Noise from Belgrade bars torture, tell human rights tribunal

Crimes Against Humanity: Resident Nemanja Dragic compared noise levels under his Belgrade apartment to “torture”. Photo / Marko Drobnjakovic

The Serbian capital is once again buzzing with nightlife after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. Cafes, bars, and entertainment-hungry patrons are celebrating a summer boom in business and entertainment options, but the loud music and other accompanying noises are a failure for the people of Belgrade.

Since the onset of warm weather and the relaxation of coronavirus rules, Nemanja Dragic, 36, has said he cannot open his balcony door without a thunderous cacophony breaking into his apartment. He used his savings to install a thicker door and sturdier windows, desperate to muffle sounds from over a dozen bars and clubs.

Dragic’s apartment overlooks a street in downtown Belgrade which is one of the hot spots of a European capital famous for partying after dark. He said all drinking makes it impossible to keep your windows open for much of the summer, to rest or to spend undisturbed time in your home.

“The noise is such that some neighbors are just leaving town or the street or whatever,” said Dragic, an engineer.

Criminally loud?  A row of nightclubs can be seen on the Sava River in Belgrade.  Photo / Marko Drobnjakovic, AP
Criminally loud? A row of nightclubs can be seen on the Sava River in Belgrade. Photo / Marko Drobnjakovic, AP

Residents of the city’s shopping areas have complained for years about the deafening noise from bars, nightclubs and nightclubs. Faced with the inaction of the authorities, some citizens’ associations turned to the European Court of Human Rights in The Hague, filing a complaint on the grounds that they had been exposed to torture and that their rights to life. family and privacy were violated.

Lawyer Marina Mijatovic said she took the case to Strasbourg court after authorities in Belgrade failed to respond to a local court ruling last month that they had not done enough to limit noise. The European court has not yet decided whether to accept the case, she said.

“We expect the (European) court to confirm the violation of rights and order Serbia to take measures to reduce noise to levels acceptable for normal life,” she said.

City officials did not respond to interview requests from The Associated Press. The Belgrade authorities, after repeatedly promising to deal with complaints, have prepared new noise protection rules which envision a broader authority for a community police unit.

Misa Relic, who heads the Association of Bars and Night Clubs, said he was aware of the tensions with residents in some areas of Belgrade, but he warned of hasty solutions which, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, could jeopardize what he described as Belgrade’s signature tourist experience. – clubbing.

Nemanja Dragic likens music to
Nemanja Dragic likens music to “torture” as Belgrade once again buzzes with nightlife after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. Photo / Marko Drobnjakovic, AP

“I am always for an agreement between two parties who understand the position of the other and are ready for a fair compromise,” Relic said.

While not new, the noise problem became very visible in late June and early July, as Belgrade’s nightlife boomed with a series of concerts, raves and festivals. The partying crowds also raised the alarm over a potential resurgence of the virus, as few events called for proof of vaccination or negative tests.

Ana Davico from the Belgrade Noise Abatement Society said local government should follow the lead of other major European cities with vibrant night scenes that have encouraged and provided financial support for sound blocking equipment in nightclubs. night.

Instead, noise limits are not enforced, and in the decade since his group’s formation, the situation in Belgrade – and across Serbia – has only worsened, insisted Davico.

“We now have noise depots all over Belgrade and a situation where existing regulations which provide a decent framework to solve the problem are not being implemented,” she said.

Citizen groups have collected thousands of police complaints, videos and noise level recordings to support their case in the European Court, Davico said. Noise is often much higher than the limits allowed by law, and cafes or nightclubs rarely use soundproofing equipment even though this is usually provided for in current regulations, she added.

Dragic said the noise problem on his street had reduced property prices, making it difficult for people to sell if they wanted to leave the area. Although bars in central residential areas are only supposed to stay open until midnight, the noise they make before closing is unbearable, he said.

Noisy Belgrade nightclubs are being prosecuted for
Noisy Belgrade nightclubs are being prosecuted for “human rights” violations. Photo / Marko Drobnjakovic

“What others take for granted, that they can rest or sleep when they want, for us depends on the bars and their guests,” Dragic said. “We never wanted to be the ones who determine how long they stay open or what kind of music they play, until it is heard in my apartment.”

Serbia’s relationship with The Hague and the European Court of Human Rights is long and complicated. Raising noise complaints to the level of human rights abuses may seem muffled, given the country’s recent history.

According to Amnesty International, there are numerous human rights violations that date back to the Kosovo Serbian war in 1999.

As of 2020, Serbia did not indict any former senior police or military official with war crimes, and the fate of the missing is unresolved.

Former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević died in 2006 before his trial in The Hague was concluded. The charges of human rights and crimes against humanity could never be concluded.

– Associated Press with additional reporting

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