Victims’ Testimonies About Torture in Prisons in Serbia

On Tuesday, June 4th, 2013, Nazmi Spahiu and Behxet Rrmoku, both victims of torture and unlawful detention, gave statements in the compensation lawsuit initiated by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in April 2010 against the Republic of Serbia on account of the state’s responsibility for their torture in unlawful detention during 1999 and 2000. Nazmi Spahiu and Behxhet Rrmoku testified about the arrest and torture they experienced in prison, as well as about the consequences of the torture, from which they still suffer, and the long medical treatment they have had to undergo.

Nazmi Spahiu left the village of Trstenik/Tërstenik in March 1999 with his family and went to Štrbulovo/Shterubullovë, because the army had burned down their house. They stayed in Štrbulovo/Shterubullovë until May 28th, 1999, when the Serbian army and police entered the village and drove people out of their houses; they lined Nazmi and a group of some ten men up against a wall, searched them, and then ordered them to strip naked. They stood like this for some 10 minutes while police officers held rifles pointed at their heads. Then they took Nazmi to the police station in Glogovac/Gllogoc, where police officers examined him and beat him from six o’clock in the morning until 4 o’clock in the afternoon. After the examination at the police station, the police officers transported them to the prison in Lipljan/Lipjan. Upon arrival, they shaved their heads and placed them in a sports hall containing some 250 people already. The conditions in Lipljan/Lipjan were appalling. The food they received was a spoon of jam per every four persons. They were not allowed to take a shower and because of the unhygienic conditions many prisoners caught lice and scabies. The police officers and prison guards threatened and beat them constantly. Since the lavatory was outside the hall they were locked in, they went there in groups, because police officers beat them most when they went there alone. On June 9th, police officers told them that a peace agreement had been signed and that they would be released; but instead, they took them with their hands tied to buses and transported them to the prison in Požarevac. Upon arrival in Požarevac, Nazmi was immediately put in Pavilion VII, where persons convicted of some of the most serious criminal acts resided. He spent more than six months there in isolation without the right to take walks or speak with other prisoners. The only visits that were allowed to him were visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Nazmi was released on April 11th, 2000 after 11 months spent in unlawful detention. Due to the consequences of the abuse and torture suffered, he has shoulder injuries, nightmares and poor concentration, and is obliged to have regular consultations with a neuropsychiatrist.

Behxhet Rrmoku left the village of Hrtica/Herticë on April 4th, 1999 together with his family, and went to the village of Šajkovac/Shajkoc. We often went from this village to the surrounding villages to obtain food. On April 28th, 1999, Behxhet set out for the village of Turučica/Turuçicë, where he was caught in an ambush by the Serbian army. He was wounded in the leg and the soldiers transported him to the hospital in Priština/Prishtine. Everything was fine the first three days in hospital, but after this, police officers started abusing him. First they put him under surveillance, and then they forbade doctors to visit him; they restricted his water and food and he stopped receiving medication. After he had spent 17 days in hospital, two police officers came to pick Behxhet up from there and take him to the prison in Lipljan/Lipjan. He was there from May 15th until June 10th, 1999, when prison guards transported him by bus with all the other prisoners to the prison in Sremska Mitrovica. Upon arrival at the prison in Sremska Mitrovica, police officers on one side and prisoners on the other waited for them in two lines stretching from the bus to the prison building, hitting them with wooden sticks and batons. The conditions in Sremska Mitrovica were as bad as they were in the prison in Lipljan/Lipjan. They received very little food, they had no designated sleeping areas and, because of the poor sanitary conditions, almost all prisoners caught lice and scabies. After he was released on May 30th, 2000, Behxhet went to see a doctor because of the problems with his leg and the psychological problems he was experiencing. Because of the consequences of the torture and abuse, he often feels tension without any apparent reason, has trouble sleeping and is acutely disturbed by noise. Behxhet Rrmoku spent 13 months in detention and no criminal proceedings were ever initiated against him.