TUE, 22 MAR 1994 22:38:05 GMT
On the police treatment of the arrested leaders of the SDA for Montenegro
Summary: According to the statements given to their lawyers,the leaders of the SDA claim that upon their arrest they have been subjected to extremely cruel torture. The methods of torture that were used varied, from the "well-known hood" to "plain beating". Excerpts from the statements of the tortured prisoners.President Bulatovic defends himself by saying " he knows nothing of the case" and claiming that "if the stretching of authority is established" the responsible police officers will be punished. The visit of the CSCE delegation.
It seems that the fates of the arrested leaders of the Party of Democratic Action for Montenegro, are no longer only in the hands of the state and its judicature, nor do they depend on the establishment of guilt for deeds they have been charged with. Judging by the first statements of the apprehended persons given to their lawyers and investigators, it would seem that they have already been sentenced by the mere fact that they ended up behing bars as the members of an unwelcome party and of an ignored people.
The words of one of the arrested men, the President of the SDA for Pljevlja, Sefket Brkovic, ("if I would have to go once again through all that I have gone through, I would find a way to end my own life"), are a vivid illustration of the treatment the leaders of this Party were subjected to after their arrest on charges of anti-state activities. If the statements of the arrested persons given to their counsel for the defence are taken as the truth, it remains unclear how it is possible that the criminal legislation of the FRY, fashioned after "the most superior world models" (President Bulatovic's words), does not prescribe the period of time detainees are allowed to spend in prison prior to the trial, but has left that to the discretion of law-enforcement officers, whose methods frequently call to mind those used by the Inquisition in the Middle Ages.
" Beating Files" in Foca
Thirteen accused members of "Muslim persuasion" have only recently, after the High Court in Bijelo Polje has permitted them to see their lawyers (!), been able to describe the forms of psycho-physical torture inflicted upon them from the moment of their arrest. Their descriptions of the various forms of torture they were subjected to by well coordinated and "ethnically clean" police teams lasted four full hours. According to their testimonies ,the methods were very inventive, from the " well known hood" with black blindfolds to "plain beating" ("with fists, feet, truncheons and everything they could put their hands on to strike blows on their heads, feet-soles and entire body").
From the minutes of the counsel for the defence, Ranko Vukotic and Vladan Djuranovic, well known lawyers from Podgorica, we can depict the methods of torture used on their clients:
"...Harun Dadzic, a member of the top leadership of the SDA for Montenegro and former deputy in the republican Parliament, was forced to do over a hundred push-ups and knee-bends in a row. He received no drinking water, but had to drink from the toilet bowl. During all that time he was beaten, prevented from sleeping and interrogated under bright reflector lights and high temperature produced by devices known as "asbestos caps", exposed to electric shocks, i.e., a device which was placed behind his ears and which caused severe pain and convulsions in his legs. The electric shocks and beatings lasted at least 48 hours, with constant threats that he was to be killed or else taken for a car drive, most probably, as he was told, to Foca..."
"... A number of men beat Esad Omerovic, a mental patient, and after speaking with him his lawyers got the impression that he had no idea where he was or why he was there..."
"...Rizah Burnazovic also remembered well the car drive, since after being arrested, he was taken with a hood over his head and blindfolded for a ride to a destination that was "an hour or two drive from Pljevlja." He was beaten and maltreated in much the same way as his predecessors..."
"...Umer Hadzic was certain that he had been taken to Foca where he was tortured and where an attempt was made to stage his escape so he could be killed. In Foca he passed through a "file" receiving numerous blows from men under the command of a person they addressed as "vojvoda". During the whole time he was threatened that he would be killed and was "treated" with electric shocks all over his body, especially his sexual organ..."
"...In addition to being subjected to a similar procedure, Erdzan Fetahovic was told the " pleasant news" that his wife was brought and kept in the adjoining room (" where, they were lining up to rape her"), while Avdo Ciguljin was made to count the blows on his soles and head, in the process of which a truncheon was first placed in his anus and then in his mouth. Because he was tortured similarly, Omer Omerovic, one of the arrested, has been on a hunger strike for some days now in the Bijelo Polje prison..."
About everything they have heard from their clients, the counsel for the defence informed the President,Prime Minister and state authorities of Montenegro.
Visit to the President
Were all these men really engaged in subversive activites directed at breaking up Montenegro and the FRY and creating the sovereign state of Sandzak", will be decided by the High Court in Bijelo Polje. However, it remains unclear why the arrested men were treated as they were, when the President of Montenegro, Bulatovic, recently speaking of the character of this state at the Congress of his Party pointed out, that it was " a legal, democratic and civic state", which treated all its citizens in the same manner, without any discrimination, and in line with the Constitution and the law."
The consistent attempts of the state media and leadership of Montenegro to differentiate the Muslims in their state according to their degree of loyalty towards the common state of Serbia and Montenegro, resulted a few days ago in a visit of the rare, "survived" leaders of the SDA for Montenegro, to Bulatovic himself. On that ocassion, the SDA delegation pointed out the overstepping of authority on the part of the law-enforcement officers of Montenegro during the interrogation of the arrested members of the Party, and received an answer by the likewise present Minister of Internal Affairs, Nikola Pejakovic, that he was " not aware of any cases of the overstepping of authority, along with a promise that the entire affair would be thoroughly investigated.On that ocassion too, Pejakovic did not neglect to point out "the complete national impartiality of the Ministry of the Interior", denying accusations that the activities of the Ministry were directly primarily against the Muslims and that they were subjected to discrimination, maltreatment and persecution.
Regardless of the fact that it is difficult to believe that the minister is uninformed of the practices and methods his law enforcement officers use, the old allegation regarding the subordination of the law-enforcement officers from Northern Montenegro to "the Belgrade master", has began circulating once again, especially as it implies that the authorities from Podgorica are thereby trying to free themselves of any responsibility in that respect. Within that context, the public is reminded of a similar dissasociation of the Montenegrin police officers from the northern part of the republic from the Podgorica authorities, during the pre-election campaign, i.e., in October-December 1992, when they allegedly refused to secure the rallies organized by "separatistic" opposition parties.
However it may be, this time as well bad news travelled fast and far, so that president Bulatovic was payed a visit by the CSCE delegation. The reason of the visit was evident even from the extremely brief press release - the state of inter-ethnic relations in northern Montenegro, treatment of the arrested leaders of the SDA, as well as the activities of the police, namely, its acts of discrimination, maltreatment and persecution. The same phrases were repeated regarding the civil state, proffesionalism in the work of the law-enforcement agency, efforts to comply with European standards... In the meantime, news arrived from Bijelo Polje, a specific centre of the Montenegrin part of Sandzak, the population of which is made up of approximately the same number of Orthodox and Muslim believers, that tensions were escalating in inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations.
The local newspaper, "Bjelopoljskeo novine", in the ownership of the commune, namely, the state, and which nominally belong to all the citizens of Bijelo Polje, published an article by its editor-in-chief in which he emphasized that "this was not the first time that a large number of Muslims were against Yugoslavia" and "that they have always betrayed us when the going was rough." The article concludes with the words:" We can no longer forgive those Muslims who are against this country and people, and if they do not wish to be loyal citizens, they can go seek another homeland, although I am certain that such as they are, no one will want them."
If someone from the democratic opposition or from among the European humanitarians would ask President Bulatovic about such views, he would most probably defend himself by arguments such as :" I don't read those papers." Do "arguments" such as "I know nothing about that", or "I haven't seen, heard,watched that" free him of the responsibility for the ever larger number of problems that have been piling up? Not really, since in that way the Montenegrin leadership would be pardoned for everything that has been happening in Montenegro too in the last few years as a result of precisely that very incapacity to consistently persist on democratic principles which have been and are only verbally supported. Yet, the latest information we received from the lawyers of the accused leaders of the SDA, namely, that the treatment towards them in prison has improved after a series of meetings with opposition and diplomatic representatives, is perhaps an indication of a turning point in the hithero behaviour of the "young and goodlooking" Montenegrin leaders. Or will their democratic option, on this ocassion too, "last only until the repairman leaves the house ". Namely, until different orders are received. And it is quite well known fact from which quarters such orders come.
Nebojsa Redzic AIM Podgorica