UN Torture Committee Instructs Government to Investigate Police Abuse of Roma

03 April 2006

On 16 November 2005, the United Nations Committee against Torture determined that Serbia and Montenegro violated the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in the case of Mr. Danilo Dimitrijevic vs. Serbia and Montenegro. Mr Dimitrijevic was jointly represented by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) of Belgrade, and the ERRC.

On 14 November 1997, at around noon, Mr. Dimitrijevic was arrested at his home in Novi Sad and taken to the police station on Marka Kraljevica Street. The police presented no arrest warrant, nor did they offer any explanation as to why he was being taken into custody. Since a criminal case was pending against him at the time, Mr Dimitrijevic did not question the arrest. Upon arrival at the police station, he was locked in a room where, around half an hour later, an unidentified man in civilian clothes entered the office and ordered him to strip to his underwear, handcuffed him to a metal bar attached to a wall, and proceeded to beat him with a police truncheon for over an hour. Mr Dimitrijevic spent the next three days tied to the metal pole in the same room, and was denied food and water, as well as the possibility to use the lavatory. Although he requested medical attention, and his injuries visibly required such attention, Mr Dimitrijević was not provided with any. Following a January appearance in court, Mr Dimitrijevic was released.

On 24 November 1997, Mr Dimitrijevic filed a criminal complaint with the Municipal Public Prosecutor's Office in Novi Sad. Despite many inquiries as to the status of his complaint, he received no response from the authorities. Consequently, in August 2000, the ERRC and the HLC jointly filed a communication with the Committee on behalf of Mr. Dimitrijevic.

On 16 November 2005, eight years after the incident at issue took place, the Committee found that the police brutality to which Mr. Dimitrijevic had been subjected amounted to torture. The Committee also found Serbia and Montenegro in violation of its obligation to carry out a prompt and impartial investigation of the victim's complaint of torture and in addition held that by failing to investigate the criminal complaint, the State had in effect also deprived Mr. Dimitrijevic of the possibility of filing a successful civil suit for compensation. In conclusion, the Committee established violations of Article 2 taken together with Articles 1, 12, 13 and 14 of the Convention and requested that the authorities conduct a proper investigation into the abuses of Mr. Dimitrijevic, and to inform the Committee of progress made within 90 days.

This is the third ruling by this body in less than a year to address the same issue in the same country. In Serbia and Montenegro, police impunity is still widespread and Roma continue to suffer disproportionately from such abuse.



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