NGO Human Rights Action supports the just fight of the fathers of infected babies in the General Hospital in Bijelo Polje, who have been hunger striking as of Tuesday, 10 November, due to the failure of the competent authorities to enforce the law and suspend the doctors tried on relation to the infection at the Hospital. Slaviša Knežević, the father of a baby who died due to the infection, Predrag Karišik, Eldin Salemović and Ivica Ignjatović are striking in front of the Municipality of Bijelo Polje building.
HRA finds extremely disturbing the fact that such radical actions as hunger strike are necessary in order to secure law enforcement, i.e. the rule of law in Montenegro.
The current Labour Law unambiguously prescribes in Article 130, paragraph 1, item 3 temporary suspension of an employee if criminal investigation on a criminal act related to work or work engagement has been initiated against him/her. The doctors of the Hospital in Bijelo Polje have been indicted in May 2015 for a criminal offense related to work – Serious offense against human health (Article 302 of the Criminal Code) in respect of the offense Failure to comply with health regulations for combating dangerous infectious diseases (Article 287), and there is no doubt that they had to be suspended earlier, in November 2014, at the moment when criminal proceedings upon the order on conducting the investigation have been initiated against them.
Astonishing is the statement of the Minister of Health, MD PhD Budimir Šegrt, that “the competent state authorities did not explicitly state whether these doctors could continue to work or should have been suspended because all interpretations were such that none of them could be understood” (as published at the website of the Ministry of Health). The provision of the applicable law is quite clear, unambiguous, and in this case the employer (as we assume, the Director of the Hospital), had to apply it as soon as he was notified of the initiation of criminal proceedings.
HRA on Friday sent a letter to the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare in which we expressed our protest and required urgent application of the Law and apologies to the fathers to be made. In this regard HRA joined the appeal of the NGOs Krug života and Roditelji to urgently suspend all persons against whom criminal proceedings have been initiated. HRA also requested sanctioning of the competent persons because they failed to suspend the responsible ones.
HRA believes that it would be appropriate that the competent minister apologised to the fathers and other citizens for the obvious failures in application of the law, which led to citizens’ strike in the street as of Tuesday, 10 November 2015.