State obliged to pay damages to torture victim from 1993

On November 5th 2009, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) received a judgement rendered by the Belgrade First Municipal Court which ordered Serbia to pay 500,000 RSD in damages to Šefket Hukić, a Bosniak from the village of Ugao, in the municipality of Sjenica. Serbia is ordered to pay damages because of its responsibility for the torture suffered by Šefket Hukić at the hands of members of the Sjenica Police Department in December 1993. HLC, within its support programme for victims of past human rights violations, filed a compensation lawsuit against the Republic of Serbia on behalf of Šefket Hukić on April 18th 2007.

During a police action in December 1993 in which members of the Sjenica Police Department were searching for illegal weapons, Dragan Paunović, Milan Nedić and several of their other colleagues arrived in Šefket Hukić’s house asking him to turn over an automatic rifle and ammunition. Although Šefket Hukić said he did not have any weapons, police officers ordered him to go with them to the police station, threatening him that he would not return home. They took him to the premises of the “Karajukići” village hall. Immediately after taking him inside a room where some other Bosniaks who had also been arrested were being held, six police officers in turn started beating him and this lasted for several hours. Even though he lost consciousness on several occasions the police officers would only douse him with water to wake him up and continued torturing him. Throughout the torture inspector Dragan Paunović kept trying to convince him to turn in weapons and Hukić kept telling him that he did not have any. Afterwards he was released. During the first several days after this event, Šefket Hukić was treated at home and only later did he go to see a doctor in Sjenica, who at first did not want to see him because he was scared of the police. A doctor from a private practice diagnosed him with fractured ribs and damaged kidneys. Šefket Hukić is still being treated because of the torture that he suffered.

In searches for illegal weapons conducted in Sandžak between 1992 and 1995, members of the Serbian Ministry of Interior continuously searched houses and unlawfully detained several hundreds of Bosniaks. All the arrested Bosniaks were accused of illegal weapons possession or of participating in “activities directed against the state” even though only a small number of them possessed weapons without a licence. Most of the arrested men testified about the brutal torture that they were exposed to by members of the state security agency and local police in order to extort confessions of illegal weapons possession. The Police did not conduct a thorough investigation into this event and, according to the information obtained by HLC, police officers that participated in the beating of Bosniaks are still employed in the Serbian Ministry of Interior.

HLC stresses that Serbian state authorities have never demonstrated that they are willing to provide any type of satisfaction or help to the victims of human rights violations committed by members of the Serb security forces during 1990s in Sandžak. For this reason why victims are obliged to claim their rights to compensation through lawsuits, which are very unfavourable to them, because of their long duration, they are uncertain and courts, especially the Serbian Supreme Court, are favourable towards the state.