State Department report on Serbia puts a new finger in Vucic’s eye: The government is corrupt, war criminals are glorified, and the police carry out torture
There are numerous allegations of corruption in the Serbian government, which have not been investigated. The police are accused of brutality and torture, but there is no punishment. The judiciary is subject to corruption and political influence, with top officials and MPs commenting on open investigations and the work of judges and prosecutors. Journalists are threatened. High-ranking officials protect war criminals. And so indefinitely. This is how the human rights situation in Serbia in 2022 looks from the perspective of the US State Department.
In its report for the past year, the State Department has dealt with elections in Serbia, corruption, journalists rights, prison conditions, attitudes towards minorities, the LGBT community, women, etc.
There is hardly a single area in Serbia where human rights are not seriously violated. Although it cannot be said that we did not know this before.
On the elections in Serbia, the State Department writes that the April elections were unequal and favourable to the Serbian President. Undue pressure on public sector employees to support Aleksandar Vučić and the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, as well as the misuse of administrative resources, are noted. The report also states that the majority of public and private broadcasters with national coverage are in favour of Vučić and the SNS.
Impunity for the powerful
The State Department pays particular attention to corruption, especially high-level corruption.
The report notes that investigations do take place from time to time, but only when it comes to lower and mid-level officials.
“Investigations into allegations of corruption involving high-level government officials, including ministers, or politically connected individuals have been non-existent, contributing to a sense of impunity for the powerful or well-connected,” the report says.
The glorification of war criminals has also been criticised, with particular reference to a mural of Ratko Mladic which the authorities have refused to remove. Former Minister of the Interior and now BIA Director Aleksandar Vulin and Belgrade Mayor Aleksandar Šapić, who openly supported convicted war criminals, are also mentioned in this context. When it comes to Vulin, it is also stated that, despite warnings not to do so, he constantly uses insulting names for the Albanian community.
On police brutality
The State Department report also discusses the conditions in Serbian prisons, which are rated as poor, with a special section on police brutality. Members of the security forces are often alleged to have exceeded their powers. Although this is forbidden by the Constitution, says the State Department, there are reports of police beating detainees and ill-treating suspects, most often during arrest or detention, in order to extract confessions.
It also mentions 11 denunciations filed by from citizens of Novi Sad against police officers accusing them of torture between 2020 and 2021, but stresses that no police officers have been suspended.
The report adds that international and domestic NGOs have noted that the judiciary is subject to corruption and political influence.
“Government officials and members of parliament continued to comment publicly on open investigations and the work of prosecutors and judges,” the State Department reported.
Attacks on journalists
As regards the media, the market is considered to be oversaturated with government and pro-government media. They add that the largest distributors of paid content are United Media and Telekom Srbija, which is majority state-owned.
“The media are dependent on the state for advertising, which favours the ruling party, and opposition leaders do not have access to the media”, the State Department notes, pointing out that the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia has recorded a total of 132 attacks on journalists, nine of them physical.
“Ethnic cleansing by administrative means”
Representatives of minorities claim that they are subjected to “ethnic cleansing by administrative means”.
“Ethnic Albanians have been subjected to discrimination and disproportionate unemployment. Ethnic Albanian leaders in Serbia claim that the government has disproportionately subjected ethnic Albanians to “passivisation” in order to reduce the official number of ethnic Albanians living in Serbia. Article 18 of the Law on the Residence of Citizens in Serbia allows the Ministry of Interior to remove persons from the register (passivise them) if it is established that they are not currently living at the address of the registered person. The police regularly take this decision through spontaneous home visits. Although it is often carried out during working hours, one visit during which the person is not present is sufficient to establish non-residence at the address,” the report says./Nova.rs/