Police Violence Against Migrants and Refugees in Sarajevo

The situation for migrants in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, continues to be worrisome. Following a recent case of police brutality against four migrant men, witnessed by one of Civil Rights Defender’s partner organisations, we call on the authorities to properly investigate this and similar cases.

Journalists have reported cases of violence against migrants by private security agencies. Civil Rights Defenders follows these developments, among other things through close cooperation with several local partners who engage in these issues in the country. Recently, our partner organisation Network for Peacebuilding in Bosnia and Herzegovina reported another case of police brutality against migrants.

A staff member from the Network for Peacebuilding, Maida Zagorac, witnessed a case of police brutality against four migrant men in central Sarajevo on 10 January. Walking down the street, the witness reported seeing four men walking calmly when a police vehicle stopped, and three officers stormed out of a car. The witness reports seeing the police officers pulling the four men to a parking lot nearby, where they exercised violence against them.

After the incident, the witness called the Old Town Police Department in Sarajevo and reported the violent behaviour by the police officers over the phone. According to the witness, the police officer responding to the call replied that she was lucky that police officers came since these people (ie. migrants) were breaking the law. After receiving that response, the witness claims she asked the police officer whether she would be treated similarly if she broke the law, to which the officer allegedly replied “Of course not”.

Civil Rights Defenders demands that the authorities properly investigate and prosecute this as well as other, similar cases of violence by police and private security agencies occurring in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, we call on relevant ministries and international organisations to provide safe and secure conditions for migrants and refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina, respecting their dignity and human rights.

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