Thousands protest in Belgrade as Serbia reimposes Covid-19 curfew

Elias Hubbard
July 8, 2020

Demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament with some chanting: "Resignation!"

Serbian police director Vladimir Rebic told state television that a number of demonstrators had been detained and police officers injured, but did not specify how many.

Images showed police kicking individuals and beating them with truncheons.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic expressed "concerns" over the demonstrators' treatment at the hands of police.

But he suggested the measures might be less strict than the ones Vucic announced, which included a restriction on gatherings of more than five people.

Serbia's public ombudsman, Zoran Pasalic, announced an inquiry into police actions against protesters in the July 7 clashes, including whether officers used excessive force.

The outrage was targeted at President Aleksandar Vucic, who critics accuse of inviting the second wave of infections by rapidly lifting initial lockdown measures in order to hold elections on June 21, which his party won by a landslide in a vote boycotted by the main opposition.

"It happened that people of a right-wing orientation - and no doubt at the beginning there were those who thought that they were there because of the coronavirus, and due to their understandable dissatisfaction with the possibility of tightening measures - attacked the National Assembly", Vucic told a press conference in Belgrade on Wednesday.

He said it will "probably" last from 6pm on Friday till 5am on Monday. The broadcaster is accused by the opposition of being biased towards the government.

He also demanded the release of those who were arrested during the previous night's unrest.

The protests "only benefit the enemies of Serbia and the Serbian people", he said.

"But you know, if we would have done that, we would have no chances of surviving economically and we need to live with this, and we need to take all precautionary measures but we need to keep on working, to keep on working very hard just to protect our business community and our workers", he said.

The president said he would try to make the case for the nationwide lockdown to Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.

Vucic said that over the past eight years, Serbia has fully respected freedom of assembly, demonstration, freedom of expression and opinion, and has never violated the right of its citizens.

But one day off of its highest 24-hour death toll so far in the coronavirus crisis, and like many of its neighbors, Serbia appears to be facing a worsening COVID-19 nightmare.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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