01 Dec THE POLICE MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE BREAKDOWN OF THE RULE OF LAW IN ŠABAC
During the road blockade on Saturday, November 27, conducted by citizens protesting the adoption of the Law on Referendum and People’s Initiative and the Law on Expropriation, the “Three Freedoms” monitoring system noted numerous incidents indicating that, while acting in their capacity to secure these protests, the police grossly violated their legal duty to protect the lives, rights and freedoms of citizens, and support the rule of law.
Numerous videos have been shared to social media that show that a police cordon withdrew from the blockade on the Sava Bridge in Šabac ten minutes before the announced end of the protest, and two minutes before an excavator started heading towards the group of citizens present on the bridge, followed by a group of men carrying hammers and wooden poles, who physically attacked the gathered citizens and hit them with these objects.
According to the claims of several citizens with whom we were in contact, who attended the assembly on the Sava Bridge, a dozen people present called the on-duty police service during the incident, asking police officers to come as soon as possible and protect them from the attacks, 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. After clashing with the group of citizens gathered on the bridge, which included women and children, the attackers drove away from the scene in cars, some of which are said to be official vehicles of state and municipal officials.
All of the above points to a serious suspicion that the armed attackers acted in cooperation with the police, whose withdrawal left room for the armed attackers to effectively take power into their own hands, and left the gathered citizens at their mercy. This scenario of events is very reminiscent of the events in the “Savamala” case, which has not yet received a prosecutorial and court epilogue.
Due to the above, we demand that the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Šabac, the Internal Control Sector of the Ministry of the Interior and the Protector of Citizens (Ombudsman) urgently take the following steps:
- to carry out a direct supervision procedure over the work of the Police Department in Šabac, in order to collect all information and documentation on the reasons and orders on which the cordon of police officers withdrew from the place of the assembly on the Sava Bridge before its end, and immediately before the arrival of an excavator accompanied by a group of men who physically attacked the assembled citizens with hammers and wooden poles;
- to examine whether the police officers had information about the arrival of the excavator and the mentioned group of men;
- to determine how many calls for the reaction of the police were made by citizens at that time and how the police responded to those calls;
- to examine whether the lack of response from the police was agreed upon in advance, and whether orders on how to proceed were issued to officials who responded to calls from citizens;
- to take measures to identify and prosecute the unidentified men who physically attacked the assembled citizens, hitting them with wooden poles and hammers and moving an excavator towards those present, including children;
- to determine the ownership of all vehicles the group of men that attacked the gathered citizens arrived and left in, and, in case these are determined to be the official vehicles of the City of Šabac or state bodies and public companies, to determine who gave the order or approval for their use and for what reasons;
- to take measures to determine the individual criminal and disciplinary responsibility of all police officers for not responding to the calls of the assembled citizens and / or cooperating with a group of men who physically attacked them.
We would like to inform the public that the Belgrade Center for Human Rights has sent an official complaint to the Protector of Citizens (Ombudsman) on behalf of one of the eyewitnesses of the incident who tried unsuccessfully to ask the police for help and a reaction. We expect an urgent response from the above authorities and announce that we will use all available legal mechanisms to hold accountable all those who violated the security and freedom of citizens by breaching their legal duties on Saturday, November 27, 2021.
- Initiative for Social and Economic Rights – A11
- Autonomous Women’s Center
- Belgrade Center for Security Policy
- Belgrade Center for Human Rights
- Center for Cultural Decontamination
- Policy Center
- Civic Initiatives
- Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
- Youth Initiative for Human Rights
- Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM
- National Coalition for Decentralization
- Our Endowment (Naša zadužbina)
- New Optimism
- Partners Serbia
- Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation
- Trag Foundation
- Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS/IJAS)
- Serbia on the Move