Police violence against minors in Novi Sad and Belgrade, Serbia
07 November 2001
The Serbian police again stand accused of violence against Romani minors in Serbia. In a recent case documented by non-governmental organisations, in Novi Sad, in the Vojvodina province, on September 22, 2001, around 2 AM, two police officers allegedly beat and broke an arm of 14-year-old Enis Mamutovski, from a family of displaced Kosovo Roma. According to the testimony of the boy, provided on October 2, 2001, to the Belgrade-based Minority Rights Center, an ERRC local partner in Serbia, Enis Mamutovski and five other Romani children were collecting scrap paper from waste containers in the centre of Novi Sad. As they were running towards a container, two policemen stopped them. One of the officers asked the children what they were doing, to which they replied that they collected scrap paper. Allegedly, one of the police officers replied that the children "lie and steal", and hit Enis Mamutovski and one Romani girl on their heads with his walkie-talkie. Enis reported that he became scared and attempted to run away, but as he ran, the same policeman took his handgun out and threatened to shoot unless Enis stopped. When the boy stopped, the officer approached him and reportedly started kicking the boy's legs; he was soon joined by the other officer. The boy then fell to the ground from the force of the kicks. As he tried to protect his face with his arms, one of the officers kicked him hard on the arm. The officers reportedly checked via walkie-talkie whether the boy was involved in a theft and released him after they received a negative response. Ms Nefija Mamutovska, the boy's mother, testified to the Minority Rights Center that her son arrived home in the morning of September 22 with one arm swollen. She took her son to a local children's hospital, where he was diagnosed as having a broken arm and his arm was treated. As of December 5, 2001, according to Radio B92 from Belgrade, police investigation into the case was on-going and police spokespersons would confirm only the injury of the boy, which - according to the police - could have been caused by a fall.
In another case that took place in Belgrade on June 21, 2001, according to the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center, police officers detained an 11-year-old Romani boy, whose name was not specified, and took him to a police station under the suspicion that the boy was involved in a car theft. The police inspector who conducted the interrogation began slapping the boy, then hit him on the palms of his hands and his back with a truncheon, and struck the boy on his head with an open fist several times during the interrogation. The police released the boy two hours later. The Humanitarian Law Center warns that extortion of evidence is a regular procedure applied by Serbian police when dealing with Romani minors.
(ERRC, Humanitarian Law Center, Minority Rights Center, Radio B92)