985,000 Euro Compensation for Romani Victims of 1995 Pogrom in Serbia and Montenegro
29 October 2003
In among the most significant Roma rights victories to date, the Montenegrin Government agreed on June 19, 2003, to pay 985,000 Euro in compensation to seventy-four Romani victims of the Danilovgrad tragedy - a notorious 1995 pogrom involving mob-violence and the total destruction of an entire Romani neighborhood. The award follows a decision adopted by the United Nations Committee against Torture ("Committee") on November 21, 2002, expressly finding the Montenegrin authorities in violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and requesting that they provide the victims with comprehensive redress, including fair and adequate compensation (Hajrizi Dzemajl et al. v. Yugoslavia, CAT/C/29/D/161/2000). In the proceedings before the Committee, the victims were represented jointly by the ERRC, the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and Dragan Prelevic, an attorney from Podgorica.
On April 14 and 15, 1995, following an alleged rape of a non-Romani girl by two Romani youths, several hundred non-Roma gathered and, with the acquiescence of the municipal authorities and the police, destroyed the Romani settlement in Bozova Glavica, Danilovgrad. The police simply stood by and did nothing as the pogrom unfolded. Though the Roma were able to flee, their homes and other belongings were ultimately burned or otherwise destroyed. Several days following the incident, the debris of the Romani settlement was cleared away by heavy construction machines of the Public Utility Company, thus obliterating all traces of the existence of Roma in Danilovgrad. In fear for their lives, the Danilovgrad Roma fled the town and moved to the outskirts of Podgorica where most still live under terrible conditions and in abject poverty. Moreover, in the aftermath of the incident, several Roma were fired from the jobs they held in Danilovgrad, under the excuse that they had stopped coming to work. The fact that they had to leave the town in mortal fear was clearly not taken into account by their employers. For further details of the case, please see: UN Committee Against Torture Finds Montenegrin Authorities in Flagrant Breach of Human Rights Standards. The award is the largest sum ever paid in compensation to victims of Roma rights abuse.