Romani Youth Abused by Police and Teachers in Serbia and Montenegro
11 March 2005
According to ERRC research, conducted in partnership with the Belgrade-based Minority Rights Center (MRC) six Romani youth were beaten by police officers and a boarding school teacher in Belgrade. Nadica Jovanovi, a 16-year-old Romani girl, testified to the ERRC/MRC that police accused her and five other youths – Djeljana Zorijani, Ljiliana Stankovic, Emma Sefedinovic, Egzon Zorijani and Andrijana Kostic – of theft and brought them to the "29 Novembar" Police Station on October 9, 2004. According to Miss Jovanovi, at the station police officers threatened to beat her with a baseball bat if she did not confess to the theft. Miss Jovanovi, however, refused to admit responsibility for the theft. Miss Sefedinovic informed the ERRC/MRC that at the police station, while interrogating her about the alleged theft, one of the officers cursed her ethnic origin and shouted, "You'd better admit or I'll hit you with this truncheon!" Miss Sefedinovic reportedly denied having committed the theft and the officer started to hit Ljiljana Stankovic and herself with a rubber truncheon. The police later returned the six Romani girls to the "Vasa Stajic" boarding school.
After being held there for three days, on October 12 Miss Jovanovi asked a teacher at the school, Mr Sloba Jovanovi, if she could leave the building but was refused. Miss Jovanovi stated that she returned to her room and attempted to break the grates on the windows but was caught by Mr Jovanovi, who proceeded to beat her with a rubber bat. Mr Jovanovi reportedly also beat other children present, including 14-year-old Emina Sefedinovi and 12-year-old Djeljana Zorijani. Miss Jovanovi informed the ERRC/MRC that she fell unconscious as a result of the beating. An ambulance was called and Miss Jovanovi was taken to hospital where she was x-rayed and her hand was placed in a cast. At the hospital, police investigators informed that she could file a lawsuit against Mr Jovanovi then returned her to the boarding school. While Ms Jovanovi was in the hospital, Miss D. Zorijani, Miss Stankovi, Miss Sefedinovi and Miss E. Zorijani ran away from the boarding school around 12:00 AM that night out of fear that they would be beaten again. From this point, the girls were lived on Kralja Milutina Street with other children.
On October 22, the ERRC/MRC brought Miss D. Zorijani and Miss Sefedinovi, who had visible injuries from the attack, to the Medical Institute for Mother and Child. Dr Maja Milinkovi checked the girls and found slight bodily injuries on both. Dr Milinkovi called the police and two officers arrived at the Institute who proceeded to call two police inspectors – Mira Lui and Goran Nikoli. At the end of the examination, the police inspectors returned the girls to the boarding school and took their medical certificates to the police station, telling the ERRC/MRC to pick them up the following day. When the ERRC/MRC representative arrived at the police station the following day, the inspectors from whom he was to receive the certificates were not present and the next day Inspector Lu informed the ERRC/MRC that the medical certificates had been given to the boarding school. No charges had been brought against the officers or Mr Jovanovi. On November 11, 2004, the MRC filed criminal complaints with the I and V Municipal Court against Mr Jovanovi and the officers who had beaten the girls while they were in police custody. As of February 3, 2005, the complaint was pending before the court.