Police beat Roma in Yugoslavia
15 August 2001
Police officers reportedly beat two Romani men in the police station of Bačka Topola, in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, on May 7, 2001, evidently in an attempt to coerce confessions from them. According to the Belgrade-based non-governmental organisation Humanitarian Law Center (Fond za humanitarno pravo), a police patrol arrived at the village of Ravno Selo in the Bačka Topola municipality on May 7, and ordered two Romani men, 38-year-old Mr Stevan Brančić and 28-year-old Saša Gojkov, to report later the same day to the police station in the nearby town of Vrbas. After arriving at the police station, Mr Brančić and Mr Gojkov were taken into detention and interrogated in relation to a theft that had reportedly taken place in the nearby village of Bajša, where both men had been on the previous day. Both Mr Brančić and Mr Gojkov denied any connection to the theft. Police then took them to a police station in Bačka Topola at around 3 PM on the same day.
In Bačka Topola, the Vrbas police officers brought Mr Brančić and Mr Gojkov into an office and left them with a police inspector and two other policemen. In the course of the ensuing interrogation, according to the victims' statements to the Humanitarian Law Center, the inspector punched Mr Brančić in the stomach, and slapped Mr Gojkov in the face about twelve times. Mr Gojkov was then taken to a separate room, and the inspector and one of the officers left the interrogation room. The remaining police officer then beat Mr Brančić with a wooden truncheon on the palms of his hands and on various parts of his body. The officer then ordered Mr Brančić to lean against the wall and beat him intensively all over his shoulders and back. When Mr Brančić fell down, the policeman kicked him in the stomach several times, and threatened Mr Brančić that both Roma "would not leave until their noses bled." In an adjacent room, one of the police officers ordered Mr Gojkov to stand against the wall, and beat him with a truncheon on his back and legs, while shouting racial abuse at him. The officer then ordered Mr Gojkov to shout out every time he hit a chair with his truncheon; when Mr Gojkov did not shout out loud enough, the policeman hit him in the face with the truncheon.
The police released Mr Brančić and Mr Gojkov around 7 PM on the same day, with threats that they would beat them again if they ever reappeared in Bačka Topola or Bajša. Neither man confessed to the crimes of which they were accused. The Humanitarian Law Center filed a complaint with the Municipal Public Prosecutor's Office in Bačka Topola against the police officers involved on May 11, 2001. As of August 22, 2001, there had been no progress in the case.
(Humanitarian Law Center)