Racially motivated violence against Roma in Serbia
07 November 2001
Serbian human rights organisations have reported several new cases of racially motivated violence against Roma in Yugoslavia. According to the Belgrade-based Minority Rights Center, an ERRC local partner in Serbia, displaced Kosovo Roma in the Cukaricka padina settlement of Belgrade have been victims of continuous attacks by a group of young non-Romani men. The most recent attack took place in the early morning hours of October 10, 2001. The attackers threw stones at the houses of Roma and broke windows in one of the houses. The attackers also reportedly shouted anti-Romani insults. In a similar attack on an unspecified date earlier in October 2001, attackers broke windows in another Romani house in the settlement. According to statements provided by local Roma to the Minority Rights Center, the attacks began in July 1999, immediately after displaced Kosovo Roma settled in the Cukaricka padina area.
Also in Belgrade, on October 5, 2001, a group of around twenty young non-Romani men, some of whom were wearing the scarves worn by supporters of various Yugoslav football clubs, entered the yard of a local adult school and beat five dark-skinned students, three of which were Romani, according to the October 17, 2001, press statement of the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center. During the attack, the men insulted the racial origin of their Romani victims. On the previous day, a group of young non-Romani men had reportedly disrupted a class at the same school and beat up several students, the majority of whom were Romani. In their statement, Humanitarian Law Center stated that some Romani students have left this school out of fear for their safety.
According to the same source, some tenants of a building on Djakovacka Street in Belgrade beat and slapped two Romani brothers, aged 7 and 11 respectively, from a family of internally displaced persons from Kosovo. Justification for the assault was reportedly the fact that a firecracker had been thrown into the yard of the building. From a group of Serbian and Romani children present, tenants reportedly singled out the Roma.
The Minority Rights Center has investigated other recent cases of violence against Roma in Serbia. In one case, in the south Serbian town of Leskovac, on an unspecified date in mid-June 2001, two unknown young non-Romani men physically attacked 28-year-old Mr Tihi Kamberovic and his 23-year-old friend Mr Marijan Gabric, both Roma from Leskovac. According to statements by the victims provided to the Minority Rights Center on September 20, 2001, around midnight on the day in question, Mr Kamberovic and Mr Gabric were returning home when they were attacked by the two non-Roma. One of the attackers had a gun and he hit both Roma on their heads with it. The parents of Mr Kamberovic were standing outside their house at this time and witnessed the incident, which took place nearby. Ms Milka Kamberovic, his mother, testified that the attackers swore at the Roma using racial epithets, and threatened to set the entire Leskovac Romani settlement of Podvrce on fire. After the attacker armed with a gun fired a shot in the air, neighbours alerted the police. The father of Mr Kamberovic then ran to the aid of the Roma, and the attackers fled. The local police arrived shortly and called an ambulance, which took Mr Gabric to a local hospital. Mr Gabric told the Minority Rights Center that one of the doctors at the hospital had stated, "Why didn't they kill you, you Gypsy bastard!" He also suspected that the medical treatment he was given was insufficient and stated that the staff refused to provide him with a medical certificate.
Zeoke Buljbasa Street in Leskovac where the incident took place was also the spot of a previous anti-Romani attack. Also according to the Minority Rights Center, on April 15, 2001, 15-year-old Trajo Ajdarevic and 14-year-old Sasa Redjepovic were riding bicycles down the street when three non-Romani boys carrying sticks started chasing them, while shouting racial insults at them. The Romani boys, however, managed to escape.
Both non-governmental organisations, Humanitarian Law Center and Minority Rights Center, have recently expressed concern about the numerous cases of attacks against Roma that are not investigated in Serbia.
(ERRC, Humanitarian Law Center, Minority Rights Center)