Court of appeal in Belgrade denied Munir Šabotić, a victim of police torture, right to just compensation

BELGRADE, November 30th, 2011.

The Court of Appeal in Belgrade has rendered a judgment denying the compensation lawsuit filed by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) on behalf of Munir Šabotić, a victim of torture, which he was subjected to by members of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) in Novi Pazar in August and September 1994. The Court of Appeal accepted the appeal filed by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Republic of Serbia and modified the judgment, which originally had granted Munir Šabotić compensation to the amount of 300,000 RSD and had ordered the Republic of Serbia to pay for litigation expenses to the amount of 20,000 RSD. The HLC believes that the Court of Appeal arbitrarily and unjustly denied the right to compensation for the violation of human rights, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, the laws, and various international conventions. For this reason, the HLC will file a complaint on behalf of Munir Šabotić with the Constitutional Court of Serbia.

In August 1994, three Inspectors from the State Security Agency (SSA) from Novi Pazar, Radivoje Ilić, Mile Gerić and an unidentified man, coerced Šabotić into signing a statement concerning the alleged participation of 25 Muslims in the establishment of a military headquarters of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). After this, Šabotić was summoned to testify in the criminal trial of these persons, but during the trial he stated that he was a victim of torture by SSA inspectors, and that they had given him a preprepared statement which he was supposed to repeat before the court. After leaving the courthouse, Šabotić, went to the police station, on the orders of Inspector Ilić. There, the Inspectors Ilić, Gerić and an unidentified man kicked and punched him and demanded that he withdraw the statement given before the court. He suffered a fractured rib as a consequence of the beating. Two days after he left the police station, Šabotić was once more apprehended by the police, who demanded that he withdrew the criminal complaint he had filed on that day. On this occasion, all medical records showing the injuries sustained were taken away from him.

A year after this event,  criminal proceedings against the police officers responsible were initiated before the Municipal Court in Novi Pazar. But they were subsequently aborted in September 2004, after 10 whole years, because of the effects of the Statute of Limitations.

Even though the Court of Appeals established that Munir Šabotić was tortured by SSA inspectors in 1994, it was still claimed that there was no causal connection “between the traumatic events of 1994 and the illness of the plaintiff, which occurred in 2006”. In effect, the Court of Appeal considered the fact that Munir Šabotić does not have the medical records that proved  he had received medical treatment as a consequence of torture as decisive. The Court of Appeal did not accept the opinion of the court expert that the post-traumatic stress disorder that  Munir Šabotić was diagnosed with in May 2004 by a neuropsychiatrist was a consequence of the torture suffered and  did not accept the statements given by Munir Šabotić and his wife that police took away all of his medical records on the abovementioned  occasion of his apprehension.

The HLC would like to remind the public that problems relating to the realization of the right to compensation in Serbia are serious, and that since the introduction of the democratic changes, institutions in Serbia have not shown a minimal understanding of the rights to reparation of victims of human rights violations committed by members of the Serbian army and police. The failure to fulfil the obligations towards victims was also noted in several reports on human rights and the application of international conventions in Serbia – in the Report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights (September 2011), the Conclusions of the UN Human Rights Committee on the Application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (March 2011) and the Conclusions of the UN Committee Against Torture on the application of the Convention Against Torture (November 2008). The HLC calls on the Ministry of the Interior and the Government of the Republic of Serbia to grant just material compensation to Munir Šabotić for the torture he was subjected to by members of the MOI.