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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, 2021. All Rights Reserved.date: 18 June 2021

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


© 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.

DOI: 10.1093/law-occ19/e7.013.7

Except where the text indicates the contrary, the law is as it stood on: 16 December 2020

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

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.

15.  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

16.  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.

17.  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.

18.  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.

19.  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.

20.  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

21.  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.

22.  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

23.  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

24.  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.

25.  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

26.  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.

27.  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.

28.  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.

29.  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.

30.  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

31.  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

32.  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.

33.  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.

34.  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.

35.  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

36.  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

37.  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

38.  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

39.  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

40.  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

41.  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.

42.  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

43.  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

44.  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

45.  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

46.  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.

47.  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

48.  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.

49.  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.

50.  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

51.  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.

52.  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

53.  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

54.  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.

55.  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.

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

IV.  Public Health Measures, Enforcement and Compliance

A.  Public health measures

57.  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.

58.  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)

59.  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.

60.  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

61.  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

62.  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

63.  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

64.  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.

65.  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

66.  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.

67.  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

68.  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

69.  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)

70.  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

71.  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

72.  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

73.  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)

74.  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

75.  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).

76.  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

77.  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

78.  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.

79.  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.

80.  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

81.  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.

82.  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.

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

84.  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.

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).