Violence against Roma in Serbia

12 April 2000

On several occasions in the course of 1999, local non-Romani youths repeatedly harassed five Romani families living in the Vilovska street in Belgrade, Serbia. The Belgrade-based human rights group Humanitarian Law Center (Fond za humanitarno pravo) reported that a group of youths threw bricks and shouted racial insults at Roma living in Vilovska Street on August 11, 1999; additionally, one of the non-Roma reportedly hit a Romani man with a shovel. The same group of youths reportedly reappeared in Vilovska Street on August 13, 1999, insulting Roma and throwing stones at them. Roma called the police, but they left after only making brief inquiries about the incident. On November 3, 1999, three non-Romani youngsters again threw stones into the yard of the building and insulted the tenants on ethnic grounds. This time, police were reportedly present during the verbal insults, but did not interfere. The Romani tenants identified the attackers in all cases as youths from their neighbourhood.

In the same neighbourhood, on November 29, 1999, a group of three non-Romani young men attacked Mr Jakub Haziri, a Romani man from Belgrade, and beat him with baseball bats, according to the Belgrade daily Danas of December 1, 1999. Mr Haziri was taken to hospital with serious injuries. According to a Romani witness from the same neighbourhood, some non-Roma also beat Mr Memet Zorjani, another Romani man earlier that evening. The Humanitarian Law Center filed a suit against the attackers in both cases, listing all previous cases of harassment of the Roma in Vilovska Street. The prosecutor’s office had not taken any action as of March 31, 2000.

Racially-motivated violence frequently targets Roma in Serbia. In response to daily skinhead attacks against their Romani workers, the municipal street cleaning company in Belgrade demanded more police protection for their workers, according to Belgrade daily Blic on November 16, 1999. In the first half of November only, skinheads had reportedly attacked, beaten or stoned Romani street cleaners on three separate occasions. The manager of the company stated that since the attacks on Roma began six years ago, the police protection has been inadequate. Racially-motivated violence against Roma and the inability of the authorities to protect Roma in Serbia are the subject of the article “Skinhead Violence Targeting Roma in Yugoslavia” in Roma Rights, Spring 1998.

(Blic, Danas, Humanitarian Law Center)


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