Bosnia Must Probe Police Violence, HRW Says

Human Rights Watch on February 21 said the authorities in Bosnia should investigate the excessive use of force by police during the protests in the country, as well as attacks on journalists.

The rights organization said it had documented 19 cases of excessive force used by police against protesters, bystanders and journalists during the demonstrations, and against protesters in detention. Five cases were in Tuzla and the rest were in Sarajevo.

“It’s completely unacceptable that members of the police used excessive force on the streets and in detention against peaceful demonstrators, including women and children,” Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

Protests started in Tuzla in February 5, involving workers of several large companies that had been closed following privatization. The rallies then spread to several other towns and cities, mostly in Bosnia's mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation entity.

The protests escalated on February 7 when mobs attacked buildings of cantonal governments and other institutions in Tuzla, Zenica, Sarajevo and Mostar.

As protesters clashed with the police, several hundred were injured and dozens were arrested, some of whom under 18 years of age.

In more than 10 towns, people then formed plenums to discuss their core demands and present them to their respective authorities, as peaceful protests continued on a smaller scale.

“It’s vital for Bosnia’s future for it to respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” Gall said. “That means holding police officers and others who violate those rights to account.”

Some victims of police violence told HRW that police in Tuzla and Sarajevo beat them...

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