EXTERNAL AI Index: EUR 64/10/96
EXTRA 78/96 Ill-treatment / Health concern /
Conscientious Objection 23 May 1996
CROATIANikša Violi_, aged 20
Nikša Violi_, who was allegedly severely beaten by military police in Split
on 16 and 17 May 1996, is reportedly now in the Firula hospital in Split.
Amnesty International fears that the army may be putting pressure on the hospital
to allow his discharge and return to military police custody where he could
face further ill-treatment.
Nikša Violi_, who is a Jehovah's Witness, received call-up papers for the
Croatian Army on 14 May telling him to report for duty at the barracks in Sinj
the next day. He reported to the base but refused to carry arms because of
his religious convictions. He was detained by military police of the 72nd
Battalion and taken to the Lora military compound in Split. On 16 and 17 May
he was allegedly beaten so severely by military police officers that on 18
May he was transferred to Firula hospital, reportedly in a coma.
Also on 18 May, the local newspaper, Slobodna Dalmacija, reported that he had
been charged with "refusing to accept and use arms" and that an early trial
had been scheduled. Nikša Violi_ is now conscious and is allegedly under
pressure to sign certain documents by the army. Amnesty International is
concerned that if true, this may prejudice his chances of defending himself
at his reported forthcoming trial. If he is imprisoned as a result of his
conscientious objections to performing military service, Amnesty International
will consider him to be a prisoner of conscience.
Military service is compulsory in Croatia for all men aged between 16 and 60
years. The normal period of military service is 10 months, although the armed
conflict in the country has meant that many men have been called up from the
reserves to go on active duty. There is alternative military service for those
who object on conscientious grounds, although this is not purely civilian in
character and does not conform fully with international standards such as those
set out by the Council of Europe.
In practice there are difficulties even for those who wish to perform the
alternative service because recruits who submit requests to perform the
alternative service can be called up while their requests are being considered.
"Refusing to accept and use arms" in military service in Croatia carries a
penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment under the Croatian criminal code.
Military police in the Lora compound in Split have in the past been responsible
for serious beatings of detainees. In 1992 at least three men died as a result
of such beatings at the base. More recently, military police have participated
in the ill-treatment of civilians in the course of evictions from apartments
owned by the Ministry of Defence in Dalmatia.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English, French, German, Italian or your own language:
- expressing concern about reports that Nikša Violi_ was severely beaten by
military police at the Lora base in Split on or around 16 May 1996;