Belgrade Romani settlement levelled and inhabitants beaten by police
11 July 2000
On June 8, 2000, a group of police officers insulted and beat Roma living in the Antena settlement in Surčin, near Belgrade while destroying the Romani houses, according to a June 13 report of the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC). Around 107 people, 72 of which were children, lived in the Antena settlement. Around half of the inhabitants were Kosovo refugees, who had arrived in Belgrade in spring 1999. On June 6, 2000, the Antena Roma received a notice from the mayor of Novi Beograd that their settlement, built without permission, was to 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 followed by another group of six officers in civilian clothes. Mr Ismet Muljoli, one of the Roma living in Antena, told the HLC that the police officers handcuffed him, punched him on the back and face, and kicked him, while insulting his ethnicity. They pushed Mr Muljoli 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 Bežanijska Kosa district, where they kept him until 1:00 PM, verbally and physically abusing him. Another inhabitant of the settlement, Mr Besam Osmani, testified 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 Osmani fled. The same police officer allegedly kicked Mr Fabri Osmani 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. In the meanwhile, the municipal demolition team destroyed all of the Roma houses and property with bulldozers. As of June 26, the inhabitants of the Antena settlement were still camping on the ruins of their homes, with only plastic sheets to serve as shelter. The HLC has filed a criminal complaint against the police officers involved.
(ERRC, Humanitarian Law Centre)