Serbia dumps curfew plans after violent anti-lockdown protests

The Serbian government scrapped a plan to impose a weekend coronavirus curfew in Belgrade after two nights of protests in the capital. Dozens of police and protesters have been injured.

Instead, PM Ana Brnabic announced more measures, including a ban on all gatherings of more than 10 people indoors or outdoors in the capital.

Shops, pubs, clubs, restaurants and other indoor spaces in Belgrade will have to close for the night at 9:00pm from Friday. Outdoor venues in the city can stay open until 11:00pm.

President Aleksandar Vucic had wanted the curfew due to a rise in infections.

Thousands of people took part in protests on Wednesday, blaming the government for the spike in infections. Protests were reported in other cities including Nis and Novi Sad.

Videos have emerged of police beating three men on a bench.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, said the “violent dispersal of demonstrators” by police raised serious human rights concerns.

Amnesty International added that “disproportionate use of force” was not justified.

“Images of Serbian police firing tear gas and stun grenades indiscriminately into the crowd, and of protesters and bystanders being charged by mounted police and beaten by police in riot gear, raise serious concerns,” said the group’s Balkans researcher, Jelena Sesar.

The first night of protests began peacefully outside the National Assembly on Tuesday evening but later turned violent. Crowds broke into the building, prompting police to intervene.

President Vucic blamed far-right nationalists for stirring up the trouble.

Many towns and cities in Serbia have imposed state of emergency.

Serbian authorities say there have been 352 deaths and 17,342 cases. Some 300 new infections are being reported daily.

The opposition accuses the government of not giving the true number of deaths during the initial weeks of the pandemic.