Outrage at Serbia ‘beating’ video

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Date Published: 05/22/2009
Publication: BBC News

Officials in Serbia are investigating a rehabilitation centre affiliated to the Orthodox Church where drug addicts have allegedly been filmed being beaten.

A video of one assault, published by Vreme magazine, shows a man appearing to assault a patient by hitting him with a shovel and punching his face.

One former resident said staff had offered to cure his addiction with “pleasant conversation” and beatings.

A priest running the centre, near Novi Pazar, said a “heavy hand” was needed.

“Whoever has a junkie in the house knows what I am talking about,” Archpriest Branislav Peranovic told B92 television.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has so far declined comment.

‘Martial arts’

In the video posted on Vreme’s website on Friday, a young man believed to be a patient at the Crna Reka rehabilitation centre is seen being beaten repeatedly with a shovel, and then punched and kicked in the head by two men in sports gear.

The incident takes place in a room displaying Christian icons.

The centre said the beatings, administered by former addicts, were a necessary part of the therapy for drug addiction and were carried out with the consent of patients’ parents.

A former patient said that sometimes they would be told to form a circle around a “bad one” and watch them being beaten by the priests and other staff.

“They would hit him with clubs, shovels, fists, bars, belts, whatever they got their hands on,” he told Vreme.

Archpriest Peranovic, he said, “knows how to hit – his hands are often bloody”.

“When he hits, using his arms and legs, his robe flies all over the place. He practises martial arts,” the former patient added.

After the video’s publication, doctors and psychologists warned that physical violence would not help rehabilitate or cure drug addicts.

Government human rights monitor Sasa Jankovic, who plans to file torture charges against the facility, said: “It is no therapy. It is a criminal act.”