procure, install, and maintain; the use and utilization of the employee’s own equipment and the reimbursement of costs for its use; the reimbursement of other labour costs incurred and the manner of their determination, such as the costs of using the Internet, etc.286 It is important to note that the pandemic led to a decline in working hours, which is found to be equivalent to the loss of 510,000 full-time jobs.287 Shorter working hours and situations where employees are put on temporary leave contributed significantly to this decrease. However, as part of measures adopted to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic, there was no specific regulation on shorter working time.

4.  Health and safety

110.  A safe working environment is imperative, as stipulated in the Safety and Health at Work Act.288 This Act has not been modified during the pandemic. The employer is obliged to provide a work environment in which safety and health measures have been implemented.289 The employee can refuse to undertake unsafe or dangerous work if: (1) there is an imminent danger to their life and health because the prescribed measures for safety and health at the workplace have not been implemented; (2) the employer has not provided the prescribed medical examination or the medical examination determines that the employee does not meet the specified health conditions; (3) during the training for safety and health at work the employee is not acquainted with all types of risks and the measures for their elimination; (4) longer than full-time working hours (40 hours per week), ie at night if, according to the medical assessment, such work could worsen the employees health condition; and (5) the prescribed safety and occupational health measures are not applied to work tools.290

111.  However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, two other important legal documents were adopted. On 17 March 2020, the Government adopted a Decree on the organization of the employee’s work during the state of emergency,291 prescribing that the employer is obliged to enable employees to perform work outside of the employer’s premises (teleworking and work from home) at all workplaces where it is possible to organize such work. It was also stipulated that, if it is possible and does not require additional funds, an employer should organize work in shifts, enable the holding of all business meetings electronically or by other appropriate means (video link, video call, etc), and postpone business trips within the country and abroad.292 In order to ensure the protection and health of employees, the employer is obliged to provide all general, special, and extraordinary measures related to the hygienic safety of facilities and persons, following the Act on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases.293 For employees who are in direct contact with customers or share their workspace with several people, it is necessary to provide sufficient quantities of protective equipment.

112.  In July 2020, the Rulebook on preventive measures for safe and healthy work during the epidemic was adopted.294 This Rulebook prescribes preventive measures that the employer is obliged to apply to prevent the occurrence and spread of infectious diseases and eliminate risks to the safety and health of employees at work.295 This bylaw applies to all workplaces, except for work at home. The employer is obliged to adopt a plan for the implementation of preventive measures, which determines measures and activities that increase and improve the safety and health of employees and measures and activities in the case of an outbreak of infectious disease. This plan must contain: (1) preventive measures and activities; (2) responsibility for the implementation and control of preventive measures and activities; and (3) measures and activities in the case of an outbreak of an infectious disease.296 The employer is obliged to ensure the application of preventive measures in the form of written instructions, established procedure for prevention, organization of work shifts, redistribution of working hours, and to conduct enhanced hygiene and disinfection of the working environment. In the case of the outbreak of an infectious disease, the employer is obliged, among others, to provide regularly physically and chemically disinfected and ventilated areas, to respect procedures for entering and leaving the employer’s premises, to secure equipment for personal protection at work and other protection measures, and to perform a strict control of measures.297 Employers were obliged to adopt the plan within 30 days after this Rulebook entered into force (until 11 August 2020).298

5.  Activation

113.  During the pandemic, the National Employment Service continued to organize training under the Annual Program of Additional Education and Training and the Training Catalogue, which is the result of an analysis of employers’ surveys and forecasts of labour market needs, assessments based on local labour market needs, defined measures in individual employment plans, and other relevant parameters.299 In 2020, training was organized for persons with disabilities, unemployed persons, unqualified persons, and persons with a low level of education, as well as specialist IT training. However, much of this training was also postponed during the state of emergency, since health measures did not allow its organization. In addition to this, employers organized training focused on digitalization and e-commerce. This training was especially welcomed and needed in the sector of education.

6.  Social partners

114.  Labour legislation in Serbia allows relatively solid and flexible solutions of collective bargaining. A collective agreement cannot contain provisions that give less rights or establish less favourable working conditions than the rights and conditions determined by the law.300 Although the employer is obliged to bargain,301 there is no provision to compel the employer to conclude a collective agreement and to provide more rights to workers. If no collective agreement is concluded, the employer regulates the conditions of work and employment independently, through work rules, taking into account the legitimate rights, interests, and expectations of the employees. There are three possible types of collective agreements: (1) individual (concluded at the level of the employer), (2) special (concluded at the level of the particular sector), and (3) general (concluded at the state level).302 Collective bargaining coverage is low—very often employees are not members of trade unions—with high fragmentation of the trade union landscape.303 The trade union with the longest tradition is the Alliance of Independent Trade Unions of Serbia.304 It has a complex organisational structure, as it is composed of 28 branch trade unions and also regional councils and committees that are situated in larger cities. According to some estimates, around 45% of workers are members of this union. Another trade union with a high level of international recognition is UGS Nezavisnost.305 Both unions have been members of the European Trade Union Confederation since 2014. Since 2000, a number of other trade unions emerged, but their activities are insignificant—only three additional trade unions have certain significance: the Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and the USS Sloga. In 2001, the Socioeconomic Council was established with the aim to secure tripartite social dialogue between trade unions, employers, and the State. However, there is a permanent crisis due to high public debt and the fact that the Government is the largest employer in Serbia.306

115.  For the implementation of State aid packages during pandemic, many partners were consulted or involved, such as the Chamber of Commerce, trade unions, and employers’ unions. In some cases, an initiative for discussion came from members of certain professions who expressed dissatisfaction with measures or situations during peaceful protests. It was their way to draw attention to their problems and hurdles.307 Other partners that provided assistance and humanitarian packages were: NGOs which supported local communities; the Red Cross which supported the Government in providing widespread aid directly to communities; and associations, networks, and businesses, which provided support and donations to communities and local institutions.308 It should also be highlighted that local communities helped people through many avenues, such as the donation of face masks and volunteering in order to help the elderly during the curfew.309 Finally, support was also provided by the Serbian diaspora. Nevertheless, the United Nations reported that there was limited social dialogue at the local level, advising that the dialogue should include NGOs in the Local Emergency Task Forces or in the decision-making processes by local authorities.310

7.  Other legal measures

116.  Some other measures were adopted to protect or support workers during the crisis. The Government introduced a support program in the form of ‘For our Heros’ card, with the aim to show gratitude to doctors, medical staff, volunteers, and others in the front line of defence against Covid-19.311 The card offers special benefits, such as discounts for some goods and services, an advantage in receiving services from public institutions, social support, and the extended stay of their children at schools. In addition, the Government recommended that employers secure the annual vacation leave of all employees who due to difficulties caused by Covid-19 were not able to realize it in 2020312 and 2021.313 Also, employees on sick leave are entitled to compensation in the amount of 65% of their salary. However, the Government adopted a Conclusion recommending that employers amend employment contracts to provide that employees who are temporarily absent from work due to confirmed Covid-19 infection or due to a measure of isolation or self-isolation imposed in connection with the disease, are entitled to 100% of salary compensation.314 For the first 30 days of absence from work, the amount of compensation for salary payments was covered by the employer. Afterwards, salary compensation was paid from compulsory health insurance for the legally guaranteed amount, while the difference in amount to 100% of the salary was compensated by the employer. In order to exercise this right, an employee needed to prove absence from work due to a decision of the competent authority (sanitary inspector, authority responsible for control of crossing the State border, customs authority, excerpt from the records of the Ministry of Interior etc, or a doctor's report on temporary incapacity remittance). However, this is just a recommendation and is not binding to the employer. Therefore, it was implemented mainly in the public sector—as particular collective agreements were concluded for public bodies315 and employees in municipalities316 which contained this requirement—while in the private sector it needs to be prescribed by a general employer act (a rulebook on labour or a collective agreement) or the employment contract. Otherwise, 65% of the salary remains.

117.  Furthermore, the Code of Behaviour of Civil Servants was amended to include Article 14(a) concerning behaviour during emergencies.317 According to this Code, civil servants need to respect the general instructions and recommendations of the bodies responsible for monitoring the situation. There is a need to reorganize and manage measures aimed to minimize infection among employees, protect those exposed to a higher risk of harmful health complications, and make plans for maintaining business processes in the event of a large number of absences. It is necessary to give priority to communication by phone, internet, conference calls, and the like. If this is not possible, civil servants are required to adhere to the following rules: (1) to avoid shaking hands and greeting during business meetings; (2) to limit group business meetings to a maximum of four persons, and the duration of the meeting to a maximum of 20 minutes; (3) to use larger rooms for appointments to enable a physical distance of at least one metre between the participants; (4) to ensure that the room is ventilated and work surfaces, handles, used equipment, and the like are disinfected before and after the meeting; (5) to serve bottled water at the meeting; and (6) to limit time with clients and to use hand disinfectant, masks, and other appropriate and recommended means of hygiene when working with clients.

VI.  Human Rights and Vulnerable Groups

A.  Civil liberties

118.  During the Covid-19 crisis, human rights were endangered, either directly (for example through torture) or indirectly, through the adoption of discriminatory and disproportionate measures to address the pandemic. In this section, two particular violations will be highlighted: ill-treatment and interference with the right to peaceful assembly.

119.  The ill-treatment of citizens, even in the form of torture, was pronounced during the Covid-19 crisis. During the curfew, ill-treatment of citizens in the form of slapping, hitting, or kicking by the police was video recorded and posted on social media. Several NGOs filed criminal charges in some of these incidents, but with no success.318 In one case, the Protector of Citizens (Ombudsperson) found ill-treatment of a citizen during apprehension,319 but the charge was dismissed by the Prosecutor's Office.320

120.  The right to freedom of assembly was significantly restricted, as only up to 30 people could gather outdoors and five indoors (see Part IV.A.3 above). However, after the state of emergency was lifted on 7 and 8 May 2020, the first protests were organized to express dissatisfaction with measures during the curfew. These protests continued and became substantial in July 2020, after the Government announced new restrictive measures. The representatives of the Protector of Citizens were present at some hearings before the Misdemeanour Court in Belgrade in proceedings initiated by the Ministry of Interior against some protestors.321 Relying on information obtained from the media and videos published on social networks relating to the police’s treatment of citizens who participated in public gatherings, the Protector of Citizens initiated eight procedures to control the legality of the work of the Ministry of Interior, finding that some police officers violated the right to dignity and freedom from ill-treatment.322 Further, the Protector of Citizens initiated 25 control procedures based on citizens’ complaints about illegal actions from the police.323 The Protector of Citizens found that there was an excessive use of force during public gatherings from 8 to 11 July 2020, as well as the illegal use of coercive means, lack of prominent identification marks, which made it difficult to conduct an investigation and determine the individual responsibility of police officers.324 It was also found that the Internal Control Sector of the Ministry of Interior did not take all actions necessary to establish the facts and obtain evidence on the individual responsibility of police officers without delay. The Protector recommended that the Minister of the Interior, the Director of the police, and the chiefs of police administrations fulfil their role in the fight against impunity for torture (as it is defined in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment), and sent the strong message that the inadequate treatment of citizens is illegal, unprofessional, and subject to appropriate sanctions.325

121.  In Novi Pazar, citizens protested for more than three months, as Covid-19 severely hit this region: citizens were seeking the truth about the number of people who had died from Covid-19. The police questioned one of the protesters for allegedly disrupting law and order, although the protests were peaceful. He explained that ‘during the half-hour gathering, we reminded citizens that the Covid-19 epidemic was still ongoing, that there was no relaxation of measures, and that the hospital management had to provide accurate information and inform us in a timely manner, which they have never done before.’326

122.  As mentioned in Part III.C. above, during the state of emergency, Skype hearings were introduced. However, such trials undermined safeguards against torture, as the judge had less opportunity to observe any sign of torture and the defendant might be discouraged from reporting abuse to the judge because they were physically under the control of their abusers.327 Another issue that arose was the equality of arms and other fair trial guarantees that were limited through Skype hearings. The Protector of Citizens issued a recommendation to the Ministry of Justice, highlighting the need to enable access to alternative means and assets of communication (Skype) between the defendant and defence attorney in a separate room without third parties present, with video, not audio, surveillance, without the 30 minute restriction on communication, to create the necessary conditions for conducting a confidential conversation and the preparation of the defendant’s defence.328

B.  Privacy

123.  As discussed in Part IV.A.9 above, some privacy issues arose concerning contact tracing and general surveillance due to the Covid-19 pandemic in Serbia. A particularly problematic issue was the President’s public statement of 19 March 2020 that ‘the State is monitoring telephone numbers, primarily Italian ones’, intending to keep track of the movement of people who came from Italy. He also said: ‘[d]on’t think you’ll fool us by leaving your phone somewhere, because we’ve found another way to monitor who is violating the rules prescribed by the State and how.’329 His explanation of this statement was that public authorities do not intercept telephone conversations but just monitor the telephone numbers.330 During the mandatory self-isolation for individuals coming from foreign countries during the state of emergency, the police announced that it would conduct calls and checks to see if individuals complied with the measures. There is no report showing whether the police exercised this authority and to what extent.

124.  After the state of emergency was introduced, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (the independent body monitoring data protection in Serbia), warned the public that personal data needed to be protected even during emergency times. Therefore, it warned institutions not to publish the personal data of persons infected with the virus,331 stated that personal data concerning pupils’ state of health must be protected,332 and warned against the high risk of fraud and misuse of personal data over social media, especially for the elderly.333 The Commissioner also issued some basic guidelines on the processing of data during the Covid-19 pandemic,334 with omissions that were criticized by some authors.335 For example, while it was clear that whether an employee is infected with a virus amounts to personal health information and is considered to belong to a particular category of data, according to Article 17 of the Data Protection Act, it was not clear whether the same applied to someone in quarantine.336 The guidelines did not provide these answers. In addition, an issue arose about what specific information the employers needed and could collect during the crisis. For example, it was claimed that an employer could not measure the body temperature of its employees daily,337 if this data was written down and monitored. In addition, according to Article 5(6) of the Data Protection Act, the principle of confidentiality requires that an employer avoids naming a specific employee infected with a virus unless it is strictly necessary, but in many cases, other employees knew who was infected. However, the Commissioner particularly insisted that managers who organize the employees' work from home during the state of emergency, if that work included the processing of personal data, act with integrity and confidentiality to provide appropriate measures for personal data protection. It included measures such as verification of the security connection and correspondence via official emails. Unfortunately, the annual report of the Commissioner for 2021 does not contain any information on the outcome of these recommendations. However, it is worth mentioning that during 2021, the Commissioner organized training for employees at the Ministry of Health on the data protection and access to information of public importance with the aim to increase their knowledge on this matter.338

C.  Gender

125.  Restrictions on freedom of movement, mandatory self-isolation, and other measures during the state of emergency further increased the risk of domestic violence in Serbia. Women were forced to spend much more time at home with their violent partners, for whom the ban on movement provided even greater opportunities for violence and demonstration of power.339 During the state of emergency, measures limited the possibility for women to report violence and apply other self-protection strategies, which are usually available in acute situations of violence.340 In particular, a difficult situation regarding the possibility of reporting violence was identified for women with disabilities, older women, women in rural areas, and Roma women.341 During the state of emergency, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality advocated for women to be permitted to leave their homes during curfew hours in order to report domestic violence, as well as to pay special attention to the capacities of shelters and provide support to all persons in need due to the possible increasing rate of violence given the conditions of the state of emergency.342

126.  One research paper showed that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on activity and employment was more profound on the male labour force than the female.343 However, the impact of the pandemic on job loss was more substantial in relation to the female labour force (7% of women and 4% of men).344 For employed women, working hours increased more often than for employed men, while the number of working hours decreased for the employed men more often than for employed women.345 This result was mainly caused by the higher workload in the healthcare sector. Furthermore, the research showed that women were forced more often than men to take involuntary leave. A large portion of employed women were transferred to work from home, compared to men, which is probably a consequence of sectoral segregation in employment, as women worked more in education, social protection, and public administration.

127.  It is also interesting to note that rural women, employed outside of agriculture, were the group most affected by the loss of employment after the declaration of the pandemic and the state of emergency, morе than women in the city or men in the countryside.346 The most common reason for losing their job was the suspension of the activities of the companies in which they were employed or the impossibility of finding childcare since kindergartens and schools were closed. Women, in general, do significantly more housework and are more engaged in raising children,347 and during the pandemic they were particularly overburdened with housework.348 The crisis has caused problems in homes due to childcare and homeschooling, the purchase of groceries (which had to be done during working hours), as well as general psychological pressure due to confinement and lack of movement.349 Civil servants often used the working part of the day for telephone conversations and meetings, doing household chores, and taking care of children, and then devoted the evening hours to work obligations that required greater concentration, such as preparing opinions, drafting solutions, or resolving cases. The closure of schools and kindergartens, and the cessation of contact with elderly family members, made it more difficult to organize child care and care for elderly and chronically ill household or family members (see also Part IV.A.4 above).350

D.  Ethnicity and race

128.  The question of ethnicity during the Covid-19 crisis relates mainly to the position of Roma, who were significant impacted. The risk of Roma marginalization and social exclusion increased multiple times, including new threats being made to the poorest members of Roma, who do not have sustainable incomes and access to primary living conditions.351 One survey was conducted with NGOs in June 2020 on the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 on Roma in Serbia. Respondents named the following risks: 84.21% stated that there were limits in access to work and sources of income; 78.95% stated lack of adequate housing, safe water, and electricity; 78.95% stated risk of poverty; 78.95% stated lack of social protection; 73.68% stated barriers to accessing information and communication; 68.42% stated lack of access to health care/health mediators, access to personal documents, inclusive education, and discrimination; while 57.89% stated lack of access to justice, fair trial, and legal protection.352 Of particular risk were, among others, residents of informal settlements, collectors of secondary raw materials, seasonal workers, legally invisible Roma who due to the lack of any documentation did not receive humanitarian assistance, Roma living in rural areas, and Roma older than 65 years who do not have pension and access to social care.353 Despite this, governmental measures introduced during the Covid-19 crisis were not specifically targeted to support Roma, while some local municipalities with the support of NGOs secured access to some basic services, food, and disinfectants.354

129.  In May 2020, the Protector of Citizens published a special report on ten Roma settlements and the implementation of Covid-19 measures.355 The Protector found deplorable sanitary conditions, garbage surrounding the settlement, no adequate equipment (disinfection, masks, gloves, etc), limited supply of drinking water, and limited access to electricity. This is a huge problem, bearing in mind that almost 20% of mapped Roma settlements in the regular situation do not have or have limited access to safe drinking water, over 55% have no or regular access to sewer networks, and 14.5% have no or regular access to electricity.356 Among other recommendations, the Protector of Citizens insisted that it is crucial to provide information on anti-Covid-19 measures and conditions for the children’s online education.

130.  In its annual report for 2020, the Commissioner also issued several recommendations in relation to Roma, but it particularly recommended improving the availability of health care services to Roma and other groups who have difficulty accessing services (mobile teams, organized transport, patronage service, specialist examinations, etc).357 In 2021, the Commissioner recommended that the Minister of Finance change Article 2(1)(1) of the Act on the establishment of a temporary register of adult citizens of the Republic of Serbia who are paid financial assistance to mitigate the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the SarsCoV-2 virus.358 The provision in question prescribes that the right to financial assistance is reserved for an ‘adult citizen’ or individual who, on the date of the Act’s entry into force, is a Serbian citizen and has a permanent residence on the territory of Serbia, and who has a valid ID. The Commissioner found that this provision indirectly discriminates against Roma persons who, for objective reasons, cannot register their residence as they do not possess an ID card. However, this recommendation was not fulfilled. In its annual report for 2021, the Commissioner noted that the number of complaints claiming discrimination against Roma over the years clearly indicates that the Roma are an extremely vulnerable social group exposed to discrimination in almost all areas of social life.359

E.  Disability

131.  Persons with disabilities are one of the most discriminated against groups in Serbia, as is regularly highlighted in annual reports of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality.360 However, in 2020, their vulnerability to discrimination and restriction in the enjoyment of their rights increased, especially during the state of emergency. As the European Commission emphasised, during the first three weeks of the state of emergency, persons with disabilities lacked home assistance services, as service providers did not have permits for movement during the curfew.361 In addition, children with developmental disabilities and autism suffered during this time. After several complaints from different NGOs and a recommendation of the Protector of Citizen’s, this issue was solved in mid-April 2020, first by allowing children with developmental disabilities and autism to go outside every day from 6–8 pm, and afterwards at any time during the day.362

132.  In mid-June 2020, 24 NGOs dealing with persons with disabilities participated in a survey on the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 and identified the main risks for the enjoyment of rights of persons with disabilities.363 The Covid-19 pandemic had an additional negative impact on these risks, in the areas of access to health care (83.33%), access to information and communication (72.22%), risk of poverty, access to work, sources of income, and inclusive education (66.67%), social protection (61.11%), risk of discrimination (55.56%), and access to justice and fair trial (50%).364 It must be highlighted that despite the increased risk of poverty, no specific measures were targeted toward them, while they had difficulties in accessing services for social protection, and also experienced delays in payments of social benefits.365

133.  In its annual report for 2020, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality found that persons with disabilities experienced problems with accessibility and information.366 The Commissioner issued a recommendation to public media services to urgently enable the broadcasting in accessible formats of as much information as possible regarding the state of emergency, as well as public information campaigns and instructions of competent institutions regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.367 As a result, public media services made media content accessible to hard-of-hearing viewers significantly and promptly using sign language. Also, acting upon complaints, the Commissioner dealt with the following questions: the organization of work from home (employed persons with disabilities were assigned to work from home due to the increased risk of infection, without being provided with an adjustment of the workplace) and problems of parents of children with disabilities, who due to the introduced measures did not enjoy services to the required extent (living room, personal assistant, personal companion, etc).368

134.  In addition, special attention needs to be paid to persons with disabilities placed in social care institutions, who were at higher risk of disease, with limited assistance provided by insufficient staff, without the possibility of receiving visitors (which were effectively banned for more than 140 days), and with restrictions on their personal liberty and movement.369 Despite this social isolation, the residential care institutions in Serbia did not follow the recommendation of international bodies to provide their beneficiaries with alternative forms of communication with their loved ones, such as video calls.370

135.  Education was also one of the main problems for children with disabilities. Immediately after the state of emergency was declared, schools were closed, and distance learning was organized at all education levels and through national TV broadcasters. However, further research and efforts are needed to compensate for the learning gaps caused during this time, and particularly for children from disadvantaged groups.371 In one case, a student with hearing impairment submitted a complaint to the Commissioner as he was not able to follow online classes by reading from the professor's lips because he was wearing a protective mask that covered his mouth.372 The Commissioner resolved this obstacle in cooperating with the Association of Students with Disabilities and the Faculty by recommending using a transparent mask.

F.  Elderly

136.  Serbian society is faced with rapid aging. The elderly are a particularly vulnerable group in a society and were exposed to some extreme restrictions during the Covid-19 crisis. As already noted (see Parts III and IV above), during the state of emergency, the freedom of movement of persons older than 65 was disproportionately restricted compared to other citizens. Some claimed that this restriction of movement amounted to a deprivation of their liberty.373 The Constitutional Court, in its decision, found that the prescribed measure was drastically restricting the movement of people over 65 but did not constitute a deprivation of liberty either according to its purpose or according to its content. The Court found that the purpose of these measures was not to deprive the concerned persons of their liberty for a certain period but to additionally and effectively protect them from the possibility of developing Covid-19.374 The comparison drawn by the Constitutional Court is particularly interesting to note. The Court compared the elderly with patients who suffer from certain diseases and whose medical condition requires a more extended stay in a hospital room. In that case, hospitalization is not considered to be a deprivation of liberty.375 The Court further stated that the prescribed measures’ content essentially came down to creating the necessary conditions for adequate protection against dangerous infectious diseases in specific circumstances. The Constitutional Court’s finding that, in a case of human rights derogations, Article 202(2) of the Constitution applies, which does not recognize age as a protected ground from discrimination, was particularly criticized.376 Dissatisfied with this decision, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights submitted a complaint to the Higher Belgrade Court under the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination, claiming that persons aged 65 and older were discriminated against by the prescribed measures.377 However, the Higher Court rejected a complaint on the ground that it was justified to limit the freedom of movement of persons aged 65 and older as their health risk was higher bearing in mind that they suffer from chronic diseases and, thus, they are more susceptible to contracting the virus.378

137.  There is no report dealing with the mental health of the elderly facing social distancing for a year. From mid-May 2020, Serbia did not introduce any curfew or other more restrictive measures on freedom of movement. The elderly appeared to be disciplined and most of them follow all recommended measures.379 Serbia was one of the first States to offer vaccines to its citizens and the elderly had priority. However, the majority of them claimed that the situation in hospitals and the health system did not allow regular health checks and treatment of chronic diseases,380 and further research on this matter is needed to cast light on the consequences of lack of regular health treatments.

G.  Children

138.  A significant issue that arose during the Covid-19 pandemic related to children was the education for children from vulnerable groups. After the state of emergency was proclaimed, all classes were converted to digital formats from 16 March until mid-June 2020. Special TV channels broadcasted classes for children of primary and secondary education.381 A rulebook was adopted with the aim to maintain the quality of education and prescribe the assessment of children’s progress.382 However, one of the main challenges was the generally poor skills of teachers and children in using online learning platforms and the impossibility for certain children to use digital platforms—such as Roma children living in informal settlements, children with disabilities (see also Part VI.E above), and children from economically deprived families.383 A particular problem was the organisation of classes for children with learning difficulties and the implementation of individual education plans.384 Therefore, the European Commission found that a hybrid educational model introduced in Serbia was faced with challenges and that further efforts are required to compensate for learning gaps, in particular among disadvantaged children.385

139.  From September 2020, preschool children regularly attended kindergartens, while children of lower grades in primary school also attended classes regularly with some modifications—children were split into two groups, and the number and the length of classes were reduced. However, the academic year for higher levels of education started with hybrid models. Children of higher grades in primary school and secondary school attended schools on some days and on others followed online classes. Some teachers claimed that the difficulties encountered in organizing online classes were: the lack of two-way communication, practical or laboratory classes were not possible, it was hard to assess the progress of each pupil, and it was not possible to monitor other difficulties children may face, such as the need for counselling support, protection from domestic violence, etc.386 Despite the increased risk of abuse during the Covid-19 crisis, no specific measures for the protection of children were introduced. Thus, some of the possible measures, among others, were to strengthen and introduce child-friendly help lines, raise awareness among a range of professionals about their roles in recognizing and reporting signs of abuse or neglect, and to support families in need.387

H.  Prisoners

140.  The execution of criminal sanctions in Serbia is regulated by the Act on Execution of Criminal Sanctions,388 which prescribes that a prison sentence is carried out, organized, and supervised by the Directorate for Execution of Criminal Sanctions, part of the Ministry of Justice. The system of execution of criminal sanctions comprises 29 institutions. The Health Care Service in each institution is responsible for health prevention, but it was hard for the health system to respond to challenges posed by Covid-19.389

141.  After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was not much public information concerning prisoners in Serbia. The first news reports were published on 19 March 2020, claiming that no Covid-19 cases had been reported in jails across Serbia.390 In addition, it was announced that several inmates who had served 90% of their sentence in the Zabela prison in Pozarevac would be released.

142.  However, on 11 March 2020, before the state of emergency was declared, some measures were introduced, such as the procurement of contactless thermometers for all institutions and two weeks of sick leave for employees who showed some sign of disease, travelled from risk areas, or were in contact with the infection.391 In addition, body temperature checks at entrance points were introduced and all individuals admitted to the institutions were isolated in smaller rooms. Under increased health supervision, the time for a visit was limited to up to 15 minutes, while group visits and the reception of packages were postponed. With regards to protective measures for inmates, new inmates were in quarantine for 14 days, facial masks were worn by some commanders and some inmates working in the administration building, and the administration buildings were sprayed with chlorine. From 14 March 2020, regular disinfection was introduced and it was announced that inmates would spend more than two hours outside, in the fresh air.392 In addition to these measures, all benefits and work outside the institution were postponed, and it was recommended that visits to courts, post offices, banks, and health care institutions (except for emergency interventions) were minimised.393 However, in some prison institutions, such as in Nis, Sremska Mitrovica, Zabela, and the women’s penitentiary in Pozarevac, inmates sewed protective masks for employees and prisoners in Serbia.394 The 14 days quarantine for new inmates and regular disinfection were prolonged during the whole of 2020 and 2021.395 Also, inmates had access to vaccines and the amount of the prison population who were vaccinated by the end of 2021 was much higher than that of the general population (80% compared to 50%).396

143.  On 30 March 2020, only defence lawyers were allowed to visit their clients for 30 minutes if they had a trial scheduled in the next seven days so that they could prepare the defence, while respecting all protection measures (a barrier between interlocutors, protective masks, and gloves).397 At the same time, some defence attorneys claimed that protective masks and gloves were not distributed to inmates, although they were in contact with prison staff and defence attorneys.398 On 13 April 2020, these measures were extended, and on 27 April 2020, re-extended until the beginning of June 2020. During this time, the Directorate claimed that psychologists and special pedagogues were conducting increased psychosocial support for inmates and their families, that a large number of workshops were organized to discuss all the problems, dilemmas, changes in mood, and the importance of tolerance, and that inmates had more frequent telephone contact with family members.399

144.  In June 2020, an instruction was issued to allow family visits, although with the worsening of the epidemiological situation on 3 July 2020, additional instructions were given.400 It was prohibited to gather in the same room to consume food and drinks (to sit in restaurants). All meetings were held online, ventilation was recommended in all rooms, using central air conditioning was discouraged, and disinfecting all work surfaces was necessary.401

145.  In its annual report for 2020, the Protector of Citizens highlighted that persons deprived of their liberty were recognized as a group at particular risk. The competent authorities took many measures to protect them. The level of exercise of rights was reduced to the extent necessary to prevent the possible spread of the virus in institutions.402 The Protector of Citizens found that in 2020, persons deprived of their liberty mostly expressed dissatisfaction with healthcare provision. It mainly related to provided health care and treatment, dissatisfaction with the fact that due to epidemiological measures, prisoners could not exercise their granted extra-institutional rights and benefits or be employed outside the institution, and limited visits from family and other relatives.403 It is also important to note that during its independent control in 2020, the Protector of Citizens did not find any case of ill-treatment towards prisoners.404

I.  Non-citizens

146.  The Government adopted the decision to close borders for international and border traffic on 12 March 2020,405 and subsequently decided to close all border crossings for the entry of passengers on 19 March 2020,406 with the exception of entry into Serbia if it was in Serbia’s national interests, for humanitarian reasons, and with the consent of the relevant State administration authorities. However, in practice, the pandemic substantially impinged access to the Serbian asylum procedure by foreigners in need of international protection.407 In 2020, 23,992 migrants entered Serbia,408 while 2,830 were registered as asylum seekers, in accordance with the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection.409 In the same period, 145 asylum applications were submitted to the Asylum Office. Among those applicants, ten were granted refugee status, eight subsidiary protection, 51 applications were rejected, and the great majority of cases (88) were pending until the end of the year.410 The recognition rate dropped from 32.5% in 2019 to 27.2% in 2020, and the length of procedure reached between eight and 12 months, due to which the majority of asylum seekers decided to abscond during the asylum procedure.411 The Asylum Office cancelled procedural activities when the state of emergency was introduced. It also postponed many scheduled appointments to submit asylum applications and oral hearings due to the fact that its staff, asylum seekers, or management staff of the asylum centre were infected.412 Simultaneously, the second instance body—the Asylum Commission and the Administrative Court—continued their work despite Covid-19 measures. Out of 62 decisions, the Asylum Commission upheld only ten appeals, while the Administrative Court rejected all of the complaints, and the appellate authorities carried out the practice of delivering decisions without the hearing of applicants.413

147.  After a state of emergency was declared, the Government passed a decision on the temporary restriction of movement of asylum seekers and irregular migrants accommodated in asylum centres and reception centres in Serbia.414 The decision also imposed enhanced surveillance and security of these facilities. Asylum seekers and irregular migrants were exceptionally and in justified cases allowed to leave the facilities.415 This was mainly justified by the need to visit doctors, though there were other reasons. They needed special permission from the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, an institution that deals with asylum seekers and migrants. The permission was issued only for a very limited time, and only for the reason for which the permit was issued. Not only was their freedom of movement restricted, but they were also denied access to the asylum procedure, legal advice, and other services provided by NGOs, as no one was allowed to enter the facilities. The Asylum Office did not visit any asylum or reception centre to carry out official actions within the asylum procedure (submission of asylum requests and asylum interviews). This Decision was valid until 9 April 2020, when its provisions were transferred to the Decree on measures during the state of emergency.416 This Decree was in force until the state of emergency was lifted on 6 May 2020. However, it did not mean that the freedom of movement of asylum seekers and migrants was restored. Subsequently, on 7 May 2020, an Order restricting movement at the entrances to open spaces and facilities of reception centres for migrants and asylum centres was issued.417 This Order extended the prohibition of leaving facilities ‘until the cessation of the danger of spreading the infectious disease caused by Covid-19’.418 The Order was terminated on 14 May 2020.419 Some authors claimed that this restriction of movement amounted to a deprivation of liberty, which was not accompanied by all guarantees stipulated in Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).420 A constitutional complaint was submitted claiming that the detention of migrants was illegal, arbitrary, and that they were collectively deprived of their liberty. In its decision, the Constitutional Court rejected the comparison between persons deprived of liberty and migrants whose freedom of movement was temporarily restricted.421 The Court found that ‘the purpose of this temporary restriction was both effective protection from dangerous infectious diseases of asylum seekers and irregular migrants, accommodated in reception centres, and adequate protection of the general population in the Republic of Serbia. Both of these purposes are legitimate, legally acceptable, and constitutionally justified. Namely, if asylum seekers and irregular migrants were allowed to move freely outside the reception centres in the conditions of the state of emergency introduced due to citizens’ real threat from a dangerous infectious disease, it would, in specific circumstances, expose them to severe risk. On the other hand, in the absence of such a temporary restriction, the risk of exposing other persons in Serbia to the possibility of contracting the disease has significantly increased.’ It is particularly interesting that the Constitutional Court underlines that asylum seekers and irregular migrants in most cases do not intend to stay and live permanently in Serbia and try to move to other countries without prolonged retention. In other words, the Court suggests that in the specific circumstances in which the state borders were maximally secured, they would certainly not have real opportunities to leave Serbia’s territory. The Court concluded that, if they succeeded, they would face severe problems in neighbouring countries, which should demonstrate that their treatment in Serbia is still much better than in the region.

148.  Another issue is a possible violation of Article 3 of the ECHR due to overcrowding of the majority of centres, as the number of accommodated asylum seekers and migrants varied from 5,350 to 8,900 in April, to 4,300 in August and 6,600 in November 2020.422 However, it is essential to underline that the optimal capacity of 18 active centres is around 3,500 asylum seekers and migrants. Some violent incidents towards unaccompanied children were reported.423 Moreover, as of March 2021, some asylum seekers and migrants were in tents or bunk beds, living in unhygienic conditions.

149.  Asylum seekers and persons granted international protection (refugee and subsidiary protection) were accommodated in private addresses, and during the state of emergency were regularly informed on the restriction of movement and the duration of curfew in Serbian and English.424 In April 2020, they also received electronic brochures on preventive measures presented in a simple way. In an integration process, many of them lost their jobs and needed primarily financial assistance to cover the basic needs. Thus, in the period between January and June 2020, an NGO providing help to them submitted 19 requests to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for financial aid in respect of 29 persons.425

150.  After 14 May 2020, the restriction on freedom of movement was lifted, but there were incidents where the police returned asylum seekers and migrants to centres involuntarily.426 Further, some were expelled from centres after minor incidents and returned with the help of NGOs, as they did not have anywhere to go.427 Therefore, it can be concluded that migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees were vulnerable during the Covid-19 crisis.

J.  Indigenous peoples

151.  There is no relevant information to be reported.

Prof. Ivana Krstic, Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade

Prof. Marko Davinic, Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade

Footnotes:

1  Serbian Constitution 2006 (Ustav Republike Srbije).

3  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 104(2).

4  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 4 (2, 3).

5  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 125(1).

6  Serbian Constitution 2006, arts 114(1), 111.

7  Territorial Organization Act of the Republic of Serbia 2007 (Zakon o teritorijalnoj organizaciji Republike Srbije) (amended 2018).

8  Local Self-Government Act 2007 (Zakon o lokalnoj samoupravi), art 20(4).

9  Government Act 2005 (Zakon o Vladi), arts 1–2.

10  Government Act 2005, art 34.

11  State Administration Act 2005 (Zakon o državnoj upravi), art 1.

12  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 16(2).

13  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

15  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 16(3).

16  Decision on Declaration of State Emergency (Odluka o proglašenju vanrednog stanja) (15 March 2020).

17  Decision on Lifting the State of Emergency (Odluka o ukidanju vanrednog stanja) (6 May 2020).

18  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Notification, JJ9025C Tr./005-234’ (6 April 2020).

19  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 200(1).

20  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 200(3).

21  Serbian Constitution 2006, arts 200(5), 200(6).

22  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 202(4).

23  World Health Organization, International Health Regulations (15 June 2007).

24  Act on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases 2016 (Zakon o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti) (amended 2020).

25  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Notification, JJ9025C Tr./005-234’ (6 April 2020).

26  Act confirming the Bylaws which were adopted during the State of Emergency by the Government and with the co-sign of the President (Zakon o potvrđivanju uredaba koje je Vlada uz supotpis predsednika Republike donela za vreme vanrednog stanja) (29 April 2020).

28  Disaster Risk Reduction Act (Zakon o smanjenju rizika od katastrofa i upravljanju vanrednim situacijama) (2018).

29  Decision proclaiming the Covid-19 disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 as an infectious disease (Odluka o proglašenju bolesti COVID 19 izazvane virusom SARS- CoV-2 zaraznom bolešću) (10 March 2020).

30  Order declaring an epidemic of the infectious disease COVID-19 (Naredba o proglašenju epidemije zarazne bolesti COVID-19) (19 March 2020).

31  Act on the Amendement to the Act on the Protection of Population from Infectious Diseases (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama zakona o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti) (8 May 2020).

32  Act on the Amendement to the Act on the Protection of Population from Infectious Diseases (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama zakona o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti) (13 November 2020).

34  Emergency Situations Act 2009 (Zakon o vanrednim situacijama).

35  Disaster Risk Reduction Act (2018), art. 2 (7).

36  Act on the Amendement to the Act on the Protection of Population from Infectious Diseases 2020 (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama zakona o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti).

37  Act on the amendments of the Local Elections Act 2020 (Zakon o izmeni zakona o lokalnim izborima); Act on the amendments of the Election of Deputies Act 2020 (Zakon o izmeni i dopuni zakona o izboru naraodnih poslanika).

40  European Western Balkans, ‘A new bottom of parliamentarism in Serbia’ (22 April 2020); A Ivkovic, N Cuckic, E Muminovic, et al, ‘The Shadow Report: The state of democracy in Serbia 2020’, Center for Security Policy (September 2020) 11.

41  Documents are available on the Serbian Legal-informational system (Pravno-informacioni sistem Republike Srbije); Government Act 2005, arts 42–43; State Administration Act 2005 (Zakon o državnoj upravi), art 15.

44  Decree on measures adopted during the state of emergency (Uredba o merama za vreme vanrednog stanja) (16 March 2020).

45  Act on the validity of decrees adopted by the Government with the co-sign of the President which were adopted during the state of emergency and which were confirmed by the National Assembly (Zakon o važenju uredaba koje je Vlada uz supotpis predsednika Republike donela za vreme vanrednog stanja i koje je Narodna skupština potvrdila) (6 May 2020).

46  Conclusion on the designation of a facility for the execution of quarantine measures in order to prevent the ocurrence, spread and control of Covid-19 (Zaključak o određivanju objekta za sprovođenje mere karantina radi sprečavanja pojave, širenja i suzbijanja zarazne bolesti COVID-19 (17 March 2020).

47  Order on the prohibition of visits and restriction of movement in the facilities of institutions for the accommodation of elderly (Naredba o zabrani poseta i ograničenju kretanja u objektima ustanova za smeštaj starih lica) (14 March 2020).

48  Order on the organisation and implementation of quarantine measures (Naredba o organizovanju i sprovođenju mere karantina) (17 March 2020).

49  Conclusion recommending to churches and religious communities the safe performance of religious rites during a state of emergency and epidemic (Zaključak kojim se preporučuje crkvama i verskim zajednicama bezbedno vršenje verskih obreda za vreme trajanja vanrednog stanja i epidemije) (27 March 2020).

50  Conclusion on the suspension of work with clients through direct contact (Zaključak o obustavljanju rada sa strankama putem neposrednog kontakta) (18 March 2020).

51  Conclusion on the establishment of unified and centralised software Information system Covid-19 (Zaključak Vlade o uspostavljanju jedinstvenog i centralizovanog softverskog rešenja — Informacioni sistem COVID-19 (IS COVID/19)) (28 March 2020); Conclusion No. 50/2020-10 (2 April 2020).

52  Decision No. 104/2020-20 (24 July 2020); Decision No. 102/2020-4 (16 July 2020); Decision No. 97/2020-3 (3 July 2020); Decision 57/2020-5 (16 April 2020); Decision 57/2012-12 (16 April 2020); Decision No. 50/2020-4 (30 April 2020); Decision No. 50/2020-3 (3 April 2020); Decision No. 50/2020-3, amended by Decision No. 54/2020-53 (10 April 2020)

54  Order no. 149/2020 - 306 (10 December 2020); Order no. 146/2020 - 19 (3 December 2020); Order no. 144/2020-37 (27 November 2020).

55  Decision on the establishment of the Working Group for coordination of activities and determination of the needs of microbiological laboratories in public ownership that perform laboratory tests for the presence of SARS-CoV - 2 virus (Odluka o obrazovanju radne grupe za koordinaciju aktivnosti i utvrđivanje potreba mikrobioloških laboratorija u javnoj svojini koje rade laboratorijska ispitivanja na prisustvo virusa SARS CoV-2) (31 July 2020).

56  Regulation on special education program (Pravilnik o posebnom programu obrazovanja i vaspitanja) (26 August 2020).

57  Regulation on preventive measures for safe and healthy work to prevent the occurence and spread of epidemic of infectious disease (Pravilnik o preventivnim merama za bezbedan i zdrav rad za sprečavanje pojave i širenja epidemije zarazne bolesti) (3 July 2020).

58  Order prohibiting gatherings in the Republic of Serbia in public places indoors and outdoors (Naredba o zabrani okupljanja u Republici Srbiji na javnim mestima u zatvorenom i otvorenom prostoru) (16 July 2020).

59  Instruction on the implementation of the Decision on declaring the Covid-19 disease caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus a contagious disease partly restricting the entry of persons into the Republic of Serbia (Uputstvo o primeni Odluke o proglašenju bolesti COVID-19 izazvane virusom SARS-CoV-2 zaraznom bolešću u delu ograničenja ulaska lica u Republiku Srbiju) (20 August 2020).

61  IUo – 42/2020 (Constitutional Ct).

62  Defence Act (Zakon o odbrani) (19 December 2007).

63  Rulebook of the National Assembly (Poslovnik o radu Narodne skupštine) (5 August 2010).

64  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 19.

65  IUo – 45/2020 (Constitutional Ct).

66  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Notification, JJ9025C Tr./005-234’ (6 April 2020).

67  Government of Serbia, ‘Legal Information System’ (accessed 16 December 2020).

68  Ministry of Health, Institute for Public Health, ‘Covid-19 website’ (accessed 16 December 2020).

69  Government of Serbia, ‘COVID-19 crisis response team formed’ (13 March 2020).

70  Decision on the foundation of the Crisis Team for suppressing infectious disease Covid-19 (Odluka o obrazovanju Kriznog štaba za suzbijanje zarazne bolesti Covid-19) (30 October 2020).

72  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 99(7).

73  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 123(2)–(4).

74  These oversight functions are regulated by the Act on the National Assembly 2010 and the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly 2010.

75  Act on confirmation of decrees adopted by the Government with the co-signature of the President of the Republic during the state of emergency (Zakon o potvrdjivanju uredaba koje je Vlada uz supotpis predsednika Republike donela za vreme vanrednog stanja) (29 April 2020).

76  Radio Free Europe, ‘Pro and cons of the boycott of the work of the National Assembly’ (Za i protiv bojkota rada Skupštine Srbije) (11 February 2020).

77  Danas, ‘The session on confirming the state of emergency and decrees adopted, with strong protection measures’ (Sednica o potvrđivanju vanrednog stanja i donetih uredbi uz jake mere zaštite) (28 April 2020).

79  Letter No. 06-478/20 (13 March 2020).

80  This was criticized by many, see eg European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 4, 9, 11.

81  European Western Balkans, ‘A new bottom of parliamentarism in Serbia’ (22 April 2020).

82  European Western Balkans, ‘Parliamentary session: Removed or confirmed fears about the omnipotence of the executive?’ (Zasedanje Skupštine: Otklonjeni ili potvrđeni strahovi o svemoći izvršne vlasti) (15 May 2020).

83  Letter No. 06-478/20 (13 March 2020).

84  T Marinkovic, ‘Fight Against Covid-19 in Serbia: Saving the Nation or Securing the Re-Election?’ Verfassungsblog (Online, 18 May 2020).

85  Minister of Justice, Recommendation No. 112-01--557/2020-05 (17 March 2020).

86  High Judicial Council, Instruction on the work of the High Judicial Council with parties during the state of emergency (Uputstvo o radu Visokog saveta sudstva sa strankama za vreme vanrednog stanja) (17 March 2020).

87  Instruction Su br. I -1, 33/20 (Appellate Ct in Belgrade) (16 March 2020); Instruction Su VIII - 43 - 36/20 (Appellate Ct in Novi Sad) (17 March 2020); Instruction I SU - 1 - 40/20 (Appellate Ct in Kragujevac) (17 March 2020); Instructions of Commercial Courts; Instructions of Misdemeanour Courts; Instruction of Administrative Court, ‘Su I-2 80/20’ (16 March 2020); Instructions of Higher Courts; Instructions of basic courts; Public Notary Chamber, ‘Instruction No. 740-07- 329/2020-05’ (17 March 2020); Chamber of Baillifs, ‘Instruction No. 29/20 - 2’ (18 March 2020).

88  Bar Chamber, Decision No. 284/2020 (19 March 2020).

89  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 19.

90  Republic Prosecutor, General instruction on the organisation of work in prosecutor's offices during the state of emergency proclaimed on 15 March 2020 (Opšte obavezno uputstvo o organizaciji procesa rada u javnim tužilaštvima za vreme vanrednog stanja proglašenog 15.3.2020. godine) (17 March 2020).

91  Republic Prosecutor, General Mandatory Instruction (Opšte obavezno uputstvo) (16 March 2020).

92  Criminal Code (Krivični zakonik) (1 January 2006).

93  Ministry of Justice, ‘Recommendation’ (26 March 2020).

94  Decree (49 / 2020-3) (1 April 2020).

95  High Judicial Council, ‘Conclusion No. 021-05-00040/2020-01’ (9 April 2020).

96  T Marinkovic, ‘Unconstitutional decree on on the Skype trial’ Danas (Online, 10 April 2020); J Zoric, ‘Lawyers want to prevent Skype trials, claiming to be unconstitutional’, N1 (Online, 9 April 2020); J Zoric, ‘Lawyers want to prevent trials via Skype, they say they are against the Constitution’, N1 (Online, 14 May 2020); G Ilic, ‘The virus of ignorance never sleepsOtvorena vrata pravosuđa (7 April 2020).

97  Serbian Constitution 2006, art 202(4).

98  Decree (49 / 2020-3) (1 April 2020).

100  High Judicial Council, ‘Conclusion No. 021-05-46/2020-21’ (7 May 2020).

101  High Judicial Council, ‘Conclusion No. 021-05-46/2020-21’ (7 May 2020).

102  High Judicial Council, ‘Conclusion No. 021-05-46/2020-21’ (7 May 2020).

103  Act on the Constitutional Court 2007 (Zakon o Ustavnom sudu), art 50(2); Decision 40/2015, 103/15 (Constitutional Ct).

104  IUo – 42/2020 (Constitutional Ct).

105  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 19.

106  Decision on the election of MPs (Odluka o raspisivanju izbora za narodne poslanike) (4 March 2020).

107  There are some views that the elections were unconstitutionally called, see eg T Marinkovic, ‘Elections unconstitutionally called’, Danas (Online, 22 May 2020).

108  Order on suspension of all election activities (Rešenje o prekidu svih izbornih radnju u sprovođenju izbora za narodne poslanike Narodne skupštine, raspisanih za 26. april 2020) (20 March 2020).

109  Decision on the amendment of the decision on the elections for MPs (Odluka o izmeni odluke o raspisivanju izbora za narodne poslanike) (10 May 2020).

110  Order on continuation of all election activities (Rešenje o nastavku sprovođenja svih izbornih radnji) (11 May 2020).

111  ODIHR Special Election Assessment Mission, Final Report (21 June 2020) 1.

112  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 4; CRTA, ‘Elections 2020, Long-term observers’ report'.

113  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 9.

114  Act on the amendments of the act on the election of MPs (Zakon o izmenama zakona o izboru narodnih poslanika) 2020; Act on amendments on the Act on local elections 2020 (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama zakona o lokalnim izborima).

115  Venice Commission, Code of good practice in electoral matters (25 October 2018); A Ivkovic, ‘Fastest of all reforms: How lowering the threshold violates the Venice Commission Code’, European Western Balkans (Online, 25 February 2020).

117  ODIHR Special Election Assessment Mission, Final Report (21 June 2020) 11.

118  J Mojsilović, ‘BIRN: Number of dead from COVID-19 in Serbia much higher; doctor explains’ N1 (Online, 22 June 2020).

119  N Jovanovic, ‘Serbia Under-Reported COVID-19 Deaths and Infections, Data Shows’, Balkan Insight, BIRN (Online, 22 June 2020).

120  Radio Slobodna Evropa, ‘Serbia with two parallel expert bodies to combat the pandemic’ (31 July 2020).

121  Order on the organisation and implementation of quarantine measures (Naredba o organizovanju i sprovođenju mere karantina) (17 March 2020), art 1(1).

122  The legal basis for these conclusions can be found in Government Act 2005, arts 33, 43.

123  Danas, ‘Kon believes that measures are too late’ (26 November 2020).

124  United against Covid, ‘Open letter to the Government of Serbia and other competent institutions’ (21 July 2020).

125  United against Covid, ‘Open letter to the Government of Serbia and other competent institutions’ (21 July 2020).

127  Conclusion of the Government on centralized information on Covid-19 (Zakljucak Vlade o centralizovanom informisanju o stanju i posledicama širenja COVID-19) (31 March 2020).

129  Conclusion No. 53-3010/2020 (2 April 2020).

130  Demostat, ‘Public Opinion in Serbia on Covid-19’ (Javno mnjenje Srbije o Covid-19) (October 2020).

131  National Coalition for Decentralisation (NKD), ‘Informing citizens in the age of coronavirus is centralized’ (8 May 2020).

132  Reporters without Borders ‘Serbia’ (accessed 16 December 2020); Freedom House, ‘Serbia 2019’ (2019).

133  NUNS Press, ‘Attacks on journalists’ (undated, accessed 16 December 2020).

136  Freedom House, ‘Serbia 2019’ (2019); EURACTIV, ‘Serbia drops down world press freedom index’ (22 April 2020); Council of Europe, ‘Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists, Serbia (accessed 16 December 2020).

137  Local Press, ‘Coronavirus threatens the survival of local media in Serbia’ (8 April 2020).

138  Ombudsman Act 2005 (Zakon o zaštitniku građana) 2005.

139  RS Ombudsman, ’The Ombudsman increasing telephone lines’ (12 March 2020).

140  RS Ombudsman, ‘The Ombudsman ordering milder islolation measures’ (27 October 2020).

141  As established in the Prohibition of Discrimination Act 2009 (Zakon o zabrani diskriminacije) (7 April 2009).

142  CPE, ‘General recommendations of measures to public authorities’ (19 March–20 May 2020) (accessed 16 December 2020).

143  Act on Free Access to Information of Public Importance 2004 (Zakon o slobodnom pristupu informacijama od javnog značaja); Personal Data Protection Act 2018 (Zakon o zaštiti podataka o ličnosti).

144  Commissioner, ‘News Press releases’ (accessed 16 December 2020).

148  Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19 (Uredba o merama za sprečavanje i suzbijanje zarazne bolesti Covid-19) (16 December 2020), art 10(1).

154  Decree on measures during a state of emergency (16 March 2020), art 1a.

155  Decree on measures during a state of emergency (16 March 2020), art 3; this restriction was further stated in Decision on temporary restriction of movement of asylum seekers and irregular migrants accommodated in asylum centres and reception centres in the Republic of Serbia (Odluka o privremenom ograničavanju kretanja tražilaca azila i iregularnih migranata smeštenih u centrima za azil i prihvatnim centrima u Republici Srbiji) (16 March 2020).

157  021, ‘Tiodorovic: Serbia is far from imposing a state of emergency’ (Online, 23 September 2020); Politika, ‘The curve is up, but no state of emergency will be introduced’ (Online, 11 November 2020).

160  Decision on closing border crossing (Odluka o zatvaranju graničnih prelaza) (12 March 2020); the legal basis for this Decree was the Border Control Act 2018 (Zakon o graničnoj kontroli), art 17(1).

161  Decision on closing of all border crossing for the entry into Serbia (Odluka o zatvaranju svih graničnih prelaza za ulazak u Republiku Srbiju) (19 March 2020).

162  Decision on the termination of the Decision on closing border crossing (Odluka o prestanku vazenja Odluke o zatvaranju graničnih prelaza) (22 May 2020).

163  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Covid-19 — entry requirements’ (accessed 16 December 2020).

164  Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19 (20 December 2020), art 4; Radio Free Europe, Entry into Serbia from Sunday with a negative PCR test (Online, 15 December 2020).

165  Decision on the establishment of a commission for granting permission to enter the territory of the Republic of Serbia in the regime of application of protective measures against Covid-19 (Odluka o obrazovanju komisije za davanje dozvole za ulazak na teritoriju Republike Srbije u režimu primene zaštitnih mera od bolesti COVID-19) (15 March 2020).

166  Order on organisation and implementation of quarantine measures (Naredba o organizovanju i sprovođenju mere karantina) (17 March 2020).

167  Decree on measures during a state of emergency (16 March 2020), art 4.

168  Act on protection of the population from infectious diseases 2020 (Zakon o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti).

169  Order prohibiting gatherings in public places in the Republic of Serbia indoors (Naredba o zabrani okupljanja u Republici Srbiji na javnim mestima u zatvorenom prostoru) (15 March 2020).

171  Order prohibiting gathering in public places in the Republic of Serbia indoors and outdoors (Naredba o zabrani okupljanja u Republici Srbiji na javnim mestima u zatvorenom i otvorenom prostoru) (7 May 2020).

172  Order prohibiting gathering in public places in the Republic of Serbia (Naredba o zabrani okupljanja u Republici Srbiji na javnim mestima) (10 June 2020).

173  Order prohibiting gathering in indoor and outdoor public places in the Republic of Serbia (Naredba o zabrani okupljanja u Republici Srbiji na javnim mestima u zatvorenom i otvorenom prostoru) (16 July 2020).

174  General precautions and recommendations for concerts, theaters, cinemas (Opšte mere predostrožnosti i preporuke za koncerte, pozorišta, bioskope) (24 August 2020).

176  Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19 (16 December 2020), art 10(1).

178  Decision on the suspension of teaching in higher education institutions, secondary and primary schools, and the regular operation of preschool education institutions (Odluka o obustavi nastave u visokoškolskim ustanovama, srednjim i osnovnim školama i redovnog rada ustanova predškolskog vaspitanja i obrazovanja) (15 March 2020).

179  The following important bylaws were issued: Minister of Education, Rulebook on Detailed Conditions for Achieving an a Manner of Quality Assurance and Evaluation of Teaching at Home for Primary School Pupils (Pravilnik o bližim uslovima za ostvarivanje i način osiguranja kvaliteta i vrednovanja nastave kod kuće za učenike osnovne škole) (21 August 2020); Minister of Education, Rulebook on Detailed Conditions for Achieving and Manner of Quality Assurance and Evaluation of Distance Learning in Primary School (Pravilnik o bližim uslovima za ostvarivanje i način osiguranja kvaliteta i vrednovanje nastave na daljinu u osnovnoj školi) (21 August 2020).

180  Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19 (16 December 2020), art 7(3).

181  Decree on measures during the state of emergency (15 March 2020), art 16.

182  Decision on mitigation of measures during the state of emergency — permission to move in parks and public areas intended for public recreation and sports (Odluka o ublažavanju mera za vreme vanrednog stanja – dozvola kretanja u parkovima i na javnim površinama namenjenim za rekreaciju i sport građana) (30 April 2020).

184  Decision on the restriction of the provision of services in the field of retail trade, which include the sale of goods and the provision of services in shopping centers and shops that are entered from an enclosed space (Odluka o ograničenju pružanja usluga u oblasti trgovine na malo, koje obuhvataju prodaju robe i vršenje usluga u trgovinskim centrima i lokalima u koje se ulazi iz zatvorenog prostora) (21 March 2020).

185  Decision on special measures for the provision of services in the field of retail trade, which includes the sale of food and beverages in restaurants and the sale of food to carry (Odluka o posebnim merama pružanja usluga u oblasti trgovine na malo, koja obuhvata prodaju hrane i pića u ugostiteljskim objektima i prodaju hrane za nošenje) (21 March 2020).

187  Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19 (Uredba o merama za sprečavanje i suzbijanje zarazne bolesti Covid-19) (16 December 2020).

193  Order on organisation and implementation of quarantine measure (Naredba o organizovanju i sprovođenju mere karantina) (17 March 2020).

194  Conclusion 05 No. 53-2551 / 2020 on the implementation of the quarantine measure in the facility of the Military Institution "Morović", Šid and Miratovačko polje, (Zaključak Vlade 05 broj 53-2551/2020 o sprovođenju mere karantina u objektu Vojne ustanove "Morović", Šid i Miratovačko polje) (17 March 2020).

195  Decision on supplementing the decision on declaring COVID-19 disease caused by SARS-COV-2 virus a contagious disease (Odluka o dopuni odluke o proglašenju bolesti COVID-19 izazvane virusom SARS-COV-2 zaraznom bolešću) (27 March 2020).

196  RTV, ‘28- day quarantine for those coming from Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland’ (Karantin od 28 dana za one koji dolaze iz Italije, Španije, Austrije, Švajcarske) (Online, 16 March 2020).

197  Radio Free Europe, ‘What are the conditions in the camps on the Serbian border?’ (Online, 25 March 2020); Direktno, ‘Camp Morovic for Serbs who have to be quarantined’ (Online, 19 March 2020); M Mirkovic, ‘After a cold night in a tent, he was released from Morovic without a test’ Nova.rs (Online, 22 March 2020).

200  Act on the amendments to the Act on the Protection of Population from Infectious Diseases (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama Zakona o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti) (13 November 2020).

201  Decree on measures for prevention and control of Covid-19 (Uredba o merama za sprečavanje i suzbijanje zarazne bolesti Covid-19) (16 December 2020).

202  M Lazarevic, D Bajic, ‘Covid-19 tracing app in Serbia, How to pave the road with trust, transparency and inclusion’, European Policy Centre (Online, 8 May 2020).

204  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (SWD (2020) 352 final) 32.

205  Decree on organizing the work of social protection institutions for accommodation of beneficiaries and social protection organizations for providing home accommodation services during a state of emergency (Uredba o organizovanju rada ustanova socijalne zaštite za smeštaj korisnika i organizacija socijalne zaštite za pružanje usluge domskog smeštaja za vreme vanrednog stanja) (10 April 2020).

206  Order on prohibition of visits and restrictions on movement in the facilities of institutions for accommodation of the elderly (Naredba o zabrani poseta i ograničenju kretanja u objektima ustanova za smeštaj starih lica) (14 March 2020).

207  N1, ‘Visits to nursing homes are allowed, lasting 15 minutes’ (Online, 21 August 2020).

209  Disaster Risk Reduction Act (2018), art. 26.

210  F Ejdus, Pandemic lessons for the policy and defense system of the Republic of Serbia (Pandemijske lekcije za politiku i sistem odbrane Republike Srbije) Monitoring of Social Situation in Serbia (Online, 7 May 2020).

212  Act on the amendments to the Act on the Protection of Population from Infectious Diseases (Zakon o izmenama i dopunama Zakona o zaštiti stanovništva od zaraznih bolesti) (13 November 2020).

213  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Tackling Coronavirus (Covid-19) Contributing to a Global Effort: The Covid-19 crisis in Serbia (31 January 2021), 2.

214  See International Monetary Fund, ‘World Economic Outlook Database’ (April 2022).

215  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 24.

216  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 24.

217  World Bank Group, The Economic and Social Impact of COVID-19: Western Balkans Outlook, Western Balkans regular economic report No. 17 (Spring 2020).

220  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Tackling Coronavirus (Covid-19) Contributing to a Global Effort: The Covid-19 crisis in Serbia (31 January 2021), 3.

221  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 55.

222  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 58.

223  Social inclusion and poverty reduction unit, Social Safety Nets in times of the Covid-19 crisis (28 August 2020).

224  D Jovović, ‘"Operation 10O EUR" is a bad measure’ Danas (Online, 3 June 2020).

225  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 6.

226  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 6.

227  See Decree on Establishing the Investment program "Recovery and Development" (25 March 2022, amended 30 June 2022).

228  U Gentilini, M Almenfi, I Orton, and P Dale, ‘Social protection and Jobs Responses to Covid-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures’ (17 April 2020), 89.

229  Social inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, Social Safety Nets in times of the Covid-19 crisis (28 August 2020).

230  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 26.

231  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 26.

240  R Marković, ‘Corona, support to citizens and debt,' Vreme (13 May 2021).

241  N Đorđević, ‘How coronovaris saw Serbia lose 510,000 full-time jobs, and how a generous economic package prevented poverty’ Emerging Europe (Online, 18 September 2020).

243  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 26.

245  Government of Serbia, ‘Government recommends payment of full amount of pensions’ (26 March 2020).

246  U Gentilini, M Almenfi, I Orton, , and P Dale, ‘Social protection and Jobs Responses to Covid-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures’ (17 April 2020), 89.

248  U Gentilini, M Almenfi, I Orton, , and P Dale, ‘Social protection and Jobs Responses to Covid-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures’ (17 April 2020), 89.

249  M. Lazarević-Moravčević and S. Kamenković, ‘The Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on the Serbian Economy - Consequences and Recovery’ (2021) 51(2) Economic Analysis 41–54, 50.

254  S Kostić, ‘Tax Treatment of Flexible Forms of Work in Serbia in Light of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic’ (2022) 70(4) Annals of the Faculty of Law 1147, 1160.

255  U Gentilini, M Almenfi, P Dale et al, ‘Social protection and Jobs Responses to Covid-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures’ (1 May 2020), 257.

256  U Gentilini, M Almenfi, P Dale, R Palacios et al, ‘Social protection and Jobs Responses to Covid-19: A Real-Time Review of Country Measures’ (18 September 2020), 13.

257  M Lazarević-Moravčević and S Kamenković, ‘The Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on the Serbian Economy - Consequences and Recovery’ (2021) 51(2) Economic Analysis 41–54, 49.

258  N Đorđević, ‘How coronovaris saw serbia lose 510,000 full-time jobs, and how a generous economic package prevented poverty’ Emerging Europe (Online, 18 September 2020).

259  N Đorđević, ‘How coronovaris saw serbia lose 510,000 full-time jobs, and how a generous economic package prevented poverty’ Emerging Europe (Online, 18 September 2020).

270  Labour Act (8 March 2005, amended 8 December 2018), art 116.

271  Labour Act (8 March 2005, amended 8 December 2018), art 102(2).

272  Labour Act (8 March 2005, amended 8 December 2018), arts 153–60.

273  M Janković, ‘Coronavirus, dismissal and forced leave: How to save a job during the state of emergency’ BBC News (Online, 12 March 2020).

274  Employment and Unemployment Insurance Act (15 May 2009, amended 17 December 2017), arts 66–77.

275  Labour Act (8 March 2005, amended 8 December 2018), art 157.

276  M Janković, ‘Coronavirus, dismissal and forced leave: How to save a job during the state of emergency’ BBC News (Online, 12 March 2020).

277  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 41.

278  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 41.

279  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 41.

280  S Bradaš, M Reljanović, and I Sekulović, ‘The Impact of the Covid-19 Epidemic on the Position and Rights of Workers in Serbia’, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Centre for Democracy Foundation (June–July 2020), 6.

281  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 41.

282  T Tomić, ‘My labour status in a case of absence from work or dismissal’, Otvorena vrata pravosuđa (1 April 2020).

283  M Janković, ‘Coronavirus, dismissal and forced leave: How to save a job during the state of emergency’ BBC News (Online, 12 March 2020).

284  See, eg, Minister of Justice, Recommendation No. 112-01--557/2020-05 (17 March 2020).

285  M Vlajković, ‘How to implement flexible work arrangements in Serbia in the post-Covid-19 era’, Lexology (16 September 2022).

286  S Bradaš, M Reljanović, and I Sekulović, ‘The Impact of the Covid-19 Epidemic on the Position and Rights of Workers in Serbia’, United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, Centre for Democracy Foundation (June–July 2020), 6.

288  Safety and Health at Work Act (14 November 2005, amended 25 December 2017).

289  Safety and Health at Work Act (14 November 2005, amended 25 December 2017), art 9(1).

290  Safety and Health at Work Act (14 November 2005, amended 25 December 2017), art 33.

299  National Employment Service, ‘Trainings for the Labour Market’ (accessed 14 May 2022).

300  Labour Act (8 March 2005, amended 8 December 2018), art 8(1).

301  Labour Act (8 March 2005, amended 8 December 2018), art 254.

302  V Draskovic et al, ‘Employment and Employee Benefits in Serbia: Overview’, Thomson Reuters Practical Law (1 October 2022).

303  K Stanić and G Matković, ‘Bridging the gap between legislation and practice in the posting of workers: Serbia Country Report’, PowBridge (February 2021), 23.

304  B Ladjevac, ‘Trade unions in Serbia on the Move?’, Study, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (January 2017).

305  B Ladjevac, ‘Trade unions in Serbia on the Move?’, Study, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (January 2017).

306  B Ladjevac, ‘Trade unions in Serbia on the Move?’, Study, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (January 2017).

307  P Živić, ‘Freelancers, taxes and protests: Why they are protesting in Serbia’ BBC News (Online, 15 January 2021).

308  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 60.

309  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 61.

310  United Nations in Serbia, Covid-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (28 September 2020), 62.

312  Conclusion of the Government to employees (12 February 2021).

315  Particular collective agreement for public bodies (31 May 2019, amended 14 April 2020).

316  Particular collective agreement for employees in local self-government units (31 May 2019, amended 14 April 2020 and 29 April 2022).

317  Legal Information System, ‘Code of Behaviour of Civil Servants’ (28 February 2008, amended 16 March 2020).

318  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 53.

319  Protector of Citizens, ‘The Police Officer acted illegally and in a humiliating way during apprehension’ (15 July 2020).

320  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 53.

321  Protector of Citizens, Annual Report for 2020 (15 March 2020), 70.

323  Protector of Citizens, Annual Report for 2020 (15 March 2020), 70.

324  Protector of Citizens, ‘To establish responsibility for illegal and improper conduct of police officers’ (12 February 2021).

325  Protector of Citizens, ‘To establish responsibility for illegal and improper conduct of police officers’ (12 February 2021).

327  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 52.

328  Protector of Citizens, ‘Opinion to the Ministry of Justice’ (1 April 2020).

330  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 99.

331  Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, ‘The Commissioner's Warning to Media not to reveal personal data on persons affected with coronavirus’ (9 March 2020).

332  Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, ‘The Commissioner's Appeal in relation to the Protection of Pupil's Health Data’ (19 March 2020).

333  Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, ‘The Commissioner warns to possible frauds on social media’ (30 March 2020).

334  Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, ‘Processing of Data during the state of emergency’ (1 April 2020).

335  P Perez Laya, ‘Serbia: Covid-19 and data processing in the workplace’, BDK advokati (31 March 2020).

336  Data Protection Act (Zakon o zaštiti podataka o ličnosti) (21 November 2018).

337  P Perez Laya, ‘Serbia: Covid-19 and data processing in the workplace’, BDK advokati (31 March 2020).

339  M Pajvančić, N Petrušić, S Nikolin, et al, ‘Gender Perspective to the Response to Covid-19 in the Republic of Serbia’, OSCE (2020), 104.

340  Act on Gender Equality (24 May 2021), Section VI.

341  M Pajvančić, N Petrušić, S Nikolin, et al, ‘Gender Perspective to the Response to Covid-19 in the Republic of Serbia’, OSCE (2020), 107.

342  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2020 (15 March 2021), 90.

343  UNFPA, SeConS, UNWOMEN, Women Count, ‘Consequences of COVID-19 on women’s and men’s economic empowerment’ (July 2020), 17.

344  UNFPA, SeConS, UNWOMEN, Women Count, ‘Consequences of COVID-19 on women’s and men’s economic empowerment’ (July 2020), 17.

345  UNFPA, SeConS, UNWOMEN, Women Count, ‘Consequences of COVID-19 on women’s and men’s economic empowerment’ (July 2020), 17.

346  UNFPA, SeConS, UNWOMEN, Women Count, ‘Consequences of COVID-19 on women’s and men’s economic empowerment’ (July 2020), 33.

349  China CEE Institute, ‘Serbia social briefing: Working at home during pandemic’ (15 October 2020).

350  M Pajvančić, N Petrušić, S Nikolin, et al, ‘Gender analysis of the response to Covid-19 in the Republic of Serbia’, OSCE (2020), 118.

351  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact (2020), 5.

352  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact of the Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and groups at risk causes, outcomes and recommendations (2020), 7.

353  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact of the Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and groups at risk causes, outcomes and recommendations (2020), 8.

354  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact of the Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and groups at risk causes, outcomes and recommendations (2020), 10.

356  European Commission, Serbia Report (19 October 2021), 41.

357  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2020 (March 2021), 17.

358  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, ‘Recommendation to the Minister of Finance’ (No. 07-00-00353/2021-02) (26 August 2021).

359  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular annual report of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality for 2020 (15 March 2021), 163.

360  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2019 (15 March 2020), 118.

361  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (6 October 2020), 38.

362  M Stevanović, ‘Parents of children with autism without permission for movement’ Danas (Online, 13 April 2020).

363  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact of the Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and groups at risk causes, outcomes and recommendations (2020), 52.

364  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact of the Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and groups at risk causes, outcomes and recommendations (2020), 52.

365  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Impact of the Covid-19 on vulnerable groups and groups at risk causes, outcomes and recommendations (2020), 58.

366  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2020 (March 2021), 157.

367  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2020 (March 2021), 159.

368  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2020 (March 2021), 161.

370  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 26.

371  European Commission, Serbia 2020 Report (6 October 2020), 103.

372  Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Regular Annual Report for 2020 (March 2021), 161.

373  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 74–75.

374  Decision IUo – 45/2020 (25 October 2020) (Constitutional Ct).

375  Decision IUo – 45/2020 (25 October 2020) (Constitutional Ct).

377  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights: Complaint for the state of emergency’ Danas (Online, 4 December 2020).

378  Belgrade Centre For Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2021 (2022), 63.

383  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 26.

384  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights in Serbia for 2020 (2021), 26.

385  European Commission, Serbia Report 2020 (19 October 2021), 104.

386  Council of Europe Portal, ‘Responses from schools in Serbia’ (accessed 14 May 2022).

387  UNICEF, World Health Organization, The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, and End Violence against Children, ‘Covid-19: Protecting Children from Violence, Abuse and Neglect in the Home’ (accessed 14 May 2022).

389  R V Radovanović, K Đurić, and M Matijašević, ‘Anti-epidemic measures for protection against Covid-19 in institutions for execution of criminal sanctions’ (2021) 78(1) Military Sanitary Examination 92–98, 95.

390  Daily says no coronavirus cases in Serbian prisons’ N1 (Online, 19 March 2020).

391  R V Radovanović, K Đurić, and M Matijašević, ‘Anti-epidemic measures for protection against Covid-19 in institutions for execution of criminal sanctions’ (2021) 78(1) Military Sanitary Examination 92–98, 96.

392  T Marković Subota, ‘The Prison during Coronatime: Mask, thermometer and then cell’ Ekspres (Online, 22 March 2020).

393  R V Radovanović, K Đurić, and M Matijašević, ‘Anti-epidemic measures for protection against Covid-19 in institutions for execution of criminal sanctions’ (2021) 78(1) Military Sanitary Examination 92–98, 96.

394  T Marković Subota, ‘The Prison during Coronatime: Mask, thermometer and then cell’ Ekspres (Online, 22 March 2020).

397  J Veljković, ‘Quarantine Life in Prisons’ Birn.rs (Online, 30 March 2020).

398  J Veljković, ‘Quarantine Life in Prisons’ Birn.rs (Online, 30 March 2020).

399  J Veljković, ‘Quarantine Life in Prisons’ Birn.rs (Online, 30 March 2020).

400  R V Radovanović, K Đurić, and M Matijašević, ‘Anti-epidemic measures for protection against Covid-19 in institutions for execution of criminal sanctions’ (2021) 78(1) Military Sanitary Examination 92–98, 96.

401  R V Radovanović, K Đurić, and M Matijašević, ‘Anti-epidemic measures for protection against Covid-19 in institutions for execution of criminal sanctions’ (2021) 78(1) Military Sanitary Examination 92–98, 96.

402  Protector of Citizens, Annual Report for 2020 (15 March 2020), 69.

403  Protector of Citizens, Annual Report for 2020 (15 March 2020), 70.

404  Protector of Citizens, Annual Report for 2020 (15 March 2020), 71.

405  Decision on closing border crossing (12 March 2020).

407  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Right to asylum in the Republic of Serbia (2020), 25.

408  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Serbia Snapshot (20 November 2020).

410  N Kovačević, ‘Country report: Serbia’, AIDA (2021), 7.

411  N Kovačević, ‘Country report: Serbia’, AIDA (2021), 11.

412  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, ‘Right to asylum in the Republic of Serbia’ (2020), 25.

413  N Kovačević, ‘Country report: Serbia’, AIDA (2021), 12.

421  Decision IUo – 45/2020 (25 October 2020) (Constitutional Ct).

422  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Serbia Snapshot (20 November 2020).

423  Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia, Periodic Report for January–June 2020 (2020), 38–41.