UN Committee Finds Serbia Violated Torture Convention

24 July 2009

Geneva: The UN Committee Against Torture (the Committee) has considered the case of violence and racial abuse against a Romani man and as of 8 May 2009 issued a decision finding Serbia to have been in violation of a number of provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

Besim Osmani was jointly represented by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), Minority Rights Center (MRC) and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in a complaint submitted to the Committee in December 2004, relating to an incident on 8 June 2000. Mr Osmani was beaten and verbally abused by what were believed to be plain-clothed police officers, in the presence of uniformed officers during a forced eviction and demolition operation at the "Antena" settlement in New Belgrade, the home of some 107 Roma. During the incident Mr Osmani's four-year-old son was also hit and, following his eviction and the destruction of his property, Mr Osmani was forced to live in the basement of his place of work with his wife and three young children.

The Committee found that Mr Osmani had been subjected to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," noting in its decision that the "infliction of physical and mental suffering [was] aggravated by the complainant's particular vulnerability, due to his Roma ethnic origin and unavoidable association with a minority historically subjected to discrimination and prejudice." Whether or not plain-clothes policemen abused Mr Osmani, the Committee pointed to the fact that "the State party's authorities who witnessed the events and failed to intervene to prevent the abuse have at the very least ‘consented or acquiesced' to it." Serbia was found to be in violation of Article 16 of CAT.

Mr Osmani and several other people at the scene made detailed statements about the incident and the identity of those who used violence and verbal abuse. With the assistance of the HLC, Mr Osmani tried to assert his rights within the Serbian criminal justice system, but to no avail. Against this background, the Committee found that Serbia was in breach of its obligations: To bring a criminal investigation (Article 12); to ensure that Mr Osmani had the right to complain to, and to have his case promptly and impartially investigated by, the competent authorities (Article 13); and to enable Mr Osmani to obtain redress and to provide him with fair and adequate compensation (Article 16).

The Committee urged Serbia to:

  • Conduct a proper investigation into the acts that occurred on 8 June 2000;
  • Prosecute and punish the persons responsible for those acts;
  • Provide Mr Osmani with redress, including fair and adequate compensation; and
  • Inform the Committee within 90 days of the relevant steps it has taken.

The HLC, the MRC and the ERRC contacted the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice asking that these matters be addressed.

For the full text of the Committee’s decision, CAT/C/42/D/261/2005, see: 

For further background information on this case, see: View it.

For the Serbian version of this press release, see:
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!

The letters to Serbian ministers are available at:

Letter to the Minister of Justice of Serbia (in English)
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!
Letter to the Minister of Justice of Serbia (in Serbian)
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!

Letter to the Minister of Human and Minority Rights of Serbia (in English)
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!
Letter to the Minister of Human and Minority Rights of Serbia (in Serbian)
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!

Letter to the Minister of Interior of Serbia (in English)
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!
Letter to the Minister of Interior of Serbia (in Serbian)
 View it (Acrobat pdf format)!

For more information please contact:

Victoria Vasey, ERRC Legal Adviser
victoria.vasey@errc.org, +36.1.413.2200

Andrea Čolak, MRC Executive Director
andrea.colak@mrc.org.rs, +381 11 303 7902, 2632 901

Sandra Orlovic, HLC Deputy Executive Director
humanrights@hlc-rdc.org, +381 11 3444 313


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