Report published on Thursday notes ‘a significant number of credible and consistent allegations of physical ill-treatment of detained persons by police officers’ and urges Serbia to take action.

European Anti-Torture Committee Concerned About Serbian Police Beatings

Guard in Serbian jail. Photo: Instagram/pravdars

Ill-treatment by the Serbian police remains a serious problem, which requires the Serbian authorities to take more resolute action, a report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment said.

This report, published on Thursday, is based on a CPT delegation’s visit to Serbia in March 2021, which checked conditions in 13 facilities, including prisons, police stations and psychiatric hospitals.

The delegation interviewed some 80 people in Belgrade, Pancevo and Pozarevac custody facilities either before or during their visit. The majority “indicated that they had been treated correctly by police officers at the time of their arrest and while in police custody”, the report said.

“However, the CPT’s delegation once again received a significant number of credible and consistent allegations of physical ill-treatment of detained persons by police officers, notably in the Belgrade area,” the report said.

“The ill-treatment was purportedly inflicted as a means to force the suspects to provide information or to confess to particular crimes, and to a lesser extent to punish them for the alleged crime committed or for resisting arrest,” it added.

The alleged physical ill-treatment “consisted primarily of slaps, punches, kicks and truncheon blows to various parts of the body, the application of electro-shocks by handheld devices and car batteries and forcing detained persons to remain in stress positions for prolonged periods.

“Finally, numerous remand prisoners also alleged to have received verbal insults of a racist nature notably in the light of their Albanian or Roma ethnic origin,” the report continued.

The CPT says it was “able to follow-up on particular allegations relating to the infliction of severe ill-treatment in specified locations described by the detained persons”.

“For example, in an office of a police inspector of the IV Anti-Narcotics Criminal Police Department of Metropolitan Belgrade Police Administration (IV Belgrade OKP), the delegation found jumpstart electrical cables and a five-litre water canister, which lends credibility to the allegations made by detained persons that they were subjected to electro-shocks in this precise office,” the report says.

Questions about police brutality were raised in Serbia in July 2020, after protests against anti-COVID measures. BIRN documented more than 26 cases of police brutality on the streets of Belgrade and the police were violent also against journalists.

The CPT report noted that “at least 28 complaints had been filed with the competent prosecutors and the Ministry of Interior alleging physical ill-treatment by police officers either at the time of the containment of the protests or during their apprehension and detention for a misdemeanour offence”.

“The CPT’s would like to receive an update on the status of the disciplinary and prosecutorial investigations in relation to the above-mentioned cases,” the report said.

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