Ministry of Interior
Ministarstvo Unutrasnjih Poslova
The Ministry of Interior conducts the State administration of the Internal Affairs. In the Republic of Serbia, Ministries conduct the State administration that is stipulated by laws and regulations. The Ministries enforce laws, regulations and general acts of the National Assembly and the Government as well as the general acts of the President.
The Ministry of Interior of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was established in 1918 as the supreme authority and control power with the Department of State Security, Department of Public Security, Administration Department and the Department of Self-management. The Department of Public Security dealt with the safeguard of lives and property, crime prevention, traffic control, gendarmerie, advanced training and disciplinary control of police work. On 13 May 1944 the decision was made on establishing the Department for protection of people (ONZ), the day that is celebrated as the Serbian police holiday.
Prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the State Security Service (an intelligence and secret police organization) monitored émigrés and domestic dissidents. The People's Militia troops (15,000) used to quell domestic disorders beyond control of regular police. And the Militia (regular police, 40,000) were used for routine law enforcement. The federal secretariat also controlled 15,000 troops in border guard units. In coastal areas, the border guards operated sixteen patrol boats in 1990.
The secretariats for internal affairs in the republics and autonomous provinces controlled the militia (regular police) forces in their territory. In 1990, there were an estimated 40,000 professional law enforcement officers. They were responsible for maintaining government communications, issuing travel documents to citizens, and registering foreign residents. The average militia officer was male, twenty-two years of age, and had completed his secondary education in special schools operated by the federal secretariat for internal affairs. Select militia officers were later sent for a university education.
The militia were organized into stations and substations in larger cities. They were involved in routine law enforcement as well as more sensitive cases involving ethnic groups. Cases ranged from physical attacks and harassment to homicide. In Pristina, site of a major university and a center of Albanian ethnic dissidence, every confrontation with authority had the potential to erupt into large disturbances between ethnic communities. In 1990, that city had seven militia stations and four substations, serving a population of 400,000.
With the proclamation of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia in 1990, adjustments were made sphere of internal affairs and the new structure of today's organization of the Ministry of Interior was established. Serbia is a republic with a large number of police forces. As of 1995, the Serbian police had some 80,000 regular members and many more if the reserves are raised. In 1996, it was estimated that the heavily armed police force consisted of over 100,000 members responsible for internal security. And in 1997, it was reported that there were some 48,000 policemen in uniform, and that there were between 60,000 to 100,000 MUP members, although the latter number was regarded as probably exaggerated. According to daily newspapers, Serbia's MUP costs $6 billion, which is a large sum, since the Yugoslav Army budget is only $1 billion. The police were better supplied and paid than the Yugoslav Army, and were equipped with 150 armored personnel carriers and infantry combat vehicles and 170 mortars.
The total number of police deployed to Kosovo and Metohija was guarded as a state secret. Sources say that some 12,000 uniformed police were stationed in Kosovo, and according to some claims, another 10,000 plain-clothes policemen should be added to this number, as well as state security members. This figure constantly varied as reinforcements were regularly sent to Kosovo, so that it could be estimated that the police strength in Kosovo stood at some 30,000 to 40,000. Keeping such a large number of policemen in Kosovo represented a substantial item in the MUP's budget and, according to some estimates it equaled the total budget for the entire Belgrade police force.
The Federal Criminal Code of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia still remains in force. Considerable confusion and room for abuse remain in the legal system because the 1990 Constitution of Serbia has not yet been brought into conformity with the 1992 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Federal law gives republic ministries of the interior sole control over the decision to monitor potential criminal activities, a power that is routinely abused. It is widely believed that authorities monitor opposition and dissident activity, eavesdrop on conversations, read mail, and wiretap telephones. Although illegal under provisions of Federal and Serbian law, the Federal post office registers all mail from abroad, ostensibly to protect mail carriers from charges of theft.
The execution of duties in the Ministry of Interior is uniformly organized on the territory of the Republic of Serbia. The Headquarter of the Ministry is in Belgrade and in accordance with the territorial division, the duties and the assignments in the field of work of the Ministry are also executed in district units - Secretariats in: Belgrade, Kragujevac, Jagodina, Nis, Pirot, Prokuplje, Leskovac, Vranje, Zajecar, Bor, Smederevo, Pozarevcac, Valjevo, Sabac, Kraljevo, Krusevac, Cacak, Novi Pazar, Uzice, Novi Sad, Sombor, Subotica, Zrenjanin, Kikinda, Pancevo, Sremska Mitrovica, Pristina, Kosovska Miotrovica, Pec, Prizren, Urosevac, Gnjilane, Djakovica.
The Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia carries out tasks of the State Administration that are related to:
- protection of the Republic of Serbia and detection of subversive and destructive activities against the constitutional order;
- protection of lives, personal and property security;
- prevention and detection of criminal acts and discovery and seizer of perpetrators and bringing charges against them;
- maintaining law and order;
- protection of meetings and other gatherings of citizens;
- protection of certain persons and objects;
- traffic security and security of roads;
- border crossing control;
- control of movements and stay at the border;
- control of movements and stay of aliens;
- acquisition, holding and carrying of weapons and ammunition;
- Production and distribution of explosive materials, inflammable liquids and gasses;
- Fire protection;
- Unified registration number of citizens;
- Identity cards;
- Travelers documents;
- Residence and stay of citizens;
- Training of staff as well as other tasks defined by the law.
Federal statutes permit police to detain criminal suspects without a warrant and hold them incommunicado for up to 3 days without charging them or granting them access to an attorney. Serbian law separately provides for a 24-hour detention period. Police often combine the two for a total 4-day detention period. After this period, police must turn a suspect over to an investigative judge, who may order a 30-day extension and, under certain legal procedures, subsequent extensions of investigative detention up to 6 months. In Kosovo, police often beat people without ever officially charging them and routinely held suspects well beyond the 3-day statutory period. Police also used threats and violence against family members of suspects and have held them as hostages. According to Albanian and foreign observers, the worst abuses against ethnic Albanians tooke place not in big towns but in rural enclaves. Ethnic Albanians suffered at the hands of security forces conducting searches for weapons and explosives. Torture and other cruel forms of punishment, which are prohibited by law, were a problem, particularly in Kosovo directed against ethnic Albanians. Police routinely beat people severely when holding them in detention. The police, without following proper legal procedures, frequently extract "confessions" during interrogations that routinely included the beating of suspects' feet, hands, genital areas, and sometimes heads. The police used their fists, nightsticks, and occasionally electric shocks. Apparently confident that there would be no reprisals, and, in an attempt to intimidate the wider community, police often beat persons in front of their families.
In January 1997, a new citizenship law entered into force, which, when fully implemented, would have been expected to affect adversely the rights of many inhabitants, including those born in other parts of the former Yugoslavia, refugees, and citizens who had migrated to other countries to work or seek asylum. The new law gave the Ministry of Interior almost complete control over the granting of citizenship. The Government served notice that it planned to limit severely the granting of citizenship to refugees from the conflicts in Bosnia and Croatia.
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