The police violence in Kruscica investigated by the ombudsmen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, non-governmental organizations call for the attention of international bodies

3. 9. 2017 - PRAGUE/BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

The violent procedure of the special police units directed towards the villagers protesting against the construction of the hydropower plant on the Kruscica river near the same name drawn by the public advocates. The Ombudsman Institution of Human Rights will investigate the circumstances of the raid against about 40 villagers, most of them women, who had to be hospitalized. Non-governmental organizations call an EU special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the OSCE mission and the UN representative for their attention.

“At least 27 women and two men need to receive emergency medical services and even one pregnant woman was struck down,” Viktor Bjelic, Speaker of the Coalition for Rivers Protection in Bosnia and Herzegovina, describes the scene of the police arresting the peaceful crowd.

The incident took place on Thursday, August 24 around 5 o'clock in the morning in Kruscica village, when the police decided to disperse the gathering of local residents. They were camping at the river bank for one month already due to the construction of a controversial hydropower plant. Although it received all the necessary permits, locals object that their comments were not taken into account and the project will affect the local community, for example, by seizing the drinking water.

EU and UN addressed

“We are convinced that there was no legal reason for the police to apply force against peaceful protesters. The state authorities were aware of the residents demonstrating at the river bank for a month. They had enough time to make negotiations and attempts to resolve the conflict in a nonviolent way,” Arnika says.

Arnika and the Center for Environment, the local organization cooperating in the Coalition for Rivers Protection, jointly addressed the international institutions active in the country-- the EU special representative, the OSCE Mission, and the UN representative. The letter aims to facilitate the case and pursue negotiation with the state authorities to prevent it.

Based on allegations reported by the media, based on the evidence given by the eyewitnesses, the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina also opened an ex officio investigation in order to examine all the circumstances of this case. In this respect, the Ombudsman will also review the procedure for obtaining permits for mini hydropower plants from the point of view of environmental protection and the interest of the local population. There is a suspicion that the police officers' actions may have violated the laws and conduct police officers are held to. 

In reaction to a police violent intervention, more than 100 locals have gathered on the spot of Thursday's incident the very next day and have been protesting ever since. Meanwhile, the construction of the hydropower plant has started. 


Remarks for editors

POLICE ACTION AGAINST THE PROTESTERS AT KRUSCICA
The local residents believed they have exhausted their administrative rights, the municipal and cantonal authorities ignored their comments and the decision was taken in the interests of the local community. Since August 2nd, hundreds of people were peacefully blocking and bridge in Kruscica in order to prevent entry to the riverbed and thus make it impossible to start the hydro power plant construction. At the same time, the protesters allowed private cars and other traffic not related to construction to pass. In early morning, on August 24th - twenty-second day of protest - police brutally attacked the group of 40 people, mostly women, being at the moment. The protesters have not provoked nor resisted the police but they have been forcibly removed in order to allow access to the bridge for construction equipment to pass. During the intervention of police officers insulted women, referred to impression comments with sexual connotations, pulled clothes and traditional head scarves. After the police action, at least 27 women and two men had to receive emergency medical services due to injuries, mostly bruising and contusions. They have a medical service in the hospital of Vitez, where they were rebuilt and traveled 15 km to the town of Travnik. They asked for the medical service for proof of injuries and were prepared to pay the obligatory fee of 50 BAM. However, the medical service refused to issue the proof of injuries.

DETAILS ON KRUSCICA CASE:  http://english.arnika.org/bosnia-and-herzegovina/hot-spots/kruscica

OMBUDSPERSONS OPENED AN EX OFFICIO INVESTIGATION (Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, press statement dated 25. 08. 2017)
Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina Related to the events that took place in Kruscica nearby 23/24 August, when allegations reported by the media based on the eye-witnesses Units of the Ministry of Interior of Central Bosnia Canton hurt more women who placed blockades on the road intending to prevent the construction of a mini hydropower plant in the mentioned place. Ombudspersons of Bosnia and Herzegovina opened an ex officio investigation in order to examine all the circumstances of this case. In this respect, the Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina will also review the procedure for obtaining permits for mini-hydropower plants from the point of view of environmental protection and the interest of the local population. Pursuant to Law on Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Rules of Procedure, Ombudspersons will conduct investigations and take measures in accordance with their competences in case that any violations of human rights are established.

Original text:
English language:  http://www.ombudsmen.gov.ba/Novost.aspx?newsid=779&lang=EN

Official languages ​​of B&H:  http://www.ombudsmen.gov.ba/Novost.aspx?newsid= 779 & lang = BS

NOTHING UNUSUAL, SAYS THE POLICE
The Ministry of Interior of Central Bosnian Canton claims that the raid was a planned action to clear the road since the protestors blocked the traffic. A fact rejected by the activists, saying they only hampered the trucks and excavators heading for the riverbed of the Kruscica river for starting a construction of a hydropower plant there.The Police also denied all the allegations regarding any baseless violence as well as any caused harm. “The police restrained the protesters without using any inadequate force and drove them to the station in Vitez,” the official released statement alleges and even further claims that “no injuries were caused by the police members during the whole intervention.”

Source: Ministry of Interior of Central Bosnia Canton, press statement (in official languages of B&H): https://www.mupsbk-ksb.gov.ba/index.php/informacija/1099-deblokada-javnog-puta-u-kruscici

ENSURING THE INVESTIGATION
Non-governmental organizations addressed the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Czech Republic based Arnika and the Center for the Environment has appealed the Special Representative Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, OSCE, UN to watch closely the case and support non-violent solution of existing conflicts resulting from week access to environmental information and low involvement of the citizens in decision processes by the public authorities in the country.

Full text of an open letter to EU, OSCE and UN representatives: http://english.arnika.org/news/open-letter-to-eu-osce-and-un-representatives-regarding-the-police-violence-in-kruscica

DETAILS ON “SAVE THE RIVERS” CAMPAIGN: http://english.arnika.org/news/the-coalition-for-river-protection-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina-is-starting-the-campaign-against-hydropower-plants

LAW ON POLICE OFFICERS OF CENTRAL BOSNIAN CANTON (excerpts, non-official translation)

Article 27 (Conditions for the Use of Force)
(1) A police officer may use force only when absolutely necessary and only to the extent necessary to achieve a legitimate aim.
(2) Unless otherwise provided by this law, means of coercion, such as physical force, including martial arts, rods, binding agents, devices for the forcible arrest of persons or vehicles, chemical agents, firearms, official dogs, water cannons, special vehicles, special types of weapons and explosive devices, can be used when necessary to protect human lives, refuse attacks, overcome resistance, and prevent escape.
(3) Before using any means of coercion, a police officer will give a warning, unless this could jeopardize the security of a police officer or other person or would be manifestly inappropriate or meaningless in the circumstances;
(4) Detailed regulations on the use of force shall be made by the minister at the proposal of the police commissioner.

Article 28 (Exemption from the use of certain means of coercion)
(1) Physical force and family are not used for children, elderly and disabled persons, including those who are seriously ill, or who are obviously pregnant, unless these persons directly endanger the life of a police officer, his life or the life of other people.
(2) Firearms and special weapons may not be used for the purpose of preventing escape from persons, unless it is the only means of defense against direct attack or danger.
(3) Explosive devices can not be used to prevent escape of a person.