Police Violence against Roma in Serbia and Montenegro
10 May 2003
Police violence against Roma has recently been reported in Serbia and Montenegro. In one case, according to the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), on November 11, 2002, Mr Jovan Nikolić, a Romani man, went to the Petrovaradin Police Station in Novi Sad, northern Serbia, after being summoned for interrogation in a theft case. The HLC reported that, at the police station, an inspector, who was addressed as "Pedja", ordered Mr Nikolić to admit to the theft. When Mr Nikolić refused, the inspector reportedly hit him and pushed him against a wall, pressing hard with his fists against Mr Nikolić's temples. At this point, an officer in uniform arrived and repeatedly hit Mr Nikolić on his shoulders with a truncheon, the HLC stated, until Mr Nikolić begged them to stop, telling them that he was sick and had trouble breathing. Soon thereafter, Mr Nikolić was reportedly taken to the Bački Petrovac Police Station and interrogated until 7:00 PM, at which time he was released. Then, the HLC stated, on November 14, 2002, officers came to Mr Nikolić's home in Dobrinci and took him to the Ruma Police Station, where officers from the Petrovaradin Police Station picked him up and brought him back to their station. Mr Nikolić was then made to lean against a wall and an officer hit him on his thighs and buttocks with a spade, at which time he reportedly threatened to file a complaint against the officers. According to the HLC, Inspector "Pedja" then ordered that Mr Nikolić be detained for two days, at the end of which, he was questioned by a judge and released. Following Mr Nikolić's release, doctors at the Ruma Medical Centre ascertained that Mr Nikolić suffered slight bodily injuries. On December 9, 2002, the HLC filed a complaint against unidentified officers from the Petrovaradin Police Station. As of March 13, 2003, the HLC informed the ERRC that nothing further had happened in the case.
In other news, Mr Demir Kurteši, president of the Democratic Romany Association in Smederevo, east of Belgrade, told the ERRC, in partnership with the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Minority Rights Center (MRC), that at the beginning of October 2002, he witnessed four or five police officers physically assault his neighbour, a 20-year-old Romani man named Kasum Dalihi, in the Mali Krivak Romani settlement in Smederevo. On November 11, 2002, Mr Kurteši testified that police were called to Mr Dalihi's house after he had a quarrel with his brother and sister-in-law. Four or five officers reportedly showed up and, when told that Mr Dalihi had started the quarrel, pushed him to the ground in front of his house and began to violently beat him, repeatedly hitting him and kicking him all over his body. Mr Kurteši told the officers that they should not beat Mr Dalihi. Another man from the neighbourhood, who reportedly knew the officers, also came over and, eventually, the officers calmed down and left. Mr Kurteši told the ERRC/MRC that he had informed Mr Dalihi that he should sue the officers, but Mr Dalihi refused because he feared that this might interfere with his plans to continue his army career.
In a similar case, on an unspecified date in July 2002, Mr Živan Petrović, a 23-year-old Romani man from Kikinda in northern Serbia, was beaten by two police officers after being detained for allegedly having committed a theft, according to his testimony to the ERRC on October 14, 2002. Mr Petrović denied having committed the theft. At the police station, Mr Petrović reported that he was placed in an office in which there was a table on which there were many sticks of different sizes. The officers reportedly asked Mr Petrović which stick he wanted to be beaten with and, when Mr Petrović said none, one of the officers picked up one of the sticks and repeatedly beat Mr Petrović with it for approximately half an hour, while cursing his ethnicity and demanding that he confess to the theft. Mr Petrović did not do so. After a break of about two hours, the officers returned and continued beating Mr Petrović all over his body, again trying to force him to confess. Around an hour later, Mr Petrović was sent home with an order to return the next day; when Mr Petrović reported to the police station on the following day, one of the officers who abused him told him that the perpetrator of the theft had been found and told him to go home. Mr Petrović was unaware of any criminal or internal disciplinary actions against the officers concerned. He himself had not filed a complaint against the officers concerned because, he stated, he was unaware that the actions of the officers were punishable, or in fact a breach of any law. Further information about ill treatment of Roma by law enforcement officials in Serbia and Montenegro is available on the ERRC's Internet website at: http://www.errc.org.
(ERRC, HLC, MRC)