26 Nov Ombudsman: Police negligence in the case of armed men attacking citizens in Šabac during last year’s protests
26 November, 2022
A year after a group of men attacked citizens gathered at an environmental protest in Šabac with an excavator and wooden poles, the Ombudsman reacted, establishing that the police acted “belatedly, negligently and ineffectively”, and recommended that disciplinary proceedings be initiated against the responsible police officers.
The Ombudsman reached this conclusion acting on the basis of a complaint by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, submitted due to the well-founded suspicion that on November 27, 2021, the police on the bridge in Šabac purposely ceded space to armed hooligans, because they withdrew from the scene immediately before the attack, grossly violating their legal duty to protect the lives, rights and freedoms of Serbian citizens. Also, as previously pointed out by the “Three Freedoms” Platform, several citizens present during the incident called the police emergency number, asking police officers to come as soon as possible and protect them from the attack, but the operators hung up on them. Citizens also claim that the attack of the men with hammers and wooden poles was witnessed from a short distance by a traffic police patrol, which did not react, and which returned to the bridge immediately after the attacks ended.
In the process of acting on the complaint and investigating the conduct of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ombudsman established that the police in Šabac made several omissions, which resulted in “a serious violation of public order and peace, and the commission of several criminal acts” which were not prevented in time, further having as a consequence “light and serious bodily injuries to multiple citizens, as well as property damage to a large number of vehicles”. In this regard, the Protector ordered the Ministry of Internal Affairs to initiate disciplinary proceedings against police officers who acted on citizens’ calls, as well as to report on the outcome of the aforementioned proceedings.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs is obliged to inform the Ombudsman of the steps taken to fulfill these recommendations within 30 days. We announce that we will closely monitor the fulfillment of these recommendations, as well as the course and outcome of disciplinary proceedings against the police officers of the police directorate in Šabac, in order to ensure that those who, through their negligent actions, endangered the lives and safety of citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest, are called to account and adequately sanctioned.