Police Inactive in Protecting Roma in Serbia and Montenegro
7 May 2002
Roma in Serbia and Montenegro often cannot count on adequate protection by the police. This is illustrated by the police inactivity after an arson attack on the house of Mr Usa Ademović, a 45-year-old Romani man from Niš, southern Serbia, whose case was reported to the ERRC by the Niš-based non-governmental organisation Roma Education Centre (REC), the ERRC's local partner in monitoring Roma rights. According to REC field investigation, during November and December 2001, Mr Ademović received anonymous letters containing threats that his house in the Romani settlement Cvetni trg in Niš would be set on fire unless he paid 50,000 German Duetsche Marks (approximately 25,500 euros) to specified persons. He did not take the threats seriously, but on December 28, 2001, around 5 AM, his house was set on fire. Mr Ademović was alone in the house, and he managed to escape the fire. Ms Nataša Alilović, a 20-year-old student who lives in Mr Ademović's neighbourhood, testified to REC that she woke up that morning to the sound of fire brigade sirens. When she arrived at the burning house, the firemen had already extinguished the flames, but the house was burnt almost to the ground, and Mr Ademović stood in shock beside his destroyed property. According to both Ms Alilović and another neighbour, Mr Duško Vujičić, a 60-year-old pensioner who testified to REC, the police officers who soon thereafter arrived at the scene conducted only a perfunctory investigation and took no written notes. After Mr Ademović told them that he had been threatened, the officers allegedly laughed at him and told him, "You will be shot, you better find a bodyguard. We can't help you." Several days later, Mr Ademović and his wife reportedly left for Germany, fearing for their lives. When the REC researcher went to the Niš police station on February 4, 2002, to inquire into the police records on this case, she was rudely chased out of the building by an officer on duty. At the local fire department, the REC researcher was told that there was no record of the case.
(ERRC, Roma Education Center)