Police Brutality Against Roma in Serbia and Montenegro
1 February 2006
Independent investigation by the ERRC in partnership with the Belgrade-based Minority Rights Center (MRC) has documented several recent instances of police violence against Roma.
Two brothers testified to having been victims of police violence on separate occasions at the same train station police barrack. 19-year old Idriz Mekoli told the ERRC/MRC that, on May 23, 2005, two policemen stopped him, demanding his identity card. He did not have his card but presented his birth certificate, citizenship certificate and other personal documents and pictures. Dissatisfied, the officers reportedly told him to come to their barrack inside the train station. They began to insult him. According to the statement received from Mekoli, the police punched him in the stomach, and hit him on the hands, feet, and ribs with bats and a rubber pipe. They also hit his head against a wall four times. They kept him from 10:30 AM until 1:30 PM and when they released him told him not to return to the park. Idriz stayed in bed for two weeks following the beating.
Azis Mekoli, the 18-year-old brother of the victim, reported experiencing similarly violent encounters at the same location in January 2005 and in March 2003.
Two other Romani men, Adam Ajerovic and Bojan Salijevic, both seventeen years of age, testified to the ERRC/ MRC that on June 20, police officers subjected them to physical abuse. According to their statements, on the said date, Adam and Bojan returned home around 2 A.M. from an evening in a park with two girls. Their houses were locked, and they did not want to wake their families, so the two decided to sit in their neighbour's car until morning and then go home.
Around 3 A.M., 7 or 8 policemen in three cars arrived at the car accusing the two of stealing packages of coffee and cigarettes from a supermarket and ordering them out of the car. The police searched the trunk and the boys and then took the boys to the supermarket that had been robbed. In front of the supermarket, Adam received three punches in the chest. The owner reportedly told the police that the two were not the culprits and were in fact shorter than the individuals who committed the crime. Nevertheless, the police insisted that the two stole the coffee and cigarettes and took them to a wooded area behind the store. The police officers then reportedly put on white gloves and slapped Adam twice and then Bojan as well. The police then gave the boys a note with the phone numbers and surnames of two of the officers and told them to find the perpetrators. The police threatened the boys that if Adam and Bojan did not find out who had stolen the goods by 5 A.M. they would return. They also told the boys to go to the police station at 9 A.M. the next morning. Both boys decided not to return to the police station for fear of being beaten again. As of January 12, 2006, the ERRC confirmed that no legal action has been taken regarding either incident.