AMNESTY INTERNATIONALPublic Statement
18 August 2000 AI Index EUR 70/039/2000 - News Service Nr. 159 FRY: Bojan
Aleksov and Women in Black - human rights defenders at risk
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of human rights defenders
and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Serbia. Amnesty
International's concerns have increased following the arrest and
ill-treatment of Bojan Aleksov.
Bojan Aleksov is a Serb
national who has been living in Budapest for two years, working primarily
with the Safe-House project for Conscientious Objectors from the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) who have fled to Hungary. He
is also closely associated with the Belgrade-based NGO Zene u Crnom
protiv Rata (Women in Black against War). He was arrested by the State
Security Police on 7 July 2000 after he had returned to Belgrade to visit
his family. He also returned because of his concern for the Women
in Black group. In June this year the State Security and Financial
Police interviewed the Women in Black group and members of other
NGOs about their financial status, their work and local and international
Bojan Aleksov was detained
from 8pm on 7 July to 7pm on 8 July, after being forcibly removed
from his car and taken to the central police station in Belgrade.
During this 23-hour period he was repeatedly threatened with death.
He was interrogated about his work with the Safe House Project for
Conscientious Objectors, the activities of Women in Black and their contacts
within the FRY and internationally. It became clear to Bojan Aleksov during
his interrogation that the State Security Police had been engaged in the
long-term surveillance of Women in Black, and had been recording
conversations, including telephone conversations, which took place in their
offices and in their private apartments for at least two years.
During his period of interrogation
by the State Security Police, Bojan Aleksov, was repeatedly beaten
and subjected to verbal abuse, including homophobic abuse, and other
humiliating treatment. For a period of five hours, he was subject
to ill-treatment which included being forced to stand on his toes
and being beaten with a truncheon on his body. He was denied water
for this initial period of five hours, despite a temperature of over
30 degrees. He was kept awake throughout the night, and at 11am the
following day he was beaten on the soles of his feet, the palms of his
hands and other parts of his body by three police officers, using
a baton or truncheon.
Throughout the interrogation,
Bojan Aleksov repeatedly stressed to the police that he had not been
engaged in espionage, but had been working for human rights in Serbia,
particularly in relation to the rights of conscientious objectors.
He was finally forced to write a 12-page statement, dictated to him
by an interrogating officer, detailing his activities relating to
Conscientious Objectors and to the activities of Women in Black,
including details of his local and foreign contacts and visits made to
other countries. In addition, he was forced to make a shorter
statement admitting responsibility for his previous "crimes", and under
threat of death, to agree to work for the State Security Service.
He was then forced to repeat
parts of the 12-page statement on video camera. He had to admit
that he was working for foreign intelligence services, collecting
information through Stanislavka (Stasa ) Zajovic - who the
police described as the leader of Women in Black - and the local network
she had created. He had to state that he was then transmitting this
information to foreign intelligence services and was consciously working
against the security, integrity and defence capability of the FRY.
He was forced to do the
same for his second written statement - having to repeat it three
times before the recording was deemed convincing enough. He had to
repeat that he would accept "criminal and moral responsibility" for
his previous actions and that henceforward he would work for the "service"
(State Security Police) - "even at the risk of his own life".
Amnesty International is
concerned that these statements made under threat could be used as
the basis for charging Bojan Aleksov with "espionage" and the "spreading
of false information". Such charges have been used by the FRY authorities
in a number of recent cases. Journalist Miroslav Filipovic
was sentenced under these charges to seven years imprisonment.
Amnesty International was concerned that the charges were used to
limit freedom of expression rather than in the legitimate defence
of the security of the state.
Bojan Aleksov fled Serbia
following his arrest, and now fears for his life. Shortly before
and after the arrest, three other members of the group, were interrogated
and verbally abused by the State Security Police during "informative
talks". The premises of Women in Black in Belgrade and a private
apartment where one of the group lived, were raided and searched,
and materials including papers and two computer hard-discs were confiscated.
Following these incidents,
several members of Women in Black have fled from Belgrade, fearing
arrest and prosecution or worse. Given the arrest and ill-treatment
of Bojan Aleksov, Amnesty International is extremely concerned for
the safety of members of Women in Black who remain in Serbia and for
individuals and members of other NGOs working for human rights in FRY.
Amnesty International calls
on the authorities to conduct exhaustive and impartial investigations
into the arrest and ill-treatment of Bojan Aleksov; and urges that
members of the state security police alleged to be responsible for
the ill-treatment of Bojan Aleksov should be immediately suspended
from active service until the investigations are completed. Further
they should ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations against
human rights defenders do not benefit from legal measures exempting
them from criminal prosecution or conviction.
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