Hearing victims without detention – Rrahman Elshani and Bekim Istog
Rrahman Elshani and Bekim Istogu gave their statements before the First Primary Court in Belgrade on Monday, May 21st, 2012 in the compensation lawsuit against the Republic of Serbia initiated because of its liability for unlawful detention and torture that these persons suffered during the years of 1999 and 2000. The HLC initiated the proceedings on behalf of Elshani and Istogu on April 26th, 2010.
Because of the arrival of the Yugoslav Army into Krajkovo/Krajkove, Rrahman Elshani and his family went to Štrbulovo/ Shtrubullovë (the municipality of Glogovac/Gllogoc) where they spent the next 2 or 3 months. Sometime between May 28th and May 30th, 1999, members of the army and police arrived in Štrbulovo/Shtrubullovë. They gathered all of the citizens. They separated Rrahman and other men from women and then they took them to prison in Lipljan/Lipjan.
The men spent some ten days in Lipljan/Lipjan. They were submitted to beating on daily basis. In the night between June 9th and 10th, 1999, the guards gathered all of them, handcuffed them, and ordered them to go on the buses, which then transported them to prison in Niš. Since there was no room for them in this prison, they were transported to Požarevac. When they arrived in Požarevac, prison guards lined all of the prisoners against the wall and from there sent them to different pavilions. All prisoners had their arms tied behind their backs and Rrahman was scared that he would fall since any prisoner who would fall or make a pause would be beaten by the guards. When they were placed in cells, only some of them received blankets. They only had one bed per cell and it did not have any matrices or a pillow. Six months after coming to the prison in Požarevac, the prisoners were visited by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). They asked about the living conditions in the prison. All prisoners complained about not receiving water and food, about prison guards mistreating them and about not being allowed to take baths. After the ICRC delegation left, the guards beat the prisoners. The next time when ICRC came for a visit, no prisoners complained about the conditions. Rrahman said that he could talk about the torture he was submitted to for days, but that the hardest thing for him was the fact that he was not able to contact his wife and kids. While he was in prison in Požarevac, Rrahman was taken for an examination two times. He remembers that the son of a certain woman called Gordana, who lived in Glogovac/Gllogoc, and who also worked in the municipality, examined him. He could not receive necessary medical help in the prison. He had abscess on his right cheek, which in the end he had to open himself. In the beginning they were not allowed to go outside, but after some time they were allowed to go for a walk in the yard. Rrahman spent 11 months in the prison and he was released on April 21st or 22nd, 2000. No procedure has been initiated against him ever since.
The torture and everything else that he experienced during the unlawful detention left serious consequences on Rrahman’s mental and physical health.
Bekim Istogu lived with his family in the village of Vrbovac/Vrbovc (the municipality of Glogovac/Gllogoc). In April 1999, when Yugoslav Army entered the village, they chased all of the people out of their houses and took them towards the village of Glarevo/Gllareva (the municipality of Klina/Klinë). On their way to Glarevo/Gllareve, the army and the police stopped the column and separated men from women in a field. Even though he was juvenile at the time, Bekim was separated with the rest of the men and the soldiers took this group to the edge of a forest. There, police officers ordered them to put their hands behind their heads and turn their backs. Bekim was sure that they were going to execute them. Then the police received some order over the radio, after which all men were taken to a nearby barn. There, they beat them the entire day. In the morning, more soldiers and police officers came to the yard. They hit the prisoners and threw stones at them. After a while, a truck came. Bekim and other men were ordered to step on the truck and soldiers and police officers would hit the arrested men as they were going to climb the truck. Bekim still has a scar on his forehead because of the strikes he received as he was trying to climb the truck.
Bekim and other men who were arrested were transported to prison in Priština/Prishitnë. Bekim was taken alone to some room in the prison in which there was nothing else but some blood on the floor. A police officer entered the room after Bekim and he ordered him to take his shoes off and then he beat him with the baton. After this beating, they brought in more prisoners and started examining them in this room. Bekim did not say anything because he did not understand Serbian very well. They did not receive any food. They made Bekim, who was sixteen years old at the time, shave even though he did not have any beard at the time. He was scared and he rushed so he cut his face several times with the razor. One day, police officers came and handcuffed all of them and then they took them to a bus, which transported them to Serbia. They went to Niš and Požarevac first. There was no room in these prisons, so they took them to Sremska Mitrovica. During the travelling they were not allowed to raise their head because police officers would hit them with the butts of their guns. Police officers in Sremska Mitrovica would beat them as they were passing by them. They beat them until they were placed in pavilions. There were about 90 people in Bekim’s pavilion. They had no beds, only some thin matrices. They all slept one next to another because that was the only way they could make room for all of them. The sanitary conditions and medical care were poor. Some of them got lice and some got itch. They were kept in complete isolation and were not allowed to go outside. Bekim was released from prison in October 2000 with the help of ICRC. No criminal proceedings for any criminal offence had ever been initiated against Bekim during his time in detention.
Because of the unlawful detention and torture that he experienced, Bekim still suffers from serious mental consequences.