Legal Action in Anti-Romani Crimes in Serbia and Montenegro
10 May 2003
According to their press release, on March 20, 2003, the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a motion with the Požarevac District Court for additional investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of A.J., a 10-year-old Romani boy from Veliko Gradiste, by 26-year-old Mr V.P. and 33-year-old Mr M.R. in Veliko Plandiste, northern Serbia in November 2002. On January 9, 2003, the Belgrade-based radio station B92 reported that A.J. had been forced, on several occasions, to drink with a group of men who then forced him to perform oral sex on them, in the Duga café in Veliko Plandiste and in several other places. According to the report, Požarevac Police Chief Mr Milorad Janković confirmed that the criminal acts had indeed taken place. Five men were reportedly suspected of having been involved in the incidents, but only Mr V.P. and Mr M.R. were charged. According to the HLC, on February 5, 2003, A.J. changed his original testimony when questioned by the investigating judge, claiming that Mr V.P. and Mr M.R. had not sexually abused him. The Požarevac Public Prosecutor then dropped the charges against Mr V.P. and Mr M.R. and on March 2003, the Požarevac District Court closed the investigation into the case. The HLC requested additional investigation due to the failure of the police and public prosecutor to take timely actions in the case. Although the incidents allegedly took place in November 2002, the police did not begin to investigate until a month and a half had passed, allowing the alleged perpetrators to escape the country. The HLC also raised the issue that, in a number of cases, Romani victims have retracted or altered their testimony during subsequent questioning by investigating officers or judges.
Earlier, the HLC, together with the Vojvodina-based Roma Association of Titel, filed a criminal complaint against the chairman and vice-chairman of the Titel Executive Committee, Mr Stevan Marijanov and Mr Lazar Paunić, for incitement to ethnic, racial and religious hatred, according to a February 7, 2003 press release of the HLC. According to the press release, early in 2002, Mr Marijanov and Mr Paunić removed the desk of their Romani colleague, Mr Slobodan Stojković, from the office that he shared with Mr Paunić. Mr Paunić has reportedly stated that he removed Mr Stojković from the office because could not bear Roma coming into their office seeking assistance from Mr Stojković. According to the HLC, the day after Mr Stojković was moved, a note had been taped to the door of his new office stating, "Out with Gypsies". Mr Marijanov and Mr Paunić have reportedly told a number of town councillors that the municipal office was "full of Gypsies" because of Mr Stojković and requested that the mayor of Titel, Mr Milivoje Petrović, support their actions. The HLC further reported that in January 2003, Mr Marijanov and Mr Paunić called for the dismissal of Mr Stojković, reportedly stating that "the Gypsy has to go".
In another case, on November 1, 2002, the Novi Sad Municipal Court in northern Serbia, ordered Serbia and Montenegro to pay Mr Stevan Dimić, a Romani man, 240,000 Yugoslavian dinars (approximately 3,865 Euro) in damages as compensation for his unlawful arrest and subsequent torture and degrading treatment by police for twelve days while in custody in July 1998, according to the HLC. The HLC reported that Mr Dimić was arrested on July 23, 1998, after having been accused of raping a 15-year-old girl in the village of Lok. At the police station, the court established, in an attempt to coerce his confession, Mr Dimić was forced to lie face down on the floor and an officer placed a chair over his back. The officer sat on the chair and beat Mr Dimić all over his body with a truncheon and a metal bar while another officer held his head to the ground with his foot. Mr Dimić was then handcuffed to a coat rack and kicked in the genitals after he had been forced to spread his legs apart. Throughout the incident, the officers shouted "dirty Gypsy" and threatened that Mr Dimić would not be able to have children after they finished with him. Residents of Lok boycotted Mr Dimić's businesses following his release from custody, forcing him to close his shops. Mr Dimić was found not guilty of the rape in April 2000.