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Political Prisoner Beaten and Denied Medical Care in Serbia
(October 5, 1999, New York)A political prisoner in Serbia faces serious health problems following a beating by Serbian police, Human Rights Watch reported today. The prisoner, Bogoljub Arsenijevic, 44, has been denied proper medical care despite internal bleeding, an injured ear and right arm due to excessive force used by the police.

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"This case deserves an immediate investigation by the proper authorities so that the responsible police can be held accountable. Until then, Mr. Arsenijevic needs immediate medical attention."

Holly Cartner, Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division

In an October 4 letter from Mr. Arsenijevic obtained by Human Rights Watch, the prisoner complained of serious medical ailments due to the beating that was inflicted during his arrest on August 17. According to Arsenijevic's family, who recently visited him in prison, Arsenijevic has had blood in his urine for the past two weeks, and the problem has worsened in the past three days.

"This case deserves an immediate investigation by the proper authorities so that the responsible police can be held accountable," said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia Division. "Until then, Mr. Arsenijevic needs immediate medical attention."

Arsenijevic is a painter of religious icons who helped organize an anti-government rally of approximately 15,000 people in the city of Valjevo on July 12. After the demonstration, several thousand demonstrators walked toward the municipal assembly, controlled by the Socialist Party of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, where they clashed with the police. Several civilians and three policemen were injured, and some parts of the municipal assembly were damaged.

After the rally, Arsenijevic went into hiding for one month. On August 17, he was arrested while leaving the Belgrade office of the Movement for Democratic Serbia, a newly founded opposition party led by former Chief of the Yugoslav Army General Staff Momcilo Perisic. During the arrest, four policemen in plain clothes seriously beat Arsenijevic with their gun butts, breaking his lower jaw and dislocating a shoulder.

At his first appearance before the investigating judge on August 19, Arsenijevic was unable to provide a statement due to severe pain in his jaw. A doctor recommended that Arsenijevic be transferred immediately to a Belgrade hospital for surgery, but an operation was not performed until August 25. On September 17, he was indicted for disturbing the work of a policeman in the functioning of his duties under Article 23 of the Serbian Law on Public Order and Peace. Today, seven weeks after the attack, he was transferred to the main prison hospital in Belgrade.

On October 4, four of Arsenijevic's friends and relatives who protested the ruling and Arsenijevic's treatment in front of the Valjevo court were also arrested by the police. One of the arrested told Human Rights Watch that an inspector at the police station named Sava Lazic threatened to kill the detainees. The four were released five hours later.

Human Rights Watch urged the competent Yugoslav authorities to provide Arsenijevic with immediate medical care. The international monitoring organization expressed alarm at the apparent lack of initiative by the police and judicial organs in Serbia to investigate and punish those responsible for Arsenijevic's beating.

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