MINELRES: UN Torture Committee Again Rules Against Police Abuse of Roma in Serbia and Montenegro

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Dec 21 21:46:33 2005

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

Government Instructed to Undertake Urgent Investigation

On 16 November 2005, the United Nations Committee against Torture 
("Committee") determined that Serbia and Montenegro violated the
Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading
Treatment or Punishment ("Convention"). The Committee concluded that Mr.
Danilo Dimitrijevic, a Romani citizen of Serbia and Montenegro, was
subjected to acts of torture as defined by the Article 1 of the
Convention. Mr. Dimitrijevic was jointly represented by the Humanitarian
Law Center (HLC), Belgrade, and European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC),

On 14 November 1997, around 12:00, Mr. Dimitrijevic was arrested at his 
home in Novi Sad and taken to the Police Station on Marka Kraljevica 
Street. He was presented no arrest warrant, nor did he receive 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. He
sustained numerous injuries, in particular on his thighs and back.

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. Dimitrijevic was not
provided with any.

He was brought before a judge only three days latter, for a hearing on
the charges of larceny against him. When the judge saw Mr.
Dimitrijevic's condition, he ordered the police officers to take him
immediately to a forensic specialist to establish the nature and
severity of the injuries. However, police officers disregarded the
judge's instructions and presented Mr. Dimitrijevic with a release
order, which incorrectly stated that he was arrested on 14 November 1997
at 23:00, although he had been taken into custody eleven hours earlier.

Upon his release, Mr. Dimitrijevic, shocked and frightened by the 
experience, did not immediately seek medical attention. However, he did 
have photographs taken of his injuries.

On 24 November 1997, and having consulted a lawyer, Mr. Dimitrijevic
went to the Clinical Centre of the Novi Sad Forensic Medicine Institute,
to determine the nature and severity of the wounds. The medical report,
however, has never been provided to Mr. Dimitrijevic, nor has his lawyer
ever seen it in the case files.

On 24 November 1997, Mr. Dimitrijevic filed a criminal complaint with
the Municipal Public Prosecutor's Office in Novi Sad. He gave a detailed
account of the incident and claimed that the following crimes had been
committed: "extraction of statements, civil injury and slight bodily
harm". 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. 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
victims 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.

For additional details regarding this decision, please contact Dianne
Post, ERRC Legal Director (e-mail: dianne.post@errc.org, phone:+361 413
2200) and/or Sandra Orlovic, HLC Human Rights Project Coordinator
(e-mail: humanrights@hlc.org.yu, phone: +38111 344 4313).


The European Roma Rights Centre 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 Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at

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

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


The European Roma Rights Centre is dependent upon the generosity of 
individual donors for its continued existence. If you believe the ERRC 
performs a service valuable to the public, please join in enabling its 
future with a contribution. Gifts of all sizes are welcome; bank
transfers are preferred. Please send your contribution to:

European Roma Rights Centre
Budapest Bank Rt.
1054 Budapest
Bathory utca 1

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