ERRC: Serbian police beat up Romani teenager, levy exorbitant fine for not wearing a seatbelt or having identification
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) reports that on 21 December 2021, a police patrol in the city of Brus in southern Serbia stopped a taxi so they could pull an 18-year-old Romani male passenger out and beat him up. Eyewitnesses say the police beat him up in front of the post office in full view of passers-by.
The police then brought him to the station, where, according to the victim's statement, they beat him again. They then accused him of having failed to wear a seatbelt in the taxi and fined him 15 000 dinars (EUR 130) for not carrying an identity card.
Because he was unable to pay the fine within a week, it doubled to 30 000 dinars (EUR 260). The young man's father told the ERRC he feared the police would return and arrest his son because the family does not have the money to pay the fine.
One police officer indicated to the father that if the young man were to make things "uncomfortable" for the police (by reporting the brutality), the police would return to make his life "even more uncomfortable". The policeman reportedly said they had given him "a gift from Santa Claus for 2021 and he'll get an even bigger one for 2022."
According to the ERRC, the father took his son, accompanied by police officers, to a local hospital for medical treatment. The doctor who examined the young man reportedly refused to issue a medical report, excusing herself from doing so by asserting that any injuries he had were "not visible".
The father then photographed the bruises on his son's face and neck out in front of the hospital. That evening, according to the ERRC, the father and his son returned to the hospital without a police escort and again asked the doctor to issue a medical report.
The doctor reportedly told them she would not dare write a report against the police and that it would be best to go to the hospital in neighboring Kruševac. The trip to Kruševac, and thus the medical report, reportedly would have cost more than the family can afford.
The ERRC points out that police brutality against Roma in Serbia is relatively common, especially against Romani boys and men. In September 2021, the ERRC sent a report to the UN Committee against Torture concerning the growing number of incidents of inhuman and degrading treatment of Roma committed by police in Serbia.
That document presents evidence of police torture of Roma in order to force confessions (suffocating a suspect with a plastic bag and holding a pistol to his head), threatening to remove children from their families, denial of food and fluids during interrogation, denial of medical assistance and legal advice, and evidence of groups of officers beating up unarmed Romani individuals in interrogation cells. The police who commit these human rights violations are never held accountable for their behavior, the ERRC warns.
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