Serbia: Romani couple allege police beat them and forced them to confess to insurance fraud after their car was stolen
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in Budapest reports that a married Romani couple was allegedly assaulted during a police interrogation after they called to report their automobile had been stolen. Serbian Police officers are alleged to have detained the couple for 13 hours.
Police officers allegedly threatened to imprison the couple and remove their children from their care. They also allegedly forced the couple to sign confessions that their report of the stolen vehicle was attempted insurance fraud.
The ERRC is providing legal aid to the couple. They reported the stolen automobile at a police station in Mladenovac.
Serbian Police officers allegedly drove them in an unmarked vehicle from there to Belgrade. After their arrival there, they were allegedly subjected to lie detector tests and subsequently separated from each other and interrogated.
The husband was allegedly forced to kneel in the center of the interrogation room. He was allegedly surrounded by eight officers who began to brutally punch him in the face and forced him to sign a confession that he had stolen the vehicle himself in order to commit insurance fraud.
When the man did not want to make the false confession, the officers allegedly began to kick him in the abdomen and then strung him up by his hands with a leather belt. One officer allegedly used a plastic bag over his head to suffocate him, while another threatened to torture him with electricity.
An officer allegedly then pointed his weapon at him and threatened to shoot him. The Romani man wanted to call a lawyer during his interrogation, but the officers allegedly would not allow it.
The abused man then allegedly heard one of the officers from another room arranging for the couple's two children to be taken away from them. After a long 13 hours, the couple were released, but allegedly only on condition that they signed documents they were not allowed to read.
The man immediately sought medical aid after his release from custody. He was diagnosed with physical injuries to his body and face as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.
ERRC President Đorđe Jovanović expressed his solidarity with the couple and his appreciation for their bravery in standing up for their rights and wanting to sue over their abuse. "We stand behind them and we will support them until this case is investigated," Jovanović said, adding that the suspicion of insurance fraud was no excuse for the police to have tortured the couple as they are alleged to have done.
"Should it be demonstrated that the couple themselves are guilty of something, then it is a court that must decide what their punishment would be. In civilized countries the police do not just beat people up," said Jovanović.
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