International Day Against Police Brutality is marked every year on March 15, acknowledging those who have been killed, abused or neglected by the police or while in their care. To highlight the fact that police brutality remains a grim reality in many countries, we tell the story of ND from Serbia; beaten by the police, the perpetrators remain unpunished.
“I expect justice and that these police officers are stopped from doing this to anyone else. The legal proceedings are lasting too long; for four years and it is not even close to end. How much longer will I have to wait?”
ND first came to the International Aid Network (IAN) rehabilitation centre in Belgrade when he was 20-years-old. It was December 2010 and two weeks had passed since he had been brutally beaten by the police.
The day before he alleges the incident took place, ND and a friend were arrested on suspicion of theft. They were brought to the police station and interviewed, then released and told to come back the next day.
When he did not turn up, two police officers came to his house and arrested him. As soon as they arrived at the police station, one of the officers slapped him across the face twice. This was the beginning of an ordeal that lasted for hours. They started to ask him about different crimes, including the theft of car CD players that happened earlier that day. ND admitted he had committed two of the crimes, but not the rest. One of the officers told another to grab him and he was taken to another room and beaten.
They beat him for two hours; hitting him on the soles of his feet, the palms of his hands and in the stomach, breaking two of his ribs. All the time asking where the CD players were. ND eventually told them one was at his cousin’s house. One of the officers then went there and threatened his cousin, asking, “Do you want to piss blood, like your brother?”
When he was eventually released he managed to get himself onto the bus home. As soon as he arrived his mother saw his bloodied body and called an ambulance. But when the ambulance came and the doctor heard he was beaten by the police she refused to take him to the hospital, saying his injuries did not need urgent care. She told him he should go by himself and gave him a medical referral.
ND went to the hospital and they immediately operated on his broken ribs to stabilise his lung which was perforated. The following morning one of the police officers came to the hospital, most likely to see how badly injured he was, but did not speak to him. He was kept in hospital for 10 days.
When he came to the IAN centre, ND was shocked, revolted and extremely angry. His body was still covered in bruises as a result of the beating. Staff did a forensic examination and found that his injuries were life threatening. He asked for legal aid and in 2011 IAN filed a complaint against the police officers on his behalf.
Five years later and the case is still ongoing. In the meantime, both police officers are still on duty and ND continues to wait for justice to be served.