Over the past two years, a number of violent attacks on ethnic Hungarians and other minorities have taken place in Vojvodina. Political representatives of Vojvodina Hungarians have even introduced the term atrocitet (literally atrocitide) to imply that that there has been a dramatic upsurge of ethnically motivated violence against ethnic Hungarians.128 The Serbian government, for its part, has insisted that the inter-ethnic incidents were not ethnically motivated and that the police and judiciary have responded to them adequately.129 Human Rights Watch has looked into a dozen incidents with alleged ethnic motivation, to assess the response of the government to the allegations. The report does not discuss a number of cases investigated, in which there was no conclusive evidence of ethnic motivation.130
Nonetheless, since late 2003, there have been a number of attacks on minorities in Vojvodina in which ethnic hatred appears to have been a motivation. In some instances, the victims did not report the incidents to the police.131 More often, the police did learn about the incidents and informed prosecuting authorities.
The Serbian criminal code does not contain any offenses proscribing acts of violence motivated by racial, ethnic, religious or national hatred. Nor are there aggravated forms of regular public order offenses that apply where the commission of those offenses involves such hatred. The absence of hate crime provisions in the Serbian criminal code means that unless violence against minorities contains the element of incitement, it is not possible to prosecute the offense in a way that would signal to the perpetrator, victim, and society at large that the state takes such offenses particularly seriously.
Where such cases are dealt with in the criminal justice system rather than as misdemeanors, prosecutors usually indict persons involved in offenses against ethnic minorities for violent behavior (article 220 of the Serbian Penal Code), participation in the group that commits violent acts (article 230), or damaging someone elses belonging (article 176). The law does not provide for the imposition of higher maximum sentences for offenses motivated by hatred than for the similar crimes where the underlying acts are unrelated to victims race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. It is open to judges to consider racial, ethnic, religious or national motivation when determining the prison sentence following conviction, but judges rarely do so because the law does not explicitly mention those motives in the guidelines on sentencing.132
The creation of hate crime offenses in Serbia would serve a double purpose signaling to victims, perpetrators and society as a whole that such offenses are particularly repugnant, and to courts that, where an offense involves racial, ethnic, religious or national motivation, the court has to take it into account when considering any prison sentence.
In September 2003, three Serbs beat A.S., an ethnic Hungarian in the town of Temerin, following a brawl triggered by racial insult. The Serb perpetrators acted with exceptional brutality and appeared to be motivated by ethnic hatred. A court in Temerin tried two offenders for inflicting serious bodily injuries, and the third for participating in a fight resulting in serious bodily injuries.133
On September 21, at around 11.20 p.m., T.S. and A.S., two Hungarian youths, ordered hamburgers at the bus station in the center of Temerin. A moment later, twenty-year old Branislav Djelic, a Serb, also came to order food. According to the court judgment in the case, when Djelics cell phone rang, he responded, I cant talk now, some stupid Hungarians are here. A.S. asked Djelic, Is there a problem? Djelic responded Yes there is and tried to punch A.S.. A.S. preemptively pushed Djelic against the metal fence next to the burger place. Djelic cursed A.S. and attempted to hit him.134 The judgment is silent on the content of the curse, but A.S. and T.S. claim that Djelic cursed A.S.s Hungarian mother.135 After hearing those words, A.S. threw a punch at Djelic.136
A young Serb who watched the event, called a group of Serb friends to help Djelic. When they came to the burger place, A.S. and T.S. ran away and found refuge in a café Pivarium. The two Hungarians hid in the rest room, and told the owner to call the police. Two policemen came and told the Serbs to leave. When the police left, four Serbs returned. Three of the Serbs Djelic Branislav, twenty-two year old Djelic Milan, and eighteen-year old Boris Zoric brutally beat A.S. He suffered a brain concussion and a contusion to his testicles. T.S. managed to flee to the restroom again and lock himself in, thereby avoiding injury.137
Temerin Municipal Court rendered the judgment on April 21, 2004. Branislav Djelic received a 6-month prison sentence for inflicting serious bodily injuries, his brother Milan a 7-month imprisonment for the same crime, and Boris Zoric a suspended 6-month sentence, for the period of three years, for participating in a fight resulting in serious bodily injuries.138 The judgment refers obliquely to ethnic hatred in the part listing aggravating circumstances for the purposes of sentencing; the court identified stern hostility to otherness on the part of Branislav Djelic.139
Two days after the beginning of the violent incidents targeting Albanians and Muslims in Vojvodina, two Serb youths damaged the recently opened Aurora bakery in Novi Knezevac, thirty kilometers east of Novi Sad. The owner of the bakery, A.C., is an ethnic Albanian. On March 20, around 5:40 a.m., twenty-one year old Milos Secerov and twenty-two year old Marko Jovicin entered the bakery and began making trouble. A.C., the brother of the bakery owner, told Human Rights Watch:
J., a Serb vendor in our bakery, and I were there. Secerov and Jovicin were drunk. They ordered burek [meat-pies]. J. gave them the meals, and then they began to provoke us: We want to eat with golden forks! Why dont you have golden forks? I thought, maybe they behave like that because Im an Albanian, and they will calm down if I leave. So I went to the kitchen in the back. But Secerov and Jovicin began to spit on the things in the bakery; then they used metal chairs to smash the windows and the display case. I phoned the police. The two were still breaking things when the police came.140
On March 24, 2003, the police in Novi Knezevac brought misdemeanor charges against Secerov and Jovicin, for indecent, impudent, and unscrupulous behavior (article 12 of the Serbian Public Order and Peace Act). Secerov confessed the allegations at a May 26 hearing. Marko Jovicin did not make any statement in the proceedings because the misdemeanor judge in Belgrade, where Jovicin lives, failed to respond to the May 10 request for judicial assistance by the Novi Knezevac misdemeanor judge. On November 17, 2004, a misdemeanor judge in Novi Knezevac fined Secerov and Jovicin 700 dinars (US$11) each.141
Given the strong possibility that the violence had a ethnic motivationthe assailants did not know the owner of the bakery, and the incident took place only days after a series of similar ethnically motivated attacks on Albanian businesses and the extensive damage caused, the prosecutors failure to charge them with a criminal offense may reflect a general unwillingness on the part of Serbian prosecuting authorities to take violence against minorities seriously.
The misdemeanor judge, upon receiving the police file about the case and taking statements from the witnesses, failed to refuse jurisdiction and to forward the case to the competent prosecutor for criminal prosecution.142
Djurdjevo, February 14, 2004 & April 9, 2004: Ruthenian Cultural-Artistic Society
On two occasions during 2004, young Serbs broke windows on the Ruthenian143 Cultural-Artistic Society Taras Shevchenko, in the village of Djurdjevo.144 The first incident occurred on February 14, 2004, the day of the celebration by Serbs of the 200th anniversary of the Serb uprising against the Ottoman Empire. On the evening of February 14, after the celebration in Djurdjevo had wound down, Serb youths smashed windows on two houses owned by Ruthenians, and on the Taras Shevchenko center.145
There was a second incident in the early morning hours of April 9. After the rehearsal of a Ruthenian dancing and musical group in the Taras Shevchenko center, some Ruthenian children were having a party in the center when a group of Serb youths came.146 One of the youths, eighteen-year old Aleksandar Ilic, began to break windows in the premises.147 When the police came, the intoxicated Ilic yelled that he hated Ruthenians and that he would burn them.148 The day after the incident, a misdemeanor judge in nearby Zabalj sentenced Ilic to a 5-day imprisonment, for threats against life of other persons (article 6(2) of the Public Order and Peace Act), and to an additional 5-day prison sentence for impudent and ruthless behavior (article 12(1) of the same law).149 His companions were not punished because they were only standing by during the incident.150
The municipal prosecutor has requested the opening of a criminal investigation into the April 9 incident, before the municipal court in Zabalj. The prosecutor assessed that the underlying crime was that of damaging someone elses belongings (article 176 (3) of the Serbian Penal Code).151 The racist statement made during the commission of the crime indicates that Ilics actions were motivated by ethnic hatred, at least in part.
In the March and April, 2004, the Jasmin pastry shop in the center of Djurdjevo was attacked on at least three separate occasions. One person was given a ten-day sentence for a public order misdemeanor relating to the attacks. No one was prosecuted in the criminal courts. According to the owner, E.H., a Macedonian-born ethnic Albanian, the shop has been vandalized dozens of times over the past decade.152
On the evening of March 19 or in the early hours of March 20, 2004, in the aftermath of the March 17 violence in Kosovo, two young men from Djurdjevo, Robert Szabo, an ethnic Hungarian, and Marinko Stankovic, an ethnic Serb, allegedly smashed the windows and the display case in the pastry shop.153 The alleged perpetrators, who were facing misdemeanor proceedings for other offenses committed during the same month, fled Serbia and Montenegro a few weeks after these events.154 On March 29, at around 1 a.m., another person harassed E.H.. Referring to the March 29 incident, E.H. told Human Rights Watch:
This guy was 21 years old, and I know that his last name is Savic. He came to my store with Szabo and Stankovic, asked that I raise three fingers [a traditional Serb salute] and cursed my Albanian mother. I used cell-phone to call the police in Zabalj, five kilometers from here. The police told me that they could not come, because they were facing gasoline restrictions. They said that I pass them the guy, and they told him on the cell phone that he should leave. But he stayed. So I called the police again. This time they came and arrested him. The next day, I came to the misdemeanor judges office in Zabalj to testify. The judge was a male Hungarian. The proceeding was for the insults Savic uttered. He claimed that I was cursing his Serbian mother the previous night. The two youths, who damaged my shop ten days earlier, told the misdemeanor judge that they could not remember what Savic said, because they were too drunk. So the judge released him.155
On March 31, 2004, the misdemeanor judge in Zabalj found twenty-three year old Dalibor Savic guilty of threats against life, insults and use of violence (article 6, paragraphs 2-3, of the Public Order and Peace Act), and sentenced him to a ten-day imprisonment. The decision confirms that on March 29 Savic spoke an ethnic obscenity to E.H. and threatened to slaughter him.156
Buildings belonging to the Adventist Church are the most frequently targeted religious sites in Serbia. Between January and June 2005, church representatives registered eight incidents, in various locations, in which the perpetrators painted threatening messages or broke church windows.157 In most cases, the attackers have not been identified.
In one case, an Adventist priest was attacked. On May 3, 2004, after the evening service at the Adventist Church in Novi Sad, three intoxicated students harassed the priests and worshippers. Around 9 p.m., twenty-year old student Rade Tomanovic arrived by taxi to the neighborhood, purportedly to visit his friend who lives nearby. Tomanovic saw worshippers leaving the service, and asked them whether they were a sect. One woman testified in the later misdemeanor proceedings how she tried to explain to Tomanovic that the Adventists were not a sect.158 As Tomanovic spoke with loud voice, a senior priest who passed by told him to lower his voice.159 Tomanovic then got angry and grabbed the priest, Ljubisa Stajic, by the throat.160 According to the priest, Tomanovic insulted him and a group of worshippers, We should chase away you sectarians and burn and break all this!161 Other persons on the site demanded that Tomanovic leave, and somebody in the group pushed him. Tomanovic fell and banged his head against the wall.162 He stepped out to the yard, only to come back a moment later with two friendsDrazen Knezevic and Rade Karadzic, both twenty-years old. Both men were drunk. All three insulted and threatened the worshippers.163 The police arrived soon after and arrested the offenders.
Misdemeanor proceedings were brought against Tomanovic and his friends the following day. Tomanovic was sentenced to seven days imprisonment, for disruption of public order and peace by means of insulting or abusing other persons, using violence, provoking brawl or participating therein (article 6(3) of Public Order and Peace Act).164 Knezevic and Karadzic were ordered to pay 1,000 dinars each (U.S. $17) the maximum fine prescribed by the law for this misdemeanor.165
According to a Serbian police report submitted to the U.S. Congress by the Serbian government, seventeen-year old S.P. and seventeen-year old K.K. were attacked on June 6, 2004 by a group of young men in Becej.166 According to police report, the intoxicated attackers used ethnic slurs against Hungarians both before and during their attack on S.P. and K.K.167 Police found the perpetrators, and brought criminal charges against eighteen-year old Radovan Popovic, nineteen-year old Dragan Radivojevic, as well as misdemeanor charges against a fifteen-year old.
S.P. and K.K. told Human Rights Watch that they were attacked some time after midnight, on their way home to the nearby town of Novi Becej. They were discussing whether they should return to a gathering of motorcycle riders in Becej, which they attended earlier that evening. K.K., who is from a mixed Serb-Hungarian family but attends a Hungarian-language school, explained what happened next:
A group of young people was standing just next to the road. They must have heard us speaking in Hungarian, because we were riding our bicycles slowly and we were talking loudly. One of them said Hey, Hungarians, wait! We did not stop. We had never seen those guys before. One of them then ran in our direction and said Wait, do you have a watch? What time is it? Before I was able to respond, he kicked S.[P.] and S. fell. I managed to run away, some fifty meters from there. I looked back and saw how three or four guys were beating S. There was a man there who was taking water from a well, and I asked for his help. The man then started walking toward the assailants. They let S. go.168
S.P. stated during the investigation that the attackers repeatedly uttered ethnic slurs, including: Fuck your Hungarian mother!; What are you doing here? and; Go home!, during the beating.169 He could not see how many people attacked him, because he was busy trying to protect his head. As a result of the beating, he sustained serious bruises on his face and other injuries.170
The municipal prosecutor in Becej charged Dragan Radivojevic with the crime of violent behavior (article 220 of the Serbian Penal Code). On December 8, 2004, the municipal court in Becej gave Radivojevic a suspended one-year prison sentence, which he will not have to serve unless he commits another offense in the next two years.171 One of the defendants, who was a minor at the time of the incident, was tried on the same charges on December 23, 2004. The court ordered the minor, who is fatherless, to be placed under intensified supervision by the guardianship agency.172 The Basic Penal Code provides this correctional measure as a sanction against law-breaking minors.
The presiding judge in the case against Dragan Radivojevic told Human Rights Watch that the two-year time period in which Radivojevic has to abstain from committing crimes in order to avoid serving the prison sentence is an exceptionally harsh requirement given that the defendant had no criminal record (he had, however, been subject to misdemeanor proceedings). According to the judge: I nevertheless decided [the sentence] in that way, because it seemed to me that Radivojevic acted out of nationalistic motives.173 The fact that the judge regarded the suspended sentence as an exceptionally harsh one underscores the need for a perception shift among the judiciary about the seriousness of hate crimes offenses.
 For example, in a statement of July 10, 2004, the leading political party of Vojvodina Hungarians, the party of Vojvodina Hungarians, demanded that atrociteti against the Hungarians be immediately stopped and prevented. Stranka ipak odlučila internacionalizacija ( The Party Finally Decided Internalization), Dnevnik (Novi Sad) , July 11, 2004 [online],
http://www.dnevnik.co.yu/arhiva/11-07-2004/Strane/vesti.htm (retrieved January 31, 2005).
 For example, the minister for human rights in the Council of Ministers of Serbia and Montenegro, Rasim Ljajic, was often quoted during 2004 claiming that the competent agencies were initiating proceedings against the perpetrators of ethnically motivated offenses, disregarding the fact that the charges usually pertained to misdemeanors and less serious crimes. See, D. Milivojevic, Nijedna manjina u Srbiji nije ugroena ( No Minority In Serbia Is In Danger), Dnevnik (Novi Sad), June 30, 2004 [online], http://www.dnevnik.co.yu/arhiva/30-06-2004/Strane/politika.htm (retrievd January 31, 2005); see also Zeljka Jevtic, Jozef Kasa: Napada na Madjare je sve vise (Jozef Kasa: Ever More Attacks on Hungarians), Blic (Belgrade), August 27, 2004 [online], http://www.blic.co.yu (retrieved January 30, 2005). Inspector General of the Serbian Ministry of Interior, Vladimir Bozovic, stated in September 2004 that the number of incidents did not point at any intensification of conflicts with elements of ethnic, racial, or national hatred, discord, or intolerance. See O etnickim incidentima u Vojvodini (On Ethnic Incidents in Vojvodina), B92 web site, September 1, 2004 [online], http://www.b92.net/info/vesti/tema.php?lang=srpski&yyyy=2004&mm=09&nav_id=150003 (retrieved January 31, 2005).
 Some of the most prominent cases not included in this report are: the case of the Setet family from Subotica, who fled to Hungary in September 2004 and received political asylum there; the beating of a dozen of Hungarian youth at a party in Novi Knezevac (May 30, 2004); the beating of a group of young Hungarians at a party in Prozivka neighbourhood in Subotica (July 3, 2004); a car-chase targeting Marton Ziga, his brother and a friend, between Backi Vinogradi and Subotica (August 13, 2004); the beating of Zoltan Csanyi in Novi Becej (December 28, 2003); and, the beating of Tihomir Lavro in Subotica (March 18, 2004).
 On the night of May 21/22, 2004, for example, a group of Serbs attacked two ethnic Hungarians and Hungarian-speaking Croat, aged 19 and 20, on the main square in Subotica. One of the victims described the incident in the following way: I was with my two friends around the table in the front of the café Neptun. It was around 1:30 a.m., the café had already closed. A group of six to eight boys, of our age or younger, passed by our table and walked towards the café. I think they heard us speaking in Hungarian. They returned a moment later, and began to push each other. I wasnt sure whether they were joking or it was serious, and I couldnt tell whether they were drunk or not. We grew apprehensive and left the place. We made it less than a hundred meters, when we realized they were going after us. They yelled Wait! and Stop! repeatedly, and I also heard Fuck you Hungarian mothers! once. They reached us in front of McDonalds, which is maybe 150 meters away from Neptun. One of them slapped me, and others hit my friends. It didnt last long, maybe a dozen seconds. (Human Rights Watch interview, December 17, 2004.) The three did not report the incident to the police, because what happened was not that important.
 Basic Penal Code, article 41 (The court shall determine a sentence to the perpetrator of a criminal offense within the limits prescribed by the law for that offense, taking into consideration the purpose of the punishment and all circumstances in favor of a higher of lower sentence (mitigating and aggravating circumstances), and in particular: motives out of which the offense was committed .)
 Inflicting serious physical injury is punishable under article 53 of the Serbian Penal Code. Article 55 addresses participation in a fight resulting in a loss of life or in a serious physical injury.
 Municipal court in Temerin, Judgment No. K.49/03, January 21, 2004.
 Official note by the Secretariat of Internal Affairs in Temerin, September 22, 2003 (statement by T.S.) (on file with Human Rights Watch); official note by the Secretariat of Internal Affairs in Temerin, September 25, 2009 (statement by A.S.) (on file with Human Rights Watch).
 Municipal court in Temerin, Judgment No. K.49/03, January 21, 2004.
 Six-month imprisonment is a minimum sentence for violation of article 53. Nevertheless, the presiding judge in the case told Human Rights Watch that the sentences he gave to Branislav and Milan Djelic are harsh above average: Most other judges would give them suspended sentences, because they are young and do not have criminal records. The problem is that sentencing policies of the courts are generally too lenient. Human Rights Watch interview with Goran Rodic, president of Temerin Municipal Court, January 26, 2005.
 Municipal court in Temerin, Judgment No. K.49/03, January 21, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with A.C., Novi Knezevac, December 17, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Aziz Isakovic, misdemeanor judge, Novi Knezevac, December 22, 2004.
 The misdemeanor judge in Novi Knezevac explained the failure by the fact that Secerov and Jovicin did not make any racial slurs during the incident. Human Rights Watch interview with Aziz Isakovic, misdemeanor judge, Novi Knezevac, December 22, 2004. However, making ethnic slurs is clearly not the only possible evidence indicating ethnic motivation behind criminal conduct.
 Ruthenians are a Slavic people. The community originates from the Western part of todays Ukraine. Most Ruthenians are Christians who consider the Pope to be the head of their church, but who celebrate the Orthodox rather than the Roman Catholic liturgy.
 Ruthenians make 1,300-1,500, out of about 5,000 Djurdjevo inhabitants. Human Rights Watch interview with Miroslav Cakan, former president of the local community [mesna zajednica], now director of the Ruthenian Cultural Home Taras Shevchenko, Djurdjevo, July 21, 2004; Human Rights Watch interview with Bogdan Vislavski, member of the Administrative Council of the Ruthenian Cultural Home Taras Shevchenko, Novi Sad, January 18, 2005.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Miroslav Cakan, former president of the local community [mesna zajednica], now director of the Ruthenian Cultural Home, Djurdjevo, July 21, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Svetlana Orlovic-Crveni, misdemeanor judge in Zabalj, January 19, 2005. Judge Orlovic-Crveni tried the case in April 2004.
 Decision by Zabalj Agency for Misdemeanors, administrative number 315/04, April 9, 2004.
 Ibid. The police established that the percentage of alcohol in Ilics blood was 0.239 percent. Toxicologists in the former Yugoslavia consider that an average person is drunk when the percentage of alcohol in blood exceeds 0.15 percent, and heavily drunk when it exceeds 0.25 percent.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Miroslav Cakan.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Zoran Pavlovic, Novi Sad District Public Prosecutor, Novi Sad, January 25, 2005. The district prosecutor in Novi Sad is in the position of seniority to the municipal prosecutor who opened the investigation before the Zabalj municipal court.
 Human Rights Watch interview with E.H., Djurdjevo, July 21, 2004.
 Ibid. A misdemeanor judge in Zabalj, the municipal center, confirmed to Human Rights Watch in January that the two individuals had not responded to a summons to attend misdemeanor proceedings for another offense they are alleged to have committed in March 2004. Human Rights Watch interview with Zoltan Takaric, misdemeanor judge, Zabalj, January 19, 2005.
Human Rights Watch interview with E.H., Djurdjevo, July 21, 2004.
 Zabalj Agency for Misdemeanors, Decision No. 296/04, March 31, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Miodrag Zivanovic, president of the Main Board of the Adventist Church in Serbia, Belgrade, June 2, 2005.
 Novi Sad Agency for Misdemeanors, Decision no. 07-6-145/04, May 4, 2004 (testimony by witness D.S.).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Kamenko Kozarski, misdemeanor judge in Novi Sad, Novi Sad, January 19, 2005. Mr. Kozarski rendered the decision against Tomanovic and his friends in the misdemeanor proceedings held on May 4, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ljubisa Stajic, July 19, 2004.
 Ibid. Stajic made the same claim in the May 4, 2004 misdemeanor proceedings against Tomanovic, Knezevic and Karadzic. Human Rights Watch interview with Kamenko Kozarski, misdemeanor judge in Novi Sad, Novi Sad, January 19, 2005.
 Novi Sad Agency for Misdemeanors, Decision no. 07-6-145/04, May 4, 2004 (testimony by witness Z.P.).
 A. Vidanovic & S.V. Popovic, Psovali i maltretirali vernike i svestenike (Cursed and Mistreated Worshipers and Priests), Dnevnik (Novi Sad), May 5, 2004 (account by Vencel Sili, president of the Adventist Church in Novi Sad).
Novi Sad Agency for Misdemeanors, Decision no. 07-6-145/04, May 4, 2004.
 The report was submitted by the Serbian Ambassador to the United States to the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus in July 2004.
 Report submitted by ambassador of Serbia-Montenegro before Congressional Human Rights Caucus, on July 14, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with K.K., Novi Becej, December 21, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Stevan Pavlov, judge in Becej Municipal Court, Becej, December 23, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with S.P., Novi Becej, December 21, 2004; Municipal Court in Becej, Judgment No. К 213/04, December 8, 2004.
 Municipal Court in Becej, Judgment No. К 213/04, December 8, 2004.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Stevan Pavlov, judge in Becej Municipal Court, Becej, December 23, 2004.