ERRC letter to Serbian Prime Minister
27 July 2000
On July 27, 2000, the ERRC sent a letter to Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic to express concern about abusive evictions of Roma by Serbian authorities which took place on June 8, 2000 in Belgrade. During the raid, the authorities levelled the homes and destroyed the property of more than 120 Roma, including displaced Roma from Kosovo, living in the Antena settlement in the Surcin area of the municipality of Novi Beograd. The authorities allegedly also verbally and physically abused several Roma, including women and children. In the letter, the ERRC called upon Prime Minister Mr Marjanovic to condemn the use of force by police officers, to take immediate measures to investigate the allegations of police abuse, and to sanction any officers who abused their powers. The ERRC also asked the Prime Minister to ensure that compensation for destroyed property, and adequate new shelter is provided to the Roma in question. The text of the letter follows:
Honourable Prime Minister Marjanovic,
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse, is concerned about recent forced evictions of Roma and demolitions by authorities of Romani homes in Serbia.
According to ERRC information, on June 8, 2000, a group of police officers conducted a raid on Roma in the Antena settlement in the Surcin area of Novi Beograd, during which they insulted and beat Romani individuals and destroyed Romani houses. Around 107 people, 72 of which were children, lived in the Antena settlement. Around half of the inhabitants were Romani refugees from Kosovo, who had arrived in Belgrade in summer 1999. On June 6, 2000, the Antena Roma received a written notice from the mayor of Novi Beograd instructing them to destroy the settlement, which had been built without permission. According to the mayor, if they failed to do so, the settlement would be demolished. On the following day, June 7, municipal authorities came to the settlement accompanied by police and reportedly destroyed one house. On the morning of June 8, at around 10:00 AM, ten uniformed police officers arrived and told the Roma that they were not allowed to live on state-owned land. These were reportedly followed by another group of six officers in civilian clothes.
Mr I.M., one of the Roma living in Antena, told the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) that the police officers handcuffed him, punched him on the back and face, and kicked him, while insulting his ethnicity. They pushed Mr I.M. into their van, and kept him there for an hour while his house was destroyed, together with his property inside. Then the police took him to the police station in the Bezanijska Kosa district, where they kept him until 1:00 PM. According to his testimony, while in detention, officers verbally and physically abused him. Another inhabitant of the settlement, Mr B.O., reported to the HLC that while the houses were being destroyed, a police officer wearing white civilian clothes slapped him twice, and then punched him in the area of kidneys, after which Mr B.O. fled. The same police officer allegedly kicked Mr F.O. and said that Gypsies should run away, and should not complain, as they have lived here long enough. The police officers reportedly slapped and kicked several other Roma, including women and children. While the reported instances of physical abuse were taking place, according to eyewitnesses, the municipal authorities destroyed all of the Roma houses and property with bulldozers.
As of July 27, seven weeks after their settlement was demolished, the inhabitants of the Antena settlement were still camping on the ruins of their homes, with only plastic sheets to serve as shelter. According to Serbian press, one of the Romani women gave birth to a baby boy in a hospital in Belgrade recently and returned with it to the shelter to stay under the plastic sheets; however, both she and her baby had to seek medical assistance and return to the hospital on the same day. The same source reports that two more women from the settlement became ill and sought medical assistance.
Honourable Prime Minister Marjanovic, the verbal and physical mistreatment of Roma reported in the interviews is in violation of a number of articles of Conventions to which Yugoslavia is party, including Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman and/or degrading treatment or punishment; Article 9 of the ICCPR which states that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention; Article 26 which states that the law shall prohibit discrimination and guarantee equal and effective protection against discrimination on any grounds including race; and Article 5(b) of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) which guarantees the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm. In addition, under the European Convention on Human Rights, the alleged police abuses violate Article 3, which prohibits inhuman and/or degrading treatment, Article 8, which protects the right to home and family life, and Article 14, which bans discrimination on grounds of race.
Additionally, despite the fact that Roma refugees from Kosovo have been living in Serbia for over a year, the state has failed to provide adequate housing for them. This ongoing failure of Yugoslav authorities to provide Roma with adequate shelter violates Article 11, paragraph 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which states that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including housing and the right to continuous improvement of living conditions; Article 5(e)(iii) of CERD which prohibits racial discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to housing; Articles 14(2)(g) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women which provides for the rights of rural women to adequate housing; and Articles 27(1), (2) and (3) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which establishes the positive obligation of States parties to provide material assistance, including housing to children in need.
Honourable Prime Minister Marjanovic, the ERRC hereby urges you to investigate allegations of ill-treatment of Roma and to discipline those guilty of abuse. Property destroyed should be compensated. Adequate new shelters should be provided, allowing Roma to live in safety and dignity, and steps should be taken to prevent similar acts by local authorities in the future, as well as to provide for the fair and humane treatment of Roma in Serbia. We kindly request to be informed on your actions.
Persons wishing to express similar concerns are invited to contact:
Prime Minister Mr Mirko Marjanovic
Fax: +381 11 361 7587
Minister of Internal Affairs Mr Vlajko Stoiljkovic
Fax: +381 11 683 041
Head of Belgrade Local Government Mr Spasoje Krunic
Fax: +381 11 620 563