MINELRES: ERRC and HLC Win Key UN Torture Case

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Dec 11 10:18:41 2004

Original sender: European Roma Rights Center <errc@errc.org>

United Nations Committee against Torture Grants Redress to a Romani Man 
Abused in Police Custody in Serbia and Montenegro

On 24 November 2004, the Geneva-based United Nations Committee against
Torture ("Committee") found Serbia and Montenegro in violation of
several provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ("Convention"). The
Committee made a finding of "torture" on the basis of a communication
submitted jointly by the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) and the
Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) on behalf of Mr. Dragan Dimitrijevic, a
Serbian citizen of Romani origin.  Mr. Dimitrijevic was a victim of
police brutality in an incident dating from 1999 but which has remained
without a legal remedy to date, more than four years following the
demise of the Milosevic regime in 2000.

On 27 October 1999, Mr. Dimitrijevic was arrested in his home in
Kragujevac, Serbia, in connection with a criminal investigation.  Upon
his arrival at the local police station, Mr. Dimitrijevic was handcuffed
to a radiator and beaten up by several police officers, some of whom he
knew by name.  The police officers kicked and punched Mr. Dimitrijevic
all over his body while insulting his ethnic origins and cursing his
mother".  One of the officers struck Mr. Dimitrijevic with a large metal
bar.  Some time later, the officers unfastened Mr. Dimitrijevic from the
radiator and handcuffed him to a bicycle.  The officers then resumed
punching and beating Mr. Dimitrijevic with their nightsticks and the
metal bar.  The beatings continued even when Mr. Dimitrijevic began
bleeding from his ears.  He was finally released some four and a half
hours after his arrest.  These acts, which caused Mr. Dimitrijevic great
physical and mental suffering, were perpetrated for the ostensible
purpose of extracting a confession. Ultimately, however, the authorities
pressed no charges against Mr. Dimitrijevic.

As a result of his ill treatment, Mr. Dimitrijevic was bed-ridden for
several days.  He sustained injuries to both arms and legs and to his
back, and an open wound on his head.  His ears bled for many days and
his eyes and lips were swollen.  Fearing reprisals from the police, Mr.
Dimitrijevic dared not go to the hospital to seek medical treatment.

In January 2000, Mr. Dimitrijevic filed a criminal complaint with
respect to this ill treatment. Six months later, when he had received no
response from the authorities, he inquired and requested an update. 
Still, the local prosecutors did not respond.  Consequently, in December
2001, the ERRC and the HLC jointly filed a communication with the
Committee on behalf of Mr. Dimitrijevic.

On 24 November 2004, the Committee found that the police brutality to
which Mr. Dimitrijevic had been subjected amounted to torture.  It
characterized his beatings as "severe pain or suffering intentionally
inflicted by public officials".  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 Mr. Dimitrijevic's
abuse, and inform the Committee of progress made within 90 days.

The ERRC and the HLC consider this ruling important for all victims of
police brutality in Serbia and Montenegro, where police impunity is
still widespread and where Roma continue to suffer disproportionately
from such abuse. In addition, the Committee's decision shows clearly
that a state's inaction in the face of reasonable allegations of
ill-treatment and/or torture is a violation of its legal obligations and
will lead to international censure.

For additional details regarding this decision, please contact Branimir
Plese, ERRC Legal Director (e-mail: branko@errc.org, phone:+361 413
2200) and/or Dragan Lalosevic, HLC Human Rights Project Coordinator
draganl@hlc.org.yu, phone: +38111 344 4313).


The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal
defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the
European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax:   +36 1 4132201



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