BELGRADE (Reuters) – The Serbian Orthodox Church has dismissed a priest running a treatment center for drug addicts after videos showed patients being kicked and punched.
Bishop Artemije, in charge of the Rasko-Prizrenska diocese, said he ordered an inquiry into the activities of priest Branislav Peranovic at the Crna Reka center, about 300 kilometers (187 miles) southwest of the capital Belgrade.
"We will shut down the facility if the reports about beatings and violence persist," Artemije said in a statement.
The bishop said he decided against closing it "after numerous pleadings by the patients and their parents."
"We are also asking state authorities to investigate the matter and punish those responsible," the statement said.
Last week, the, the church's top body, asked Artemije to shut down the center that houses about 200 patients near the southwestern city of .
Two separate videos made public by Belgrade's Vreme weekly and B92 TV showed one of the centre's employees and Peranovic repeatedly beating patients with a shovel, and kicking and hitting them inside a room decorated with icons.
The government's human rights watchdog Sasa Jankovic has filed criminal charges against the center and Peranovic.
This week Serbian health authorities said the Crna Reka center was not registered to undertake drug rehabilitation.
Peranovic told B92 TV the beatings were a "hard and unwanted, but necessary part of treatment."
He said that on admission, patients and their parents had to sign a written consent approving the use of violence "for therapeutic purposes."
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Robert Woodward)
An institution tied to the Serbian Orthodox Church will be sued for torture after shocking footage of addicts’ rehabilitation was released.
The ‘Crna Reka’ Centre for Spiritual Rehabilitation of Addicts in Serbia has become the focus of controversy after the ‘Vreme’ magazine on Friday published footage on which two men are brutally punching a drug addict in the face as part of his “rehabilitation”.
The footage also shows the addict being beaten with a shovel.
"WARNING--VIDEO IS VERY DISTURBING!"
LINK TO VIDEO:
The institution is connected to the Serb Orthodox Church and one of the priests, who is well acquainted with the ‘torture system’, claims that drastic measures need to be taken to rehabilitate drug addicts.
- Everybody who is an addict knows what I’m talking about – priest Branislav Peranovic told the B92 television station.
According to an article by the BBC which reported on this and contacted the Centre, the institution’s management believes that the brutal beating up of drug addicts is a crucial and necessary part of their therapy, stressing that this all takes place with the consent of the parents.
Sasa Jankovic, a human rights monitor in the Serbian government, told the BBC that the Centre’s usual procedure is to surround the addict who is then hit by anything at hand.
- They hit with bats, shovels, pipes, fists, brass knuckles, belts… anything they can get their hands on – Jankovic said who claims that the priest, Peranovic, is especially skilful with the therapy.
- He knows how to hit, his hands are often bloody. When he punches or kicks, his garb is all over the place. He practices in martial arts – one of the former addicts who was treated at the Centre told Jankovic.
After a number of psychologists and doctors gave their opinions about the case, Jankovic said he is planning to file a lawsuit against the Centre for torture.
- This is not therapy, it is a criminal act – he concluded.
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