Articles on the Kosovo Conflict



General summary of the Full Report of the Helsinki Commission for Human Rights in Serbia



             The first six months of 2000 indicated that the regime has not only expended it arsenal of repressive measures, but moreover radicalized some of them and heralded new ones. This report intends to show that the authorities are ready to continue to fully enforce their available repressive mechanism to the bitter end. In such a milieu the Serbian opposition lost its bearings. It is clear that “a harsh and consistent criticism of the regime,” which mostly found expression in the opposition parties communiqués, cannot undermine the Serbian regime. 

            The opposition did not know how to exploit an undoubtedly low popularity rating of the regime and its leader in the imminent post-NATO intervention period and the dissatisfaction of citizens with the results of “victory over NATO”. After a few months of confusion the regime embarked upon a decisive battle against its political opponents, and also on an unstoppable campaign of construction of railroad-railway easy-to-assemble-and-dismantle and ‘morally superior’ bridges, 10,000 flats and similar feats. If one forgets (and one tends to forget) that the funds for this “intense campaign of reconstruction and restoration of the country” were provided for through collection of 230 diverse taxes, contributions, levies and compensations straight out the citizens’ pockets, one must admit that the regime is nonetheless scoring important points through those actions.

            On the other hand enforcement of repressive measures against the media, opposition, university, judiciary, “Otpor” and citizenry, defined as protection of the state  (the authorities) from “ the foreign mercenaries, killers and terrorists” did not provoke an adequate response. If one overlooked mild or pro forma reactions to the run-of-the mill and everyday repressive measures, as fining and jamming of the media, and detentions and trials for misdemeanor offenses, certain moves by the authorities should have been anticipated by the opposition and it should have responded to them in a more adequate manner.

            The Požarevac incident and the ensuing developments clearly indicated that the opposition could not deter or stop the regime from taking a host of extra-constitutional and unlawful actions and enactment of unlawful legislation. Moreover it became amply manifest that the opposition could not or (did not want) to resolve practical problems with which it was faced, for example devise a way to get to Požarevac, nothwithstanding the blockade of all the access roads. The failure to find an adequate solution resulted in a senseless, energy-sapping rally in Belgrade which only enervated citizens, tired of inefficient, similar rallies.

            Unlawful seizure of the TV Studio B, through its “etatization”, after two-day long roughing up of citizens and ten days of benign and poorly attended “newscasting sessions” in front of the City Assembly, left the regime almost unscathed.

            Unlawful “Decision of Government of the Republic of Serbia on Suspension of Administrative and Management Bodies in the Municipal Transport Company ‘Beograd’,” tantamount to its changing hands from the municipal to the republican management, apparently did not seem to bother the city fathers, although it entailed a major loss of revenues for the City of Belgrade.

            The same holds true of the Assembly of Serbia decision that the funds collected by levying the “Belgrade” 3% tax be deposited in the accounts of the Republic of Serbia, and not in the City of Belgrade accounts.

            There were almost no responses by expert circles and broad strata to the unlawful decision of the Republican Assembly on the dismissal of 18 judges, seen as a retributive action for their public criticism of stranglehold on the judiciary and judges. Although there is no tradition of an independent judiciary in Serbia, the regime started removing all the potentially seditious judges, or those thought to be able to mount resistance to the final action of “pacification of the judiciary,” announced in late 1999 by Vojislav Šešelj, Vice President of the Serbian government.

            Anti-Terrorism Bill tabled by the Federal government contains provisions contrary both to the federal and republican constitutions and provided the regime with an opportunity to legally stage a showdown with all its opponents, in collusion with the state-controlled judiciary.

            The last in a series of deft moves of the authorities was the passing of amendments to the FRY Constitution in an illegitimate Federal assembly. The amendments, inter alia, envisage that the FRY President and deputies in the Republican Assembly be elected by direct vote and that the cabinet ministers be appointed by the Federal Assembly. By this move the regime definitely embarked upon de-construction of the constitutional-legal order in place and laid the groundwork for the installation of the unitary state model, thus denying the statehood of Montenegro. This in turn ultimately laid bare the matrix of disintegration of the former SFRY. At the same time latest amendments to the Federal Constitution represent a model enabling Slobodan Milošević to stand again for office and consequently stay in power.

            Unfortunately the Serbian opposition provided no response to those open forms of repression, barring the sharp condemnations thereof, and bad half-moves.

The reasons for such a poor response lie in the fact that the opposition leaders are not willing to put at risk their ‘hard-won’ positions. Hence they instead seem to make concerted efforts to maintain the status quo. They have fulfilled most of their ambitions, and it seems that the change of authorities, requiring personal sacrifices and assumption of substantive responsibility is not one their ambitions. In the past decade citizens at large were presented repeatedly with occasions enabling them to familiarize with words and deeds of the opposition parties and their leaders. That is precisely why an average citizen has no longer faith in the opposition’s intention to confront the regime head-on, notably in the light of the fact that many leaders had been known for collaborating with the regime, while the others have only begun to do it. Consequently the citizenry, deeply engulfed in apathy and resignation, having no faith in any leader, rejects any risk and even civil disobedience.

            The basic question which emerges in such a situation is who shall be the one to stand up to the rapidly escalating repression, who shall counter it. But there is still no adequate response, and the offered solutions are: the existing opposition, a new opposition, “Otpor”, some disgruntled professionals, an anonymous citizen, etc.

            This report evidences the forms of repression and gives examples of responses to it.


             The current media status best illustrates the mechanism and objectives of repressive measures. Use of the state-controlled media and propaganda in discrediting the political opponents is not a new practice in the political scene of Serbia. What is however new is the brutality, arrogance, hatred, unveiled threats and open calls to a genuine lynch of the regime’s political opponents. This new propaganda concept stems from an increasingly paranoid mood of the establishment, and its stance that political opponents are no longer only “fifth columnists, foreign mercenaries and craven traitors,” but people who have in the meantime morphed into “criminals, killers and terrorists.”

            Statements of the ruling parties front men on the independent media, the opposition and its followers and in general on citizens with anti-regime or liberal leanings, usually herald operationalization of new repressive measures. In this sense most marked are statements made by Vojislav Šešelj (Vice President of the Serbian government), Aleksandar Vučić (the Serbian Information Minister), Goran Matić (the FRY Information Minister) and Ivan Marković (the FRY Telecommunication Minister).

            The assassination of Boško Perošević, president of Vojvodina government, was a watershed prompting the announced enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law and escalation of repression against the political opponents and the unlike-minded. Like no other event, the aforementioned assassination instilled great fear in members of the regime, as illustrated by the statement of Živorad Smiljanić, President of the Vojvodina Assembly: “If terrorism is a continuation of war, than this war is illogical. Why only our people are killed!?” On the other hand a simultaneous statement of Vojislav Šešelj contains most threats and in fact heralds an escalation of repression: “Gloves are off! Here everything is crystal clear and the one who brandishes the sword, perishes from that very sward. Don’t fool yourself that we shall let you kill us like rabbits, while we nurture you like plants in potts. Take heed of these warnings! You work against your state. You are paid in US dollars to destroy your state. You are traitors! You are the worst breed of people. You are worse than criminals (...) we are hunting down killers among those of you who are on the payroll of foreign intelligence services. You are accomplices to murders (...). You are murderers. You are murderers of your people and state. Potential ones. All of you who work for the Americans. You from Danas, your from B2-92, you from Glas javnosti, you from Novosti, you from Blic” (Blic, 11 February 2000)

           Aleksandar Vučić, the Serbian Information Minister, assessed that the Republican Information Law succeeded in regulating, and as much as it was possible, preventing the broadcasting of “hostile psychological-propaganda services, as well of slanders and lies.” In an interview to the Kragujevac private TV “Kanal 9” Vučić accused the “Voice of America”, “BBC,” “Radio Free Europe” and some other media of having transmitted programs in Serbian language in order to prepare the people for the NATO aggression and with this goal in mind pursued “a hysterical anti-Serbian propaganda”. Vučić went on to stress: “We have foiled your intention.” (Blic, 1 February 2000).

            Statements made by the state offiicals tend to discredit the independent media primarily by accusing them of being dependant on the foreign donations, which in turn dictate their editorial policies. For example Ivan Marković stated: “The media violence from abroad develops through frenzied propaganda of instrumentalized media. Under the direct control of the US, British, and French intelligence services, the foreign media continue their anti-Yugoslav campaign.” Marković also stressed that such a campaign was helped by the print and other media in the country, which continue their aggression against the truth and that the editorial policies of such media consist of planting big lies and minor deceits. “If I say that those media together with so-called opposition parties work against our state it is no news for you,” said Marković. (Borba 16 February 2000)

           Similarly accusatory is the tone of the following statement made by Aleksandar Vučić: “it suits them (the independent media) to maintain that there is a stranglehold on them, for then they have more reasons to knock at the Soros Open Society Fund doors and stash its money into their pockets, for they get paid no less than DM 20,000 for their actions against their own state and people, who barely subsist. Those pro-US media which accuse us as a state and our people, and are tasked with provoking a bloodshed, defend the Albanian terrorists, but fail to mention the suppression of the Serbian media in Kosovo and Metohija, and the barbarian conduct of Kouchner and Davidson.“ (Svedok, 21 March 2000) “The last year’s bombardment of the primary network of relays of the state information system and the secondary network of repeaters by the NATO aggressor was not an incident. The aggressors’ goal was to ensure that their voices more easily access our people and influence our public opinion.” He added that it was not surprising that the range of signals of the propaganda-psychological services of the VOA and Radio Free Europe and of those media funded by the US Congress budget and some para-government organizations had been expanded, for their objective was to debilitate the country in which they wanted to operate.” (Politika, 25 March 2000)

            The regime hampers the efforts of the independent media to perform their professional duties, by, for example, banning them from monitoring the work of the National Assembly and other state bodies. This policy started with the Radical Party’s decision to ban the “treacherous media” from attending the press conference and meetings of this party. According to the assessment of the presidential staff of the SRP, journalists working in such media should disappear from the domestic political scene, for they are “spies of the United States and of other Western countries, ”as Vojisla Šešelj labeled them. (Politika, 18 February 2000)

            Against the background of the media crackdown, a genuine showdown with the West, is being played out, notably because of the latter’s support of the independent media and the civil society in general, whcih are both being vilified as “the NATO aggressor’s collaborators” and the “the extended arm of a continuing NATO aggression.” Thus Goran Matić assessed that “different means should be used to put an end to abuses of the freedom of information in Yugoslavia.” He added that the media war against our country has been waged for several decades. “That war culminated in the past decade. Some think that Yugoslavia won it, while the others disagree...Had Yugoslavia lost that war, there would have been no aggression in the first place. Then the aggressor would have convinced our people to give up a part of their territory,“ stated Matić and added that “the aggressor was helped by a handful of fifth columnists... rallied around some bogus parties and media.” (...) Matić went on to note that “the fifth column slandered the most important symbols of our state, such as the army and the president.” (Blic, 28 March 2000)

            The following statement mad by Ivan Marković has almost identical contents and an equally reviling tone: “As regards quislings in our country, so-called opposition, the Serbian Renewal Movement and Democratic Party are the NATO representative offices in Yugoslavia. They are their allies, they back violence by traveling abroad for talks and offering their services to those who had bombarded our country and who today abduct our people in other countries. Vuk Drašković is a synonym for treason; he wants to be Milan Nedić, 56 years become the head of the puppet government in a part of our country given to him by the Americans. Contrary to Drašković Milorad Dodik in Republika Srpska has already been given powers of a proxy ruler by the occupiers” Even more descriptive was the statement made by Dragan Tomić, President of the Serbian Assembly: “the opposition rally (held on 15 May 2000) did not have a democratic character, but the most blatantly fascist one. The opposition leaders are scum who are despised by our people, for they have betrayed our holiest interests. (Glas Javnosti 16 May 2000) Mirko Marjanović, President of the Serbian Government also felt obliged to says something about the opposition: “All what they have done and are still doing demonstrates that they are traitors, mercenaries, killers and criminals and thence there is no place for them in the unified front of defense, reconstruction and development. “ (Glas javnosti, 16 May 2000)       

            Defamation of the oppostion is everyday practice of all the leading state officials. Ivan Marković, Secretary of the Associated Yugoslav Left Directorate, thus commented the 15 May opposition rally: “Rally of terrorist leaders and their followers in Belgrade...the Serbian Hashim Tachi is called Vuk Drašković. Vuk Drašković incites his terrorist hordes to make an onslaught on the Serbian people and state for whose citizenship he begged tearfully. His loyalists yesterday once again reiterated their full allegiance to the US fuhrers of neofascism. Drašković and the team from the podium called on the uprising against Serbia, Yugoslavia and Montenegro. That uprising was for NATO and his own pirate compensations. Drašković and his pirates Đukanović, Đinđić and Dodik are firing at what is Serbian and what is pro-Serbia and Yugoslavia, for the benefit of those who had already fired at us from higher caliber weapons.” (Glas javnosti, 17 May 2000)

            In the general political turmoil some organizations legitimized in the past as of the anti-fascist character, for example the Alliance of Fighters of the National Liberation War (SUBNOR) are adroitly instrumentalized. This organization is particularly used in demonization of the opposition parties bent on revival of the Chetnik movement. Of the afore-mentioned is indicative the communiqué of the Belgrade SUBNOR regarding the 14 April opposition rally: “All those traitors should be criminally prosecuted and punished since bombs planted in Vračar and Čačak, assaults on the security forces and repeated calls to people to take up arms are just a continuation of aggression and protesters must be punished.” The same communiqué accuses the opposition of being “paid traitors, servants of NATO, US fascism, imperialism and hegemonism” and of “a continuing aggression against their own country on orders of their bosses.” (Blic, 19 April 2000).

            Statement made by Mira Marković, President of the Directorate of the Associated Yugoslav Left, in the place called Crna Trava, ranks undoubtedly among those most intolerant and at the same time most senseless: “ There (referring to the opposition-run municipalities) we see a combination of local thieves and bribed informers who ridicule freedom, for that laughter serves them to more easily swallow the bitter pill of treason... and they have gone so far in their treason that they have reached the point of no return.“ “The Yugoslav capital for the fourth year running is increasingly reminiscent of those Eurasian settlements, which caught in the time warp, are morphing into construction, moral and spiritual garbage dumps.” She added that Belgrade was managed by people “who in their childhood and youth did not receive elementary breeding or were not inculcated hygienic habits.” In explaining the reasons for their uneducated conduct Mira Marković said that: “the space from which ‘soldiers for freedom’ withdrew was taken by ‘bribed cowards, personalities with shady biographies from the aspect of the national interest, frustrated men and hormonally disturbed women” (Blic, 27 April 2000)

            The regime’s fear of “Otpor,” viewed as the most dangerous enemy, is very palpable. The regime’s irritation with this movement has outweighed the latter’s genuine power. For example regarding the roughing-up of “Otpor”’s members in Požarevac, the Serbian Socialist Party official Nikola Šainović, stated: “So-called student organization Otpor is a fascist fallangue and an outlet of the Serbian Renewal Movement, which has immediately sided with the attacker, and not with the victims. The SSP shall not permit that the political life in Serbia be contaminated by methods from the Fascist eras, provocation and violence, and shall take all legal and other measures to protect itself and its people.” (Glas javnosti, 5 May 2000)

            Feelings of paranoia and fear are increasingly palpable and even Slobodan Milošević, the FRY president, renounced his untouchable position and contrary to the past practice ventured into making immoderate statements. Thus, for example, on the occasion of the Day of Victory over Fascism, 9 May, he made the following statement: “The Nineties of the 20th century unfortunately resembled the Thirties. One power was again bent on conquering the whole world. The most developed nations are again bothered by the presence of the poor and underdeveloped ones and the former try to cleanse territories from excessive nations and people and thereafter use them for the promotion of a precious life of a superior race. A brutal system of retaliation against all those who mount resistance is rearing its ugly head anew. Propaganda more efficient that the one practiced by Goebbels, spy agencies moor powerful than Gestapo, the Hague dirtier than Auschwitz. Once again the most powerful weapon of the big occupiers are their minor servants in the country he intends to conquer, those servants are his bloody ally among the people whom they want to erase from the face of earth or at least subjugate..  Once again those minor servants and their bloody allies call their treason integration into the world process, an effort to understand the spirit of the contemporary world, and sometimes they explain their treason as a patriotic concern and patriotic moves, which, they, the smart ones express and make in the interest of people who stand no chance before the mightiest power. They maintain that the hot-headed idealists, dreamers and revolutionaries, the ones who from the standpoint of such a patriotism should be burnt in gas chambers, extradited to the Hague, liquidated in the streets, in front of their flats, in a restaurant, or by money the occupiers have put at the disposal of their handful of smart allies, are plunging the people into confrontaiton which can result only in a defeat. (Glas javnosti 10 May 2000)

 1. Terror against the electronic media

             Various repressive measures are used used against the non-governmental media and free information. Vis a vis radio and TV stations the policy of selective granting of frequencies is pursued. Formal decisions on frequency-granting or non-granting of operating licences are much-delayed which means that the owners of private radio and TV stations are intentionally kept in a state of uncertainty and even fear.

      The nature of the criteria for frequencies-granting is best illustrated by the piece of information ran by Blic of 18 March 2000: the Belgrade TV Studio B reported yesterday that “the Vojvodina district committees of the Serbian Socialist Party have suggested to the Main committee of the party which radio and TV stations should be granted frequencies for program transmission.” The Studio B footage showed photocopies of internal documents of mainly Vojvodina district committees of the SSP containing their opinion as to which media should be granted and which denied operating licenses. Those opinions were sent last April by committees of Southern Banat district, Western Bačka district, Srem district, Northern Banat district, Southern Bačka district and Central Banat district (...) In their letter to Ivica Dačić, Socialists of the Srem district communicate: “We are of opinion that frequencies should be granted to: the publishing and radio-diffusion company Radio Sava from Sremska Mitrovica-the founder is our member, Politika’s correspondent, Dragorad Dragičević.” Within the framework of documentation in possession of Studio B there were ten documents indicating which media were exempted from paying compensation for use of frequencies.

            Of 18 radio and 15 TV stations members of ANEM, which in 1998 applied for an interim frequencies-granting competition organized by the Federal Telecommunications Ministry, only the then Radio B 92 and TV Pančevo got operating licenses. Other radio and TV stations are still awaiting relevant replies from the Ministry. But despite the lack thereof, most radio and TV stations procured equipment and began broadcasting their programs. Such an intentionally unregulated situation enabled the Federal Telecommunications Ministry to close down those stations, at will, on grounds of their lack of regular licenses, to deprive them of the right to broadcast programs, and seize their equipment and transmitters. It is obvious that the aforementioned competition served the same purpose as the Public Information Law. But the former was intended for the electronic media, while the latter targeted the print media.

            In parallel with this obvious obstruction of work of the electronic media, the ruling coalition uses also more subtle means. For example the intentional jamming of TV stations signals results in technically poor reception of program, which is tantamount to its non-viewing.  Added to that there are more than 500 radio and TV stations in Serbia, of which two thirds are privately owned. This in turn means that their market survival primarily depends on their successful marketing policy. But owing to a selective, or rather, guided approach some private media are blacklisted: large state-owned or private companies are banned from advertising on those media, which invariably means a large profit loss for them in an increasingly pauperized advertising market. Having in mind the fact that the most favored, pro-regime stations are most frequently exempted from paying compensation for frequency use, whereby they have the possibility to broadcast well-paid marketing support to the selected firms, the non-regime media stand poor chances of survival at such a market.

            It is obvious that the regime, starting from February 1998, when the competition for frequency granting was announced, has been systematically trying through various, both open and covert pressures to put under its control all the electronic media. In this sense we present some indicative examples:

            At the insistence of the municipal administration of Kuršumlija the Radio Television Serbia decided to deprive the private TV Kuršumlija of the right to broadcast programs from a Samokovo repeater. This television, since its launching, used to broadcast both the RTS informative programs and footage of the Serbian Assembly sessions. But then it faced a request to censor some parts of sessions, in the way it was done by the RTS. At a later date the ban on broadcasting relevant sessions was issued and in the last phase, only the broadcasting of reports checked by the municipal officials was approved. In a wish to make accessible to his fellow-citizens as much information as possible, Slavko Savić, owner of TV Kuršumlija, during the pre-election campaign opened the doors of his studio to all those willing to participate in his programs. Hence he hosted a number of the opposition leaders. Likewise those affiliated with the ruling parties. “All of them advocated free information, the media freedom. Today, when they are in power they believe they have an exclusive right to speak and to determine my invitees,” says Savić. “In this turmoil, the main sticking point was the fact that TV Kuršumlija was the only television in the South of Serbia which was a member of ANEM. First I was banned from re-transmitting the VOA programs, and then I was warned against re-transmission of TV Network and Video monthly (VIN), and other ANEM productions. For a while, in line with my consistent policy, I transmitted “Radical waves,” which the officials greenlighted, but numerous viewers spurned, says Slavko Savić (Glas javnosti, 9 January 2000)

            During March 2000 the government set out on a new, deliberate policy of repression against the electronic media. 

            Signal of Vršac local TV station Lav, member of ANEM, was covered on 6 March 2000, by a political-propaganda program of the Serbian Radical Party ‘Radical waves.’ According to the ANEM reports, “Radical waves” were broadcast from a video recorder placed in the central company “Cable-sat” in Vršac (Danas, 8 March 2000)

            On 8 March 2000 five individuals, allegedly from the Ministry of Telecommunications, raided the premises of Požarevac Radio BUM 93. They seized the key broadcasting equipment on grounds of the radio’s non-possession of frequency license and non-payment of 30,000 dinars compensation for the use of frequencies (Blic, 9 March 2000)

            On 9 March private TV Nemanja and Radio Tir were closed down in Ćuprija. Federal telecommunications inspectors escorted by 10 policemen in uniforms raided the premises of independent TV Nemanja, suspended the program and seized the equipment. (Blic, 10 March 2000)

            On orders of the Federal Telecommunications Ministry, and “in keeping with the Law on Links Systems, article 68, para. 1, Article 69, para. 1 and Article 127 (according to Politika 17 March 2000) broadcasting by TV Pirot, owned by the Informative Public Company “Sloboda” of Pirot was suspended. The relevant ministry filed misdemeanor charges against TV Pirot with the municipal misdemeanor court on grounds that “the TV station operated without the required license.”

            On 12 March twenty odd policemen knocked down the door and barged into the premises in a multi-storey building in downtown Požega. They seized a part of the broadcasting equipment of RTV Požega and carried it out of the building. (according to Danas, 13 March 2000.)

           “Inspectors of the Federal Telecommunications Ministry in keeping with the Law on Links System, article 68, para. 1, article 69, para 1. and article 125, have removed the Kraljevo RT transmitter, which broadcast TV program from Goč location. Founder of RTV Kraljevo, Public Company ‘Ibarske Novine’ was not in possession of required and legally prescribed operating license, stated the Informative Service of the Federal Telecommunications Ministry (Politika, 19 March 2000)

            On 27 May 2000 the police raided TV Mladenovac premises and ordered Žejko Matić, a technician on duty, to stop broadcasting the program. “Policemen who spent only several minutes in TV premises, interrogated Matić about his duties and location from which the program was broadcast. When the program was discontinued and TV station premises locked, the police took Matić to the police station and put his name on record.“ (Glas javnosti 28 May 2000)

2. Punishment of the print media

           Repressive policy against the non-governmental print media mainly consists of their regular punishing cum fining under the Public Information Law. The past trend of draconian fines meted out to the non-regime media continued in the first half of this year too, as the following examples attest to it:

            “According to Grujica Spasović, editor-in-chief of Danas, company ‘Dan-graf’ was punished by a 150,000 dinars fine, and the company’s director and responsible editor of daily, Dušan Mitrović and Veljko Koprivica with a 60,000 dinars fine each for “bringing into disrepute the rights and personality” of Đorđević (director of TANJUG) in the text “ Funeral Mass without Patriarch.”

            President of the Misdemeanor Chamber of the Leksovac Court, judge Zoran Kočić, confirmed on 1 February a 600,000 dinars fine meted out to the independent weekly Novine Vranjske and a 200,000 dinars fine meted out to its editor Vukašin Obradović. Vranjske was punished for having run the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia report, which, as assessed, quoted “lies about General Nebojša Pavković’s visit to Veliki Trnovac (Večernje novosti, 2 February 2000). It is indicative that on 14 February unknown perpetrators burglared the office of the Associated Branch Trade Unions ‘Nezavisnost,’ housing also editorial premises of the paper, and stole a part of the equipment.

            Senseless nature of the Public Information Law is best depicted by the case of Kikindske novine, against which a local Serbian Socialist Party strong man, Rajko Pović, filed charges under that very law: “Since October 1999 the Kikinda-based weekly Kikindske novine was seven times brought to court under the Public Information Law, whereby it was sentenced to pay four times exorbitant fines, totaling 880,000 dinars (...) Speaking about enormous pressure which the local SSP brought to bear on this municipal medium, Željko Bodrožić (editor-in-chief and responsible editor) stated that the paper was acquitted of charges only once, but as the Prosecutor won the case on appeal to a higher court in Novi Sad,  the paper was ultimately punished.” (Danas, 8 April 2000) 

            “Narodne novine” stood trial on 6 April on grounds of two controversial sentences. The Military Post 3755 filed charges against the paper for two allegedly abusive sentences contained in its 29 February 2000 report on the Conference of the District Committee of the Serbian Renewal Movement, that is on the speech of the Committee’s president, Branislav Jovanović: “I want the authorities to tell me which is the goal of this mobilization’ and (...) “ delivery of call-up papers has been stepped up.” Military Post 3755 deemed that both sentences damaged the Yugoslav Army’s reputation under article 69 of the Public Information Law. Punishments meted out to the accused were the following: both founder and publisher of Narodne novine were sentenced to pay a 300,000 dinars fine each, while the fine meted out to the editor-in-chief and responsible editor Miroslav Županjevac was 100,000 dinars. (Srpska reč, 13 April 2000)

           Misdemeanor judge in Kikinda, Miroslav Periz, in weighing the charges brought by Rajko Popović, responsible editor of the paper RTS Komuna, against the editorial board of Kikindske novine, found the latter guilty of running the communiqué of the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina, titled ‘Stop Rajko Popović’ under the Public Information Law. Kikindske novine were sentenced to pay a 200,000 dinars fine, Kikinda “Youth Centre,” as a founder and publisher of the paper, was fined 100,000 dinars, while Duško Francuski and Željko Bodrožić, editor-in-chief and responsible editor of Kikindske novine, were fined 50,000 dinars each. This is the seventh time that Rajko Popović has taken to court the aforementioned paper, and the fifth fine meted out to Kikindske novine under the Public Information Law. To date Kikindske novine were fined a total of 1,080,000 dinars (Blic, 20 April 2000)

            “Vice President of the Serbian government, President of the Serbian Radical Party and professor of the Belgrade Law Faculty, Vojislav Šešelj brought charges against company “Dan-graf’, the publisher and founder of daily Danas, director Dušan Mitrović and responsbile editor Veseljko Koprivica, under the Public Information Law for running the text titled “Lilić Demands Urgent Ouster of the SRP leader” published on 24 May. Those were the seventh misdemeanor proceedings instituted against the paper, and the third time that Vojislav Šešelj took the paper to the court. Danas was fined five times, and the amount it had to pay to date totaled 1,600,000 dinars (Blic, 26 May 2000). Daily Danas, company ‘Dan-graf’ and responsible editor and director Veseljko Koprivica and Dušan Mitrovic on 26 May were sentenced to pay a 570,000 dinars fine, by Mirela Stanojlović-Nikolić, the Belgrade metropolitan misdemeanor judge.

            The city municipal judge Zorica Prokić punished daily Glas javnosti and its director and editor-in-chief Slavoljub Kačarević to pay a total fine of 280,000 dinars, under the Public Information Law and on charges brought by Zoran Anđelković, President of the so-called Interim Executive Council of Kosovo and Metohija. Anđelković filed a libel suit against Glas javnosti for a sentence contained in the text “Serbs Do Not Trust Yankees,” which was in fact a quotation from Dr. Rada Trajković’s speech: “People know now who betrayed Kosovo and Metohija and fled to find refuge in the deep shade of Kopaonik apartments.” Legal counsel of “Glas javnosti”, lawyer Aleksandar B. Petrović and director and editor-in-chief Slavoljub Kačarević, stated at the hearing that the name of Zoran Anđelković was not mentioned in the controversial sentence and that Dr. Rada Trajković’s words were published in order to timely and truthfully inform the public at large about different positions of political protagonists-as the public Information Law duty-binds all the media-, in line with the latter the text also ran Anđelković’s words that “Rada Trajković was looking for justification to continue her treason and the crimes committed against her own people.” It was also stressed that the controversial sentence expressed no value judgment or final opinion, hence it could not be considered an untruth. The judge rejected the defense arguments as “unfounded, as a person to which the facts refer need not be directly named, but the contents of the statement, and under circumstances described in the article lead us to logically conclude that the statement made by Dr. Rada Trajković was related to President of the Provincial Executive Council, Zoran Anđelković attested to by the accused in their defense that they had only published the statement made by Dr. Rada Trajković and thus made public a comprehensive information.” Hence the magistrate ruled that “people do not know who betrayed Kosovo and Metohija and fled to find refuge in the deep shade of Kopaonik apartments,” which, as is evident, logically stems from the reasoned opinion in writing. (Glas javnosti 21 June 2000)

            In the past two years both the Yugoslav and international public opinion had many opportunities to ‘familiarize’ with the contents and principle of selective enforcement of the Public Information Law. Logic lying behind the enactment of the Law is clear and on this occasion we shall not dwell on it, as it was sufficiently explicated in our 1999 Report on Escalation of Repression. But on this occasion we shall instead dwell on total results of such enforcement.

            As a more resolute action demanding the repeal of the Public Information Law did not materialize, the regime has many reasons to be pleased with the effects of the Law, notably in the light of the fact that in less than two years it cashed in more than 30 million dinars on the basis of this Law. Moreover the fact stands that by the payment of all the fines the Public Information Law was given a genuine legitimacy by those against whom it was directed. Although it failed to eliminate the non-governmental media, it succeeded in narrowing their range of topics, relevant for the current political dynamics.

            In the meantime the regime resorted to other, even more drastic measures, with a view to protecting its interests, tendentiously equalized with the state interests. Hence the regime’s increasing enforcement of more “potent” measures, legal acts, for example, detention, arrests, roughing-ups and sentencing of citizens, that is, of the Act on Public Companies and most probable enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law. The case of Radio and TV studio B is a most emblematic example of the media house which for years has resisted different pressures, including the standing threat of the Public Information Law under which it was punished seven times, only to be brutally closed down in May 2000.

 3. Seizure of Studio B

             In early Nineties, when the political pluralism in Serbia was in its infancy, Studio B, as much as Radio B-92, exemplified an open, independent and free electronic medium. Thanks to its high professional standards, notably in the area of informative-political programs, Independent television Studio B (NTV Studio B) outgrow the framework of the local Belgrade television station, despite the then obstruction by the administrative structures (seizure of equipment, jamming of programs, difficulties in placing repeaters), NTV Studio B during a very short span of time (four years) attracted several million regular viewers Serbia-wide. Unfortunately professionalism and independence of this TV stations, which in its golden years was a share-holding society, first fell victim to the takeover of the station by the City Assembly.  

            When the Serbian Renewal Movement (SRM) took over power in Belgrade Studio B definitely lost its independence, and morphed into an informative service of that party. But owing to the new editorial policy and contents pursued during the SPO stint with the SSP-SRP-YAL federal coalition government, this medium was punished only twice (on 24 March 1999 and 8 December 1999) under the Public Information Law, since the law’s 20 October 1998 enactment. Objectively speaking it is not decent to state that the medium “was punished only twice,” but the question nonetheless arises how come that Studio B after a relatively ‘unhampered’ period of work, suddenly, in only two months (from 24 February to 4 May 2000) five times fell victim to the provisions of the Public Information Law, its signal was jammed and finally on 18 May 2000 the republican government took over that TV and radio station.

            Some of the reasons thereof lie in the following facts: the SRM left the federal government during the NATO intervention over disagreement with the federal government positions, the SRM used this station as a mouthpiece for expressing its dissatisfaction with the course of investigation of the Ibar Highway accident in which four of its members perished, and finally and most importantly, on 10 January 2000 the SRM signed an agreement on joint actions of the Serbian opposition. All the aforementioned prompted the SRM to change its editorial policy, which in turn led to a relative opening of Studio B and its ostensible return to recognized principles of information, all of which obviously vexed the regime very much.

            The process of harassment of Studio B, culminating in its takeover by the Serbian government, in fact began on 10 January 2000, when the opposition reached an agreement on joint actions: “Intensified jamming of signal, even during the broadcasting of films, sports and show&entertainment programs, is per se inexplicable, but in any case not unexpected,“ said Dragan Kojadinović, director and editor- in-chief of Studio B (Danas, 13 January 2000)

            On 16 January unidentified perpetrators damaged TV Studio B repeater at Kosmaj, and made it impossible for viewers in the interior of Serbia to follow Studio B program. Dragan Kojadinović said that “the bandits who did that ‘job,’ were experts, for they knew that they had to remove the modulator in order to prevent the reception of the tone and picture.” He stressed that the Kosmaj relay was one of the five relays of that TV station. “Channel 40 was completely destroyed, which means that the whole Pomoravlje area cannot see Studio B program.” (Glas javnosti, 17 January 2000)

            The next step was physical harassment with a view to jamming Studio B broadcasting. Unidentified perpetrators beat up in early morning hours Studio B worker Mirko Slavković and security worker of Belgrade Water Supply System Dragan Luković. As the attackers destroyed a part of the broadcasting equipment the Radio B2-92 program broadcast on wavelengths of the IIIrd program of Studio B and TV program of Studio B broadcast on the 51st channel had to be temporarily suspended (...) Blic was told by the Studio B technical service that an expert was among the perpetrators and also somebody who knew well where everything was. Dragan Kojadinović, director and editor-in-chief of Studio B told us that that the attack on the two workers of the Torlak repeater was carried out by five men in police uniforms. Kojadinović added that it would take several days to put the equipment in order (Blic, 7 March 2000)

            Ivan Marković, the Federal Telecommunications Minister, also joined in the anti-Studio B harangue by giving the following statement to the First Program of Radio Belgrade:

            1. Information broadcast by Studio B two days ago was as usual unprofessional and tendentious. Added to that it vilified the state bodies and by reiterating the untruths aimed at heightening tensions...

            2. Marković also stressed that yesterday’s SRM and Studio B communiqué particularly irritated our citizens, for it was directed against our national unity and heroes of the country’s defense-the Yugoslav Army and the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia...    

            3. It is quite certain that voicing of untruths about the work of the state bodies and everyday slanders and insults on them must attract the attention of the Public Prosecutor, in line with his official duty...

            4. Since 12 August 1999, when the Federal government was reconstructed as the Government of National Unity, the Federal Telecommunications Ministry, did not enforced a single repressive measure, from the province of its authorizations, against radio diffusion and TV stations which had been observed to operate out of sync with legal regulations. The Ministry had instead communicated in writing to those radio and TV stations that those irregularities should be removed and instructed them how to do that... Deadlines were set for removal of those irregularities and to date not a single TV station has been closed. (Borba, 18 January 2000)

            In parallel with the signal jamming and the smear-campaign against Studio B, under the Public Information Law, a veritable campaign of bringing charges against that media house was staged. For example, the police Major General Branko Đurić took Studio B to court for allegedly “broadcasting a false information which damaged his individual rights.” Đurić demanded that misdemeanor proceeding be instituted against Studio B “as in its program “Direktno,” broadcast on 26 February a misinformation was planted that General Branko Đurić, nicknamed Buca, organized liquidation of a driver of the truck” which caused the Ibar Highway incident in which four SRM members were killed. It was also stated in the aforementioned program that “Đurić was surely duty-bound to supervise that the liquidation operation went smoothly, that is, without imperiling the safety of the State Security Services.” (Danas, 6 March 2000). Studio B was found guilty and fined 450,000 dinars.

            Ivan Marković, the Federal Telecommunications Minister, on 6 March sent a memo to Studio B notifying the radio and TV station of the fact that it had not been granted operating licenses for 1922,5 MHz frequency, and consequently ordered it to stop broadcasting on that wavelength. Ivan Marković also notified Studio B that its outstanding debt for the interim use of radio-frequencies and TV channels, on 29 February 2000, stood at 10,755,314.39 dinars, and ordered Studio B to settle the said debt within 7 days (Politika, 7 March 2000.) On 14 March the Assembly of City of Belgrade settled the quoted debt.

            But the Serbian government continued its anti-Studio B campaign which culminated in the takeover of this medium. It was made public that there were legal grounds for the takeover, for JRDP Studio B was the state-owned property. Hence the Serbian government decided to re-establish control over it property by taking   over the founding rights from the Assembly of Belgrade. The government’s decision was signed by Vice Presidents Milovan Bojić and Vojislav Šešelj (Glas javnosti 18 May 2000). The Serbian government justified its decision by the fact that Studio B repeatedly called for the toppling of the constitutional order in all its programs and said that the decision was also taken in line with the request of the Serbian Information Ministry.

            Studio B takeover was carried out in the night between 17 and 18 May 2000. “After 2 a.m. at the entrance of ‘Beograđanka’ a large number of special policemen, with masks on their heads, and with metal rods and even some heavy construction equipment in their hands, appeared. They ran to the elevators and quickly rode up to the floors on which editorial offices of Studo B, Radio Indeks and Radio B-2 92 were. They were followed by policemen both in plainclothes and uniforms, which took a handful of journalists and technicians to the first floor and held them there until 7.30 a.m. They searched us immediately, seized our cellular phones and without physical coercion led us down the stairs to the first floor premises. Masked special policemen appeared literally from- nowhere, Danas was told by one ‘ambushed’ journalist who wanted to remain anonymous. He also maintained that no vehicles which ostensibly took the policemen to “Beograđanka”’s entrance, were spotted.” (Danas, 18 May 2000)

       The Assembly of Belgrade and its Public Enterprise Studio B took to court the Republic of Serbia for ‘property trespassing’, as “the accused without any legal grounds took over the premises and trespassed the property of plaintiff, who until then peacefully used those premises” (Glas javnosti, 18 May 2000)

            The authorities publicly defended their decision by saying it was taken as a measure within the framework of the “struggle against criminality, terrorism, Studio B-staged public incitement to revolt and attempts to provoke a civil war in Serbia.” “Studio B and some other media in Serbia for quite some time now have been as instruments in attempts to destroy our state and were directly engaged by foreign factors bent on destabilizing Serbia and the FRY in all the possible ways,“ reads the statement of the Belgrade Committee of the Associated Yugoslav Left (Politika, 18 May 2000)

            The police squashed citizens’ attempt to defend Sudio B at the very outset of protests, by attacking a crowd gathered in front of the city assembly on 17 May. Then dozens of protesters were beaten up and many had to receive medical assistance in the Urgent Center of the Clinical Center of Serbia. Citizens rallied again on 18 May. On that occasion more than 100 demonstrators sustained both light and serious injuries in their downtown clash with the police forces. The police used tear gas, shock bombs and according to uncertified information, even rubber bullets. During the police intervention about 40 people were arrested. The majority of them were sentenced to 20 or 30 days’ imprisonment and taken to serve their sentences to Padinska Skela and the Central Penitentiary in Belgrade (according to Danas, 20-21 May 2000)

            Such a quick etatization of Studio B had no legal grounds under the Act on the Funds Owned by the Republic of Serbia, although the government claimed otherwise. In Danas commentary (30 May 2000) the following was stressed: “When the state or other public-legal entity (for example city of Belgrade) invests state-owned assets in a public company on the basis of the founder’s equity, then the state-owned assets fall under the regime of private-legal business operations, and a public-legal entity can exercise its rights over those assets exclusively through founders’ rights (the right to take part in the management bodies, the right to dividend, the right to the remainder of the liquidation or bankruptcy mass.) The invested assets are managed exclusively by a company’s management bodies and company’s founders are only vested with the right to influence a decision-making process through their representatives in management bodies. In Studio B case its  founder and the titular of the founding capital is the city of Belgrade, if only on the basis of the right to management and use of that capital delegated to it by the Republic. Hence the Republic could return to its fold the state-owned property utilized by the city of Belgrade, and which was invested as the founding capital of JRDP Studio B, only on the basis of a contract, judicial decision or unilateral act of the city of Belgrade. The unilateral take-over of founding rights over Studio B from the city of Belgrade was not legally founded (Danas, 30 May 2000)

4. Other pressures on the media 

                The spectrum of repressive measures taken by the state is expanding every day. For example lists of “politically incompatible” individuals banned from taking part in TV programs of the state-run media were drawn up. Actors Petar Kralj, Milena Dravić, Dragan Nikolić, Voja Brajović and Aleksandar Berček, as well as singer Bora Đorđević, Đorđe Balašević etc., prominent show-business personalities, are among the blacklisted. “All producers have been tasked with erasing credits lists from the old programs and simply signing them with - ‘Produced by the RTS’ (...) It is said that this decision was taken by the top management, so that the General Director of the RTS, would not come across any ‘undesirable’ name...and ‘undesirable’ names are practically all those who do not hold managing positions in this medium (...) The first official black list was signed by the RTS director Dragoljub Milanović in May 1998: “Further engagement of temporary collaborators named in the list attached to this decree, is prohibited. This decree applies also to all the future temporarily engaged collaborators involved in the pay compensation lawsuits against the RTS...’” There were 92 names on the list. (Nin, 2 March 2000)

           Repression was not only directed against independent media, but also ‘aimed at’ disciplining those pro-regime media which recently turned more flexible, primarily in order to boost their circulation sales. The most salient example of the aforementioned is daily Večernje Novosti, which on 2 March 2000, by decision of the Federal government was attached to the Federal public institution “Borba.” This move was preceded by the ruling of the Higher Commercial Court in Belgrade, which annulled privatization effected by Company “Novosti” Share-Holding Society. The Federal government decision was justified in the following manner: “the court determined that the state is the majority shareholder of this company”. Dušan Čukić, member of the Main Committee of the Serbian Socialist Party and RTS journalist was named director and editor-in-chief of Večernje Novosti. He immediately set out the guidelines of the new policy based on “the patriotic-minded journalism serving a purpose of protection of the state interests.”

            As previously mentioned the media suppression takes different shapes. For example Military Post Niš 5374 terminated the lease contract related to premises in Braće Taskovića 19 street, housing the Niš private TV 5 station and demanded that the medium move out at the latest by 25 April 2000. The lease termination notice sent to TV5 staiton was signed by Colonel Svetomir Kovačević. This move was justified in the following manner: “the Federal Defense Ministry wants to convert this space into a housing block.” By the way TV5 invested over DM 80,000 in refurbishing of those premises.” (Glas javnosti, 14 March 2000)  

            One of the more drastic examples of the media stranglehold is the case of Company ABC “Produkt” from Belgrade and its affiliates “Glas” and ABC “Grafika”, which among other things, publishes independent dailies and weeklies such as: Glas javnosti, Blic, Nin, Vreme, etc. To lead this company to the brink of bankruptcy or liquidation, and consequently place it under the state patronage and stop its publishing of independent media, the ruling coalition has been conducting a veritable campaign of the judicial-police terror against the afore-said company. Ultimately the regime’s efforts bore fruit, as after 36 midemanour fines ABC “Grafika” had bankrupted. Under the Public Information Law provisions that company was taken to the misdemeanor courts 50 times, and was fined 10 times. Its fines exceeded 6 million dinars. Penalties meted out by the financial police totaled 10 million dinars, while those delivered by the Belgrade Commercial Court approximated 170 million dinars (Glas javnosti, 27 June 2000)


            Although the regime is constantly devising new methods for neutralizing its opponents, it also applies the proven ones: harassment, detention of the opposition parties members, members of “Otpor” and pro-opposition citizens. This year an even larger number of citizens were arrested and taken to police stations. In the past 6 months the Serbian police took every day to so-called ‘informative interviews’ at least 10 citizens. Reasons for detention and sometimes filing of misdemeanor charges with magistrates were by and large the following: possession of and distribution of the party material, public protests against the ruling coalition, membership of an opposition party or “Otpor.”

            Over hundred activists of different opposition political groupings in Serbia (the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, the Serbian Renewal Movement, and Democratic Party) in recent months were arrested, or detained for informative interviews in police stations The largest number of detainees (over one thousand) were “Otpor” members. But most detainees were immediately released after their names had been put on record; this holds particularly true of “Otpor” members. This probably served an ulterior purpose, the one of harassment or corruption of those young people.

            Here are some examples of the police harassment and detention:

           Vladimir Šijačić, a member of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina was released from custody in Subotica on 3 March, after the local judge ruled that there were no grounds for instituting proceedings against him. Šijačić was detained in Novi Sad on 1 March for distributing with other League members leaflets to citizens and inciting them to public protests during the inauguration of the Varadin bridge building site by Mirko Marjanović, the Serbian Prime Minister. (Danas, 4-5 March 2000)

            On 14 March in downtown Vranje the Vranje police arrested and took to the police station Tanja Valič, photo-journalist of daily Danas. She was subjected to a two-hour long informative interview. According to Valič, inspectors treated her decently and inquired about “the sights she was photographing in the center of the town.” Valič told them that she wanted to photograph the downtown area, but the Post Office security team suspected her motives and reported her to the police.” (Danas, 15 March 2000)

            President of the Municipal Committee of Democratic Party in Zaječar, Vlastimir Bađević was released after several hours of harassment in the police station. He was arrested in the center of Zaječar during the action “Let’s talk about party ratings,” organized by the Democratic Youth and the Alliance for Changes (Danas, 24 April 2000)

            On charges of disturbance of public order and peace, members of the Serbian Renewal Movement Despotovac Municipal Committee-Dragiša Nikodijević, Marko Obradović, Dragan Radosavljević, Zoran Tomić, Rade Miljojković, Radiša Milošević and Ivica Vukadinović, member of the Christian Democrats Party of Serbia were sentenced to 15 days’ imprisonment (Blic, 12 May 2000)

            On 25 May the Novi Sad police detained 25 members of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, who were waiting for the release of Vesna Tomić, the party activist. Vice President of the LSDV Bojan Kostreš stated that Tomić was taken to informative talk yesterday morning and that the League members went to the police station to try to ‘negotiate’ her release.

            Five members of New Democracy from Jagodina were released from custody on 14 May without any explanation as to why they had been detained in the first place and whether misdemeanor proceedings would be instituted against them. The ND members were arrested after the ND-staged rally in Dragocvet against replacement of the local communicates authorities elected at the 1996/1997 local elections (Glas javnosti 16 May 2000)

            Vladan Stanković, Democratic Party member was detained on 23 May in Zaječar.

            While distributing the party leaflets, President of the Youth Club of the Serbian Renewal Movement of Stari Grad Municipality, Đorđe Latić and the party’s members Jovana Radić and Dušan Savković, were arrested at 18 p.m. on 22 May in Belgrade.

           Vladimir Pavlov, an “Otpor activist was summoned to 15-minute long informative interview in the Novi Sad police station.

            The Rumenci police team raided the house of Dejan Erdeljan, an “Otpor” activist and President of Young Members of the Democratic Party of Serbia and took him to the police station to coerce him to sign an admission statement that he had been distributing “Otpor”’s posters.

            Miloš Satarić from Novi Sad was taken to the police station to an informative interview and released after an hour.

            On 22 May Marija Dragišić, member of the Executive Committee of the City Committee of the Serbian Renewal Movement in Novi Sad and the SRM members Živko Dragišić and Željko Kostić were taken to the police station to informative interviews.

            On 23 May Ivan Pepić (the SRM) and other seven members of this party were detained and taken to the Niš police station for informative interviews. All were released later, but Dragan Papić was remanded in custody.

            In the morning hours of 23 May activists of “Otpor” Igor Nedeljković and Goran Drašković were taken to the Valjevo police station for informative interviews. According to “Otpor,” inspectors inquired if Milivoje Gutović, the murderer of Boško Perošević, President of the Vojvodina provincial government, had any accomplices in Valjevo and if he had visited the town.

            In mid-May 2000 police forces in 35 towns of Serbia detained over 230 “Otpor” activists, members of the opposition parties, journalists and citizens. Some opposition and “Otpor” members wee detained on several occasions. Vladimir Pavlov, “Otpor” member from Novi Sad in eight days was taken three times to the police station (Glas javnosti, 24 May 2000)

            Sanja Bogićević and Elizabeta Novković, activists of the Social Democratic Union were detained by the police on 27 May while distributing the party’s informative bulletin Novosti at Zeleni Venac market (Glas javnosti, 28 May 2000)

            On 30 May Nebojša Ristić, editor of TV Soko was arrested with a group of seven people, mostly “Otpor” members, while distributing leaflets and membership application forms of the movement in the center of Soko Banja, stated Vojislav Janković, President of the Soko Banja committee of Democratic Party. Among the arrestees there were: Strahinja Ćirić, journalist of Radio Soko Banja, Predrag Stevanović, journalist of TV Soko, “Otpor” activists and Democratic Pary members, Aleksandar Milojković, Ivica Naskovski, Dragan Avramović, his wife Tanja and mother Radica.

            The police detained 29 activists of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, including its Vice Presidents Bojan Kostreš and Zoran Bošković, several deputies in the city assembly, and a member of the Novi Sad government, Vladimir Kranjčević for distributing the party leaflets during Slobodan Miloešvić’s visit to Novi Sad on 30 May. After a two-hour detention in the metropolitan police building where their fingerprints were taken and their names put on file, the League members were released. The League’s message in the controversial leaflet was: “Slobodan Milošević, step down!”

            Miki Janošević, President of the Serbian Renewal Movement in Bor, was arrested after the search of his house. According to his wife, the three plainclothes policeman and several policemen in uniforms from Bor and Boljevac, without even producing a warrant, searched their house thoroughly. (Glas javnosti, 31 May 2000)

            The Serbian Renewal Movement Municipal Committee in Petrovac on Mlava stated that according to the policeman Dragan Stokić, the SRM member Igor Cvetanović was taken to the police station, handcuffed for hours to a radiator, and subsequently taken to the misdemeanor judge who sentenced him to pay a 1,600 dinars fine for harassing a girl. After the pronouncement of the sentence Cvetanović went to the police station to pick up his stuff, but was handcuffed anew for three hours there. The SRM also stated in its communiqué that the policeman Stokić threatened also the SRM Secreatary Jasna Ivanović that he would set her flat on fire. The police also threatened the President of the Petrovac SRM Committee Siniša Stevanović that they would temporarily seize his car to check the license plate...“the process which could last up to a year.”

            The Sremska Mitrovica Municipal Committee of Democratic Party stated that the Sremska Mitrovica police forces detained three members of this party on 14 June and released them after several hours-long informative interview. The DP communiqué also stated that during the poster-affixing action President of the Main Committee of DP Aleksandar Prodanović, the Vice President of the Main Committee, Aleksandar Gavrilović and a member of this committee Nikola Trninić were detained (Glas javnosti, 15 June 2000)


            Besides detaining them, the regime continues to pressure, intimidate and harrass the ‘incompatible’ by instituting sometimes marathon and sometimes summary proceedings and trials against them. Workers, lawyers, writers, the former State Security Services members, and leaders and members of the opposition parties alike, continue to bear the brunt of mostly trumped-up charges and staged trials. As the circle of enemies seems to be expanding, so the authorities seem to become increasingly fearful and nervous. According to the available data only few leaders have been to date exempted from similar misdemeanor proceedings or trials. Not a single opposition leader has received a prison sentence and even if it happened, that sentence was not enforced. That form of repression shall probably be the regime’s ultimate measure in the protection of its position.

            Several examples amply illustrate the nature of political trials in Serbia:

            Ratomir Nikolić, worker of Company “Mesokombinat” charged with disturbance of public order and peace was interrogated before the Leskovac magistrate court. On 2 October 1999 he was attacked at the Alliance for Changes rally by Srđan Stojković, bodyguard of Živojin Stefanović, Head of the Jablanica District and a member of the internal security services of the municipal committee of the Serbian Socialist Party. On that day Stojković persisted in his disruptive conduct, insulting the speakers at the rally (...) Following a warning by Nikolić that he should stop misbehaving, Stojković assaulted him (...) Nikolić wanted to give a statement to the policemen on duty, but the officer in charge refused his offer. This incident furthermore caused an unplanned walk of protesters, which led to writing of a misdemeanor notice against Siniša Perić, President of the Municipal Committee of Democratic Darty. Ratomir Nikolić’s troubles started after his speech at the meetingcalled by Ivan Novković on 5 July 1999. Namely he was transferred to a new post, 78 km distant from his place of residence. His wife faced similar problems. (Danas 25 February 2000)

            On 24 February 2000 the Third Municipal Public Prosecutor Office in Belgrade filed charges with the Third Municipal Court against the New Democracy President, Dušan Mihajlović. He was accused of “spreading false news.” The proceedings were instituted because of Mihajlović’s statement given during the Studio B program “We are to blame” broadcast on 22 February. But it was not indicated which Mihajlović’s statement the Prosecutor Office found defamatory. (Večernje novosti 25 February 2000)

            Zoran Paunović, the Serbian Renewal Movement municipal PM and spokesman in Kragujevac was detained on 29 February 2000 in the afternoon hours and taken to the magistrate for interrogation, on grounds of the police report written as early as on 26 May 1999. The police demanded the severest sentence for him, since it argued that Paunović during the war took part in an unregistered public rally in a downtown area, where he “directed the protesters by special hand gestures and even yelled: “Where are the people, why they have not started the protest walk.” The police considered that his conduct constituted a serious offense, for “it was committed during a state of war” and “there was a reasonable doubt that the accused would continue to commit such offenses.“ (Večernje Novosti, 3 March 2000)

           Vladimir Nikolić, former member of the State Security Services, was sentenced on 3 March 2000 to one year and 10 months in prison for devulging state secrets. He was remanded in custody. Although the sentence was delivered in open court, in compliance with the decision of the judge Pavle Vukašinović, Nikolić’s wife, his next of kin, friends and journalists were banned from attending the judgement-rendering session in court. Nikolić was arrested on 1 October last year. In May last year he was dismissed from the State Security Services and in a short period preceding his arrest he worked as the Marketing Director of the Directorate for the Belgrade Construction Land. Branka Nikolić (his wife) maintains that the State Security members constantly harass her family. According to her their flat was searched several times. (Blic, 4 March 2000)

            Before the First Municipal Court in Belgrade legal counsels of a group of opposition leaders on 13 March rebutted defamation charges filed against their clients. Milovan Bojić, Vice President of the Government of Serbia pressed private charges against the said group after the 22 September 1999 Alliance for Changes rally which organized a symbolic trial of Bojić for a catastrophic state in the health system and found him guilty. Vice President of the Serbian Government and the Associated Yugoslav Left high official said that the staged trial damaged his high professional reputation of a prominent medical expert and professor and demanded a fine to the tune of 10 million dinars. He took to court Zoran Đinđić, Milan St. Protić, Dragan Milovanović, Vladan Batić, Goran Svilanović and Vuk Obradović, President of the Social Democracy, then a member of the Alliance for Changes. The trial started on 7 October 1999, but several hearings had been postponed due to irregular summons or no-show of legal counsels of the accused. (Danas, 14 March 2000)

            On 24 March 2000 the Third Municipal Court in Belgrade deferred a hearing of Ivana Primović, the Serbian Renewal Movement lawyer, charged with the criminal offense of slander by the Third Municipal Prosecutors’ Office. Primović allegedly damaged the reputation of Major General Branko Đurić, Head of the Belgrade police, by making some slanderous comments about him in a Studio B program. The main hearing was postponed for 21 April as the defendant stated that she was not giveneither the summons or the indictment, and that she learnt about the start of the trial from the newspapers. As Ivana Primović lawyers told journalists gathered outside the courtroom (they were banned from attending the hearing), the accused did not receive the summons, and during the preliminary hearing the judge demanded that Primovć signed an empty peace of paper, to be used as a proof that on the mail order return coupon was her signature. Primović declined to do that. The accused was not even shown the indictment. (Danas, 25-26 March 2000)

            “Government of Serbia rejected the petition for amnesty of Bogoljub Arsenijević Maki and Nebojša Ristić and recommended the Serbian Assembly to follow suit. The amnesty petition was submitted as early as on 17 January by two deputies of the Coalition Vojvodina, while the Serbian government took the relevant decision on 13 March. In the meantime Nebojša Ristić was released (...) Among reasons for its rejection of the petition the Serbian government cited the fact that authorization for amnesty was shared by the federal state and the constituent republics. “Amnesty for criminal offenses specified under federal laws is under the jurisdiction of the federal state. The aforementioned petion is moreover so sketchy that it was difficult to establish which criminal offenses were committed,” explained the Serbian government. (Glas javnosti, 31 March 2000)

            Trial of daily “Danas” charged with publishing the text “Funeral Mass without Patriarch” began on 12 March 2000 in the First Municipal Court in Belgrade. The plaintiffs, TANJUG News Agency and Dušan Đorđević, its Acting Director, demanded non-material compensation for the slanderous text which damaged the reputation and interests of the TANJUG News Agency, as a legal person,  and of its Acting Director Dušan Đorđević. In the controversial text allegedly “untruths were planted and the plaintiff’s reputation was damaged,” for it stated “that TANJUG was exempted from bombardment because of free of charge distribution of its services, even to foreigners... with Đorđević even awarded with across- the- EU free movement.” As a compensation for its ruined reputation TANJUG demanded one million dinars, and Đorđević 500,000 dinars. Goran Draganić, attorney of daily “Danas” stressed that TANJUG News Agency as a legal person could not suffer psychological pain, hence it had no right to demand compensation for the non-material damage. (Glas javnosti, 13 April 2000)

            “The Serbian Renewal Movement was sentenced to pay a five million dinars fine on charges of Mirko Marjanović, the Serbian Prime Minister and former director of company “Progres.” The trial before the First Municipal Court in Belgrade began in 1994,” stated the SRM communiqué. Marjanović sued the SRM for press releases replete with accusations leveled at “Progres” for mismanagement and business irregularities, which caused great psychological pain and ruination of its reputation. The fine was meted out despite the Supreme Court’s position that legal persons cannot feel psychological pain. (Danas 14 April 2000)

            “Zoran Živković, Mayor of Niš, charged with the criminal offense of slander by the Municipal Public Prosecutor in Bor, will stand trial on 8 May. Momčilo Dimitrijević, the Bor Prosecutor accused Živković of insulting the judge of the Sokobanja Municipal Court, Dragan Marjanović, at the 11 September 1999 rally in Sokobanja. Judge Marjanović sentenced Nebojša Ristić, editor-in-chief and responsible editor of TV “Soko” to one year in prison, for having affixed a poster “Free Press-Made in Yugoslavia” at the window of TV station’s premises, during a state of war in Yugoslavia (Glas Javnosti, 22 April 2000)

            “The Parole Commission of the Serbian Justice Ministry assessed that thanks to his good conduct Nebojšar Ristić, editor-in-chief and responsible editor of TV Soko Banja would be released from jail 26 days earlier. The commission also concluded that the convict, who had served more than half of his total sentence (1 year term of imprisonment), ‘improved his conduct and would behave properly, instead committing criminal offenses, once he is given back his freedom.’ Nebojša’s good nature and behavior obviously prevailed, and not numerous appeals sent to many addresses, including the Presidential one. (Danas, 14 March 2000)

            On 25 April there was the first hearing in the case Zoran Gvozdenović against Slobodan Milošević (the Šabac-based restaurant owner Zoran Gvozdenović- Rendža charged the FRY President with making a slanderous speech). Judge Milenko Cvijović questioned the plaintiff on the basis of Article 438 of the Act on Criminal Proceedings. He asked him, inter alia, whether he knew personally the accused and if the speech in question referred to him personally. At the Serbian Socialist Party Congress on 17 February President Milošević labeled all the opposition in Serbia as janizars, domicile scum, and similar. Gvozdenović insisted that those words damaged his honor and reputation and were tantamount to slander of two thirds of population of Serbia. (Danas, 26 April 2000)

           According to Goran Draganić, one of Filipović’s defense counsels, the Criminal Chamber of the Kraljevo District Court ruled on 10 May that Miroslav Filipović, Kraljevo correspondent of daily “Danas” and France Press Agency be transferred to Niš and tried by the Niš Military Court. Filipović was charged with the criminal offense of espionage and spreading of false news, that is, undermining the defense systems of the country, the offense which entails a 3 to 15 years term of imprisonment. (Blic, 11 May 2000) On that very day Filipović was taken to the Niš military court and remanded in custody. “I deny the charges, for anybody who wants to engage in devulging state secrets would not surely publish such information under the by-line,” said Filipović after being released from jail. Filipović, correspondent of daily Danas and France Press Agency said that he had not seen the indictment, but that on the basis of questioning before the investigative judge he concluded that he had been charged with espionage, because, as the reasoned opinion in writing stated, “since October 1999 Filipović collected important defense data and passed them on to a foreign organization engaging in intelligence work.” Filipović added that in that sense the British Institute for War and Peace was mentioned. “The second count was spreading of false news and I assume that it was related to information about the police and the army, for during my interrogation inspectors inquired about sources which allegedly gave me such information,” said Filipović. He was arrested on 8 May in Kraljevo, and then detained for 30 days, in line with the Kraljevo District Court ruling (Blic, 13 May 2000) On 18 May the Niš Military Court prosecutor filed a motion for Filipović’s interrogation, and the investigative judge of the Military Court, after interrogation on 22 May, decided that criminal proceedings should be instituted against Miroslav Filipović as it was reasonably believed that he had committed a criminal offense of espionage under the Criminal Code of the FRY, Article 128, and criminal offense of spreading false news under the Serbian Penal Code, stated after the hearing Goran Draganić, one of Filipović’s defense counsels. According to Draganić after the hearing the judge also ruled that Filipović be detained for 30 days. (Danas, 23 May 2000) On 15 June the Niš Military Court Chamber decided to extend Miroslav Filipović’s detention, stated Colonel, Vukadin Milojević, President of the Court. He also said that Filipović would be remanded in custody until the end of the main hearing, in line with the military prosecutor’s proposal. Earlier Filipović’s detention was extended because of the possibility that he might influence the witnesses and disturb public at large. Now his detention was extended again because of his possible influence on witnesses, but also to prevent him from escaping, said Milojević. (Glas javnosti 16 June 2000) On 26 July Filipović was sentenced by the Niš Military Court to 7 years’ imprisonment (Danas, 27 July 2000)

            Vice President of New Serbia and Mayor of Čačak Velimi Ilić, charged with slander, was found guilty and in absentia sentenced to 1 conditional year in prison. Ilić was sued by the former head of the Čačak police Zoran Simović and his deputy Milan Bukarica, because of his statement made three and a half years ago that “during the presidential campaign, at the Čačak pre-election rally, Zoran Lilić, the Socialist Party candidate, was surrounded by the security team made up of local criminals” (Danas, 13-14 May 2000)

            Veroljub Cvetković, president of the Zaječar District Court Chamber, on 9 June sentenced Boban Miletić-Bapsi, author of aphorisms, to five month’s imprisonment for ridiculing the FRY and its President, Slobodan Milošević. On 18 December 1999, at the promotion of his book “Serbia, mother, cry,” in the Knjaževac Cultural Center, Miletić read several aphorisms, which in the court’s opinion, ridiculed the FRY and its President Slobodan Milošević. He was also sentenced to 5 months in prison for having distributed to those in attendance 70 copies of his book after the promotion ceremony. The court also ruled that 31 copies of his book be seized. The prison sentence included 15 days that Miletić was kept in detention. (Glas Javnosti 10 June 2000) 


             In the part of the “Report on Escalation of Repression in Serbia” of November 1999, related to the judicial bodies and pressures on the judiciary, it was anticipated that the regime would start its final showdown with ‘seditious’ judges.

           Association of Judges of Serbia, the only organized (unregistered) branch association of judges in Serbia bore the brunt of the regime’s repression campaign. The first step was the 21 December 1999 decision by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to dismiss judges, Slobodan Vučetić (judge of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Serbia), Zoran Ivošević (judge of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Serbia) and Boža Prelević (judge of the Fifth Municipal Court in Belgrade), the three founders and most prominent and active members of the Association of Judges of Serbia, under Article 46, para. 4 related to Article 5. Those dismissals were retributive actions against judges who openly resisted the rule of non-law, growing repression and downscaling of the judicial function to the mere enforcing of orders issued by the ruling apparatus and also served a purpose of intimidation of potentially seditious judges. In case of dismissals of Zoran Ivošević and Boža Prelević the ruling coalition did not even try to adhere to the prescribed procedure for judges dismissals.

            In fact Article 48, para. 1 of the Act on Courts of Law prescribes that the Supreme Court President institutes proceedings for relieving judges of their duties. Paragraph 7 of the same Article specifies that the Supreme Court conducts the proceedings to determine if there are reasonable grounds for such a move and notifies of its decision the National Assembly within 60 days from the day when the motion for the aforementioned proceedings was put forward. The manner of conducting the proceedings is spelled out in the Rules of Procedure of the Supreme Court of Serbia (adopted in 1995). The provision contained in Article 25 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure lays down that: “when collected information indicates reasons for dismissal agaisnt the will of judges, the Supreme Court President shall decide in favour of the proceedings, select the reporting judge or collect necessary evidence through the president of a relevant court, enable the judge whose dismissal is pending to comment all facts and circumstances, and then make a report.” Paragraph 3 specifies: “if the Supreme Court president determines that there are reasonable grounds for dismissal of a judge, he will convene a General session,“ and paragraphs 4 and 5 lay out that “judges whose dismissal is pending will be notified of the date of session, if the Supreme Court President or the General session assess that it would be useful for the clarification of the matter,“ that is “if the General session determines that there are reasons for relieving a judge of his duties, the Supreme Court President shall notify of such a decision the National Assembly.”

            The General session which was to deliberate dismissals of judges Zoran Ivošević and Boža Prelević, and to which they were to be invited, was never convened, nor those judges were provided with any opportunity to say something about the circumstances prompting the initiative for their dismissals. Although some judges indicated flagrant breaches of the rules of procedure and non-observance of the proceedings by the Supreme Court, the highest court in the Republic of Serbia, the National Assembly quickly decided that the judges be relieved of their duties. That decision was moreover accompanied by the following comment of the Supreme Court President: “Everything was as the law prescribed and the procedure was fully observed.” As the law does not envisage judicial protection in such cases, the statement made by the Supreme Court President was the only and principal assessment of legality of this move.

            Those dismissals were the prelude to new dismissal proceedings, the most scandalous being the one concerning Boško Papović, the investigative judge of the Požarevac District Court. This case clearly indicates the importance of regular and lawful exercise of discharge of judicial duties in a society, notably in the area od protection of human rights and freedoms, and also what fate awaits those judges bent on discharging their duties conscientiously and in line with the principles they swore to uphold.

           Proceedings for the dismissal of judge Boško Papović were motivated by his treatment of the case of incident which had happened on 2 May in Požarevac, in front of the café “Pasaž.” Judge Papović was to conduct an investigation into the case of attempted murder and assistance in attempted murder of brother Lazović (bodyguards of M.Milošević, son of Slobodan Milošević), according to the Požarevac police perpetrated by R. Luković, N. Sokolović and M. Sokolović (“Otpor” members). How the judge proceeded with this matter and the nature of his procedure is best illustrated in this statement of his:

            “Neither the testimonies of the accused and witnesses nor a special report of the Požarevac police indicated evidence or even reasonable doubt that R. Luković, N. Sokolović and M. Veljković tried to commit that offense (...) On the basis of all facts and statements I concluded that the criminal offense of attempted murder had not been committed, hence there were no reasons to detain the accused; consequently I ordered the Belgrade Correctional Facility hospital and the Požarevac prison to release them (...) Then the President of the Požarevac District Court sent me a request to  conduct an investigation against those persons on charges of attempted murder, that is, assistance in attempted murder. Then I asked Jovan Stanojević, the District Public Prosecutor, why he had sent that request.. He told me that he acted on orders of the Republican Public Prosecutor’s Office and that he was compelled to obey them. (N.B. Jovan Stanojević, the District Public Prosecutor handed in his resignation during those developments) (...) On Monday night I again went through all the documents related to the case. Even then I did no find a shred of evidence in support of charges and I consequently turned down the request for investigation. I demanded that the Extra-Debate Chamber of the Požarevac District Court rule on this disagreement between me, as an investigative judge and the District Public Prosecutor. President of that Chamber and its two members decided that the investigation be conducted and on Monday, after 24 hours, the accused were once again detained (...) President of the Požarevac District Court then informed me that Balša Govedarica, President of the Supreme Court of Serbia, my distant cousin, instituted proceedings for my dismissal, acting in line with the Supreme Court fax message stating that I be relieved of my duties. Reasoned opinion in writing of the Supreme Court decision, likewise the one of its president, stated that I did not act in accordance with the law, which required an immediate arrest of the accused, that I damaged the reputation of the District Court, as a state body, and of its judges by challenging the decision of its extra-debate chamber, and that I treated the whole case in an unprofessional and slipshod manner. And how urgent this case was is best illustrated by the fact that the Supreme Court even after seven days failed to rule on the appeal of the accused against the detention decision (Nedeljni telegraf, 24 May 2000)

            But “purging” of the judiciary involved in this case continued. Because of the Požarevac incident and the ensuing developments the protest rally was to be staged in Požarevac on 9 May. Many citizens wanted to come to that rally to show that they disagree with drastic violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, which currently serve a purpose of protection of political and personal interests. However the Serbian regime not only thinks that judges cannot exercise the right to “freedom of conscience, thinking and public expression of their way of thinking, the right guaranteed under the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, Article 45, but also sanctions that right of theirs by relieving them of their duties.

            President of the Požarevac Muncipal Court, Vukašin Stanisavljević, told the expert staff meeting of this institution that his deputy, investigative judge Đorđe Ranković, after being relieved of his duties for having been seen at the 9 May ‘popular merry-making,’ in a group of opposition protesters, as of 1 June was transferred to the post of a libel judge. In fact Ranković is not a member of any party. Considered one of the most promising jurists among Požarevac-based dispensers of justice, with over 24 years of judicial practice, Ranković to date trained the majority (75%) of young and inexperienced judges working in the Požarevac municipal court. After Stanisavljević’s move, on 15 May the Supreme Court President instituted proceedings for dismissal of Đorđe Ranković, investigative judge of the Požarevac municipal court.

            Similar was the case of Miroslav Todorović, senior judge of the District Court in Belgrade.

           Miroslav Todorović was handed a decision on proceedings for his dismissal signed by Balša Govedarica, President of the Supreme Court of Serbia and decision on his suspension from duty (despite impending proceedings) signed by Bogoje Marjanović, President of the District Court in Belgrade.

            The reasoned opinion in writing of the President of the Supreme Court attached to the aforementioned decision stated that judge Todorović “ignored legal authorizations” of the president of the District Court in Belgrade by refusing to take on the duties of a member of the second-instance criminal chamber”, that “he subordinated his judicial duties to his political goals” and that “he acted in public as a member of presidency of so-called “Otpor” organization”, although he knew that this organization was not registered with the relevant state body and that it was engaged in political activities aiming at replacement of the state authorities by extra-constitutional means.“ (Glas javnosti 15 June 2000)

            As judges could not issue a communiqué condemning such developments, for the Association of Judges ceased to exist, 13 judges form different courts on 17 June wrote an open letter expressing their resentment of and concern over the regime’s moves. Here are the most important excerpts from this letter:

            “It is dangerous when every public comment of a judge is characterized as his struggle to attain his political goals. Who considers dangerous and incompatible judges fighting for goals of non-political nature, those related to human rights which are much older than any state, and which the state cannot take away from anybody, as it has not conferred them in the first place, and why are some judges considered dangerous and incompatible?”

            “Why the top judicial authorities do not react to frequent statements of high officials who in their speeches publicly, and beforehand convict persons being tried for criminal offenses before the Serbian courts, disclose details which during the preliminary investigations should not be publicly divulged. Legal principle that no person is guilty until proven guilty is a civilized achievement which in the aforementioned cases is obviously disregarded, because some politicians have obviously taken on the role of court.” Letter was signed by: Leposava Karamarković, judge of the Supreme Court of Serbia, Jelisaveta Vasilić-judge of the Higher Commercial Court in Belgrade, Vida Petrović-Škero, Radmila Dragičević-Dičić, Ivan Bajazit, Dušan Slijepčević, Neda Antonić, Goran Čavlina, Ravijojla Kastratović-judges of the District Court in Belgrade, Gordana Mihajlović, Mirjana Pavlović, Sanja Lekić and Vlasta Janković-judges of the Fifth Municipal Court in Belgrade (Glas javnosti 17 June 2000)

            Less than a month after the publishing of this letter, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia at the session held on 12 July, decided that the following judges be relieved of their judicial duties: Miroslav Todorović, judge of the District Court in Belgrade, all 13 judges-signatories of the letter, Boško Papović, judge of the Požarevac District Court, Đorđe Ranković, judge of the Požarevac Municipal Court, Jovan Stanojević, Public Prosecutor of the Požarevac District Court and Đuro Pilipović, president of the Novi Sad Municipal Court.

            The reasoned opinion in writing of the proposal for dismissal of judge Todorović read: “as a member of presidency of so-called “Otpor” organization, he gave public commens, although aware that the organization was not registered with the authorized state bodies and that it engaged in activities aiming at the replacement of the state bodies by extra-constitutional means.” The decision on the dismissal of 13 judge- signatories of the aforementioned letter states: “the group opted for taking an illegal and partisan course of action within the judiciary, that is the one already taken by judges facing the proceedings.” Judge Đorđe Ranković was relieved of his duty because he took part in the opposition-staged rally in Požarevac and after the rally, conducted investigation into the arson incident in the Serbian Renewal Movement premises. Judge Boško Papović was relieved of his judicial duties on grounds of “having repeatedly challenged in the public information media the legality of the decision of the Požarevac District Court that public prosecutor’s motion for investigation and detention of the accused be accepted.” Jovan Stanojević was relieved of his duty for “engaging in private entrepreneurship and in other profit-making business.”

            In taking note of such moves of the authorities, one can state that the legal state does not function even in institutions which primary task should be the legal protection of citizens of Serbia. Moreover such moves indicate that naked political interests have prevailed over the legal ones. By dismissal of honest, conscientious, expert and experienced judges and replacing them with young, inexperienced, but politically compatible judges, the regime brings to a close the purge of the judiciary commenced last year. Added to that such moves of the ruling oligarchy contain the following message to the holders of judicial functions and citizens likewise: the regime shall violate or ignore any principle and freedom proclaimed by the constitution if it suits its interests. That is why provisions of Article 95 and 96 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia guaranteeing that “courts of law shall protect freedoms and rights of citizens, rights and interests of legal bodies established under the law and provide for constitutionality and legality”, that is, that “courts of law are independent in their work and they rule in accordance with the Constitution, laws and other general acts,” represent only a dead letter, likewise an increasingly threatened number of freedoms and individual and civil rights proclaimed by the Constitution.


            Contrary to the Public Information Act, it seems that the goals because of which the University Act had been enacted were completely attained. Under the cover of the University Act the plan of political, moral and cultural destruction of the Serbian high school education was successfully implemented. In two years of the Act’s enforcement, the Serbian high schools, and notably the elite Belgrade university, lost over 200 professors and assistants, of whom two thirds were young people with M.Sc. and PhD titles. This brain-drain helped achieve two basic goals: firstly, any public criticism both on global, social plane and on a more, narrow, university one was neutralized, and secondly, not only the autonomy of university was lost, but also its future.

            Unfortunately one should not overlook the contribution of university proper to such a state of affairs. Barring brave attempts by parts of Philosophical, Law, Philology and Electrical Engineering faculties in Belgrade and some professors to counter the repression, reactions of the rest of the faculties and professors were not adequate. Without the backing of important institutions, for example the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Serbian Orthodox Church, and a genuine support of the opposition, the university autonomy stood no chance to survive in the face of a brutal repression campaign launched by the state bureaucracy and political oligarchy. University, without finding a genuine response to such stranglehold, yielded to the regime’s pressure and gradually accepted imposed restrictions. Finally it was faced with a disastrous situation: its autonomy was totally abolished and it was no longer in the position to influence in any way government’s choice of rectors, deans or other high education professionals. In the aforementioned period the Serbian government named five new rectors and 67 deans, 17 of them at the Belgrade University.

            Swamped with people whose professional expertise and moral qualities do not meet the standards of their functions and titles, the university is faced with or has led itself into a situation in which politics totally prevail over education, lectures and students. Education was tasked with producing experts for different fields, but they were also taught the basics of ethics and moral as prerequisites for professional exercise of their profession. In this sense disastrous effects of the University Act are best seen in the example of the Belgrade Law Faculty. From that faculty more than a dozen most perspective and qualified professors and assistants were removed in different ways, but on orders of the newly-appointed dean, Oliver Antić. They were replaced by greenhorns of dubious expertise. The most scandalous development was the recent naming of Vojsilav Šešelj one of the professors of the faculty. Students of this faculty should in the neart future apply their non-gained knowledge about law and moral apply as judges, lawyers, prosecutors or defense counsels. But with  the knowledge they received from such professors in the foreseeable future they are only most likely  to find jobs in the judiciary and not face unpopular measures during their career. Having in mind the manner of selection of judges and prosecutors, it is very likely that ‘incompatible persons’ shall not be among their ranks.

            On the other hand most marked resistance at universities was mounted by students bent on resolutely defending their academic freedoms. Frequent student demonstrations, rallies and other forms of protests, sometimes backed by some professors, were regularly punished or hampered by the university authorities, with assistance of the police and private firms providing security teams. New “security forces” of faculties (notably at the Electrical Engineering, Architectural and Civil Engineering faculties) primarily engaged in the protection of those faculties from their professors and students.

            The security team of the Belgrade Electrical Engineering Faculty literally carried out of the faculty its full-time, but blacklisted professor Milan S. Savić, BETA agency was told on 25 May 2000 by the professor of the same faculty, Slavoljub Marjanović, who on Friday was banned from entering the faculty. A group of eight professors of the Electrical Engineering faculty, including such prominent names, as Milan S. Savić, Jovan Nehman, and former dean Borivoje Lazić, was also banned from entering the faculty. “Savić begged them to let thim take some documents from his cabinet, but as he did not want to leave his cabinet, the security team literally carried him out of it,” said Marjanović.

            A group of thirty odd masked attackers raided on 23 May 2000 the Architectural Faculty in Belgrade and assaulted students gathered in the building. Attackers wore green surgical masks on their faces and were armed with wooden rods. They beat up students indiscriminately. When the majority of students managed to get out of the building, the attackers locked the faculty’s doors and screams could be heard from inside the building. Within minutes three white cars appeared in front of the faculty, and several people in black clothes and without masks alighted form them and entered  the faculty building. (Danas, 24 May 2000)

            Rectors and deans got a memo (dated 24 May) from Jevrem Janjić, the High School Education Minister, ordering them to proclaim the end of the school-year by 26 May.  The text stated that the decision was taken in line with “the current needs”and that by 26 May students had to get signatures necessary for their admission to exams and endorsement of semesters, as after that date they would not be allowed to do it. The text furthermore stated that only students having exams and on date of those exams would be admitted to the faculty. On the basis of the aforesaid memo all gatherings and manifestations in faculty premises were banned, that is allowed only if the dean consented to them. (Glas javnosti 26 May 2000)

           Association of Professors and Researchers of Yugoslavia and the University Committee for Defense of Democracy demanded that Jagoš Purić, the Belgrade Dean, resigned because of students’ roughing up: “After the last in a series of beatings at the Architectural Faculty, we warn you, Jagoš Purić, as your colleagues, that you have trampled upon all norms of humanity and sensible conduct. You as a rector are responsible for everything that is happening at the University, so it does not really matter if you had given orders, paid the attackers, or only tacitly agreed to their misdeed,“ read the letter. “Our people do not pay you to beat up their children. Have you tried to talk to students, to see what they want, and what they do not accept any more? (Blic, 26 May 2000)


            Despite the failure of students’ protests and rallies (1991/92, 1993, 1996/97) which mostly ended with the misuse of power, energy and true impetus of students, that experience served to help organize a new students’ movement, by at least indicating which moves should be avoided this time around. Most previous students’ rallies and protests lost impetus, and accordingly importance, because of few characteristic errors: firstly, students’ demonstrations emerged and later disappeared when the same thing happened to the original, short-term goal which generated them; secondly, every protest spawned a new student leader, who later, on grounds of his popularity was recruited by a political party, whereby the distinction between political parties and students’ movements was erased; and thirdly, during students’ protests always emerged a new faction within the student movement, which in turn led to internal strife and splits, resulting in formation of new sub-groups, and subsequent weakening of this movement and its impact.   

            In observing actons taken to date by the student movement “Otpor” one must note that its organizers seemed to have learnt the lesson from the past experience. Saturated with manipulations, failure and inconsistency of the opposition, burdened with internal strife and mutual deceits, and the opposition leaders whose only ambition seems to be to take over power, students took a completely different course of action, by creating an independent, autochthonous movement.

            The student movement “Otpor,” set up in mid-October 1998 at the Belgrade University by fifteen students, evolved in a large movement, boasting currently about 25,000 active members in 121 localities in Serbia and about 1 million followers. Some estimates indicate that “Otpor” could well mobilize double its current active membership.

            Words of a rare “Otpor” member known to the public at large, best illustrate the reasons behind the creation of the movement, its set-up and goals:

            “A child from Zvezdara municipality, as Ivan Marović, likes to think of himself, a member of the generation which did not have an opportunity to ‘delight’ in the advantages of the previous country, but instead lived from his early childhood in the Abomination. He promoted his ideas and those of his generation during the 1996/1997 Students’ Protests, when the core ‘staff’ of Otpor was created: it was to be a non-elitist, a non-leader organization, bent on staying away from the drawing- room party politics, intrepid, provocation-minded and advocate of non-violent methods (...) all this for their own sake and the future of their children. Marović took off the army coat of his grandfather and donned the black T shirt with a painted fist, which became a symbol of the massive popular movement. As one of its principal spokesman, Ivan Marović keeps repeating that the basic quality and quantity of this organization lies in the slogan: “As the repression grows, so does “Otpor.” (Danas, 16 May 2000)

            The ruling coalition disliked intensely the fact that citizens embraced the faith, ideals and courage exemplified by this movement, which overshadowed the enshrined principle of the Serbian politics that almost all parties had to engage in carpet-begging and selfish politicking. While the authorities successfully neutralized the opposition parties and its leaders through blackmail, bribes and deal making, a new and massive ‘headless’ movement proved to be a formidable enemy. The regime first lauched a hate speech campaign against “Otpor” and then gradually began to translate into practice its threats.

1. Verbal showdown with Otpor

            All repressive measures taken against the movement indicate the degree of the regime’s irritation with this student organization., This in turn also indicates that the movement has energy, not so much of political as of existential nature. Added to that “Otpor” managed to demystify all symbols of the left-wing parties and moreover ridicule them and turn into a sheer absurdity. That is why the Associated Yugoslav Left was specially engaged in discrediting of Otpor. At the meeting of the students’ left-wing organization, the AYL body, it was stated that the “political situation at the Serbian universities is very grave due to the opposition strivings to use students for provoking the chaos in the country. Those activities are guided and paid by foreign countries and the focal point of those activities is “Otpor” (...) It is perfectly clear that this organization, which has been set up to implement the concept devised abroad, intends to grow into a political party, and there are serious indications that it plans to unite with certain terrorist organizations in a later phase” (Borba, 13 January 2000)

            The University Left-Wing Committee accused ”Otpor” of “collaborating with the opposition, and intending to overthrow the authorities, instead of dealing with the students’ issues.” Secretary General of the ULWC, Aleksandra Joksimović, stated that the “scenario of Otpor’s activities was written abroad” and that “its goal is to overthrow the system and instrumentalize students.” (Danas, 15-16 January 2000)

            Vladan Đurković, member of the ULWC said that “Otpor”’s activities were evolving into sheer terror. “They manipulate the children, as once Shiptari did (...) And they dare talk about betrayal of Kosovo, while emulating the Shiptars’ model (...) They obviously have no ideas, but they have money, for they had robbed half the world (he was obviously referring to ‘the creators of enslavement of Yugoslavia’) and that money sufficed to convince “Otpor”’s activists to become the mailed fist of those who had defended by bombs human rights and democracy in Serbia, “said Đurković (Politika, 16 February 2000)         

            “So-called student organization “Otpor,” based on the principle of terrorist striking groups is an extended arm of the NATO aggressors and its fascist structure and represents a continuation of the Dimitrije Ljotić-led fascist organization “Zbor,” active on the eve of the WW2,” stressed M.Sc. Aleksandar Rastović, member of the Main Committee of the Serbian Socialist Party in an interview to the First Program of Radio Belgrade. “Failed students, drug addicts, moral scum, united in organization “Otpor,” under direct command of the Serbian Renewal Movement became an enemy of Yugoslavia, and thanks to the substantial financial support of its Western protectors they are attempting to destroy their country and to achieve what NATO murderers failed to achieve: to carve up and abolish Yugoslavia.”

            “The Youth Council of Belgrade (the pro-regime organization, which took over Radio B-92, is publicly qualified as a “bogus” one) resolutely stands up to any abuse of the young for political purposes,” stated Vladan Zagrađanin, President of the Council. He also said that so-called “Otpor” was financed by the NATO attaches, Đinđić and so-called Alliance for Changes, by funds obtained through criminal activities and shameful corruption in municipalities and towns ruled by their political mentors. He accused “Otpor” of dealing with forgeries and deceits aimed at undermining the work of the Student Center, whereby the former wanted to attribute all the negative consequences thereof to allegedly inefficient and incapable state authorities. The Belgrade Youth Council “demands that the state bodies perform their duties and cut off all drug and money-supplying channels used for shady deals aimed at destroying our state.” (Politika, 20 February 2000)

            Member of the University Left-Wing Committee Vladimir Đurković stated that members of so-called organization “Otpor” were trying to defend themselves from the fact that their symbol, ideas and activities, were reminiscent of those of skinheads, and that they were inspired by the brutal terror of the fascist ideology. He said that “Otpor”’s front men at their congress admitted getting money from abroad and their role of foreign mercenaries (Politika, 23 February 2000)

2. Physical-Legal Showdown with “Otpor”

            Number of members and activists of “Otpor” taken to police stations, and facing trials, in a lesser number of cases, best illustrates the regime’s position on “Otpor” and simultaneously its fear of this organization.

            Kruševac- The Kruševac police patrol detained in early morning hours of 18 January five activists of “Otpor” for affixing “Otpor”’s posters and took them to the police station for informative interviews. They were kept for about an hour in the police station, their propaganda material was seized and they were warned against affixing the posters. Srđan Milivojević, one of the detained activists, stated that the police treated them decently. (Blic, 19 January 2000)

            Kruševac- Srđan Milivojević, coordinator of “Otpor” and four other activists of this organization were detained for informative interviews on 19 January. Inspectors searched Milivojević’s house and seized all propaganda material. He was later released, likewise the other four activists of “Otpor.” They told “Blic” that inspectors wanted to know who kept writing graffiti on buildings (Blic, 20 January 2000)

           Kragujevac- Police broke up contributions-collecting action of “Otpor.” Namely six out of seven stands at which contributions for newspaper “Nezavisna svetlost” were being collected had to be dismantled, because, according to the Head of Kragujevac police, “‘Otpor’ had no authorization to organize any humanitarian action,” on which grounds the police intervened. (Blic, 3 February 2000)

            Beograd- Secondary school members of “Otpor” organized on 11 February action “Wake up” in the Sixth, Fourth and Architectonic secondary schools. In the Sixth secondary shool its director shouted so much at them that activists were compelled to leave the professors’ room. In the Fourteenth Secondary school, while they were exiting the professors’ room an elderly man approached them and started pulling their jackets. They wrenched themselves away from the man and ran towards the school exit, where a group of young men in black jackets attacked them, pulled them down on the ground and started kicking them. (Glas javnosti, 12 February 2000)

            Beograd- Branko Ilić, Miloš Milenković, and Nikola Andrić, activists of “Otpor” were arrested on 14 February around 22.15 h while writing a graffiti “Resistance to Sloba” in the vicinity of the central orthodox church. They were taken to “Stari grad” police station. According to Vukašin Petrović, an activist, Branko Ilić was beaten up. Petrović also stated that although ten activists were involved in the action, the police were ordered to detain only three of them. (Blic, 15 February 2000)

           Kragujevac- On 15 February the police prevented “Otpor”’s activists to organize action “I carry all my things with me.” Following a brief discussion with “Otpor”’s activists the police inspector told them that their action was banned. Head of Kragujevac Police recently informed “Otpor” activists that all their future actions in the city would be banned (Danas, 16 February 2000)

            Beograd- During the preparations for the “Otpor” congress, the regime stepped up its repression. In the past three days the police detained across Serbia over 23 poster-affixing activists. According to Ivan Marović, it was a sign that “the regime was getting increasingly nervous” on the eve of the congress” (Danas, 17 February 2000)

            Novi Sad- On 15 February the police in Subotica detained 18 poster-affixing activists of “Otpor.” In the police station they were physically harassed and released around 3 h in the morning. Two activists, Aleksandar Pešić and Dejan Petković, were detained yesterday around 14.45 p.m. while affixing posters. According to “Otpor” they were taken in an unknown direction. (Blic, 17 February 2000)

            Beograd- a group of attackers on 19 February beat up a group of “Otpor” poster-affixing activists in Belgrade. According to “Otpor” communiqué attackers’ heads were shaved. The attack happened at the corner of Ivana Milutinovića and Maršala Tolbuhina streets, while activists were preparing to affix the poster “Otpor-for I love Serbia” over the Yugoslav Associated Left Poster. (Blic, 20 February 2000)

            Bačka Palanka- Stanko Lazendić and Milan Đilas were taken to the Bačka Palanka police station on 20 February. Informative Service of “Otpor” informed that the two were detained on no grounds and stressed that “the National Movement ‘Otpor’” saw that incident as yet another form of repression against free-thinking people and implementation of the conclusions of the last Socialist Party of Serbia Congress.” Detainee Lazić stated that he and his group on Saturday affixed “Otpor”’s posters in Bačka Palanka and were detained a day later because of that action He added that they were interviewed for 2 hours, while their flats were searched. (Danas, 21 February 2000)

           Požarevac- the Požarevac Branch of “Otpor” communicated that in the late night hours between 20 and 21 February the police removed over a hundred affixed posters of that organizatuion. Citizens of Požarevac informed the activists that posters were removed by two persons in plainclothes and two in police uniforms and that the removed posters ended up in a police van. (Blic, 22 February 2000)

            Beograd- On 21 February the poster-affixing activists of the Associated Yugoslav Left were detained in the vicinity of the railway station. The police mistakenly took them for “Otpor” activists because they too had painted fists on their T shirts. The police in fact failed to pay attention to the wording and contents of posters,” told “Danas” Vukašin Petrović, member of “Otpor.” “Those 5 or six “Otpor” activists were detained for about an hour.” (Danas, 23 February 2000)

            Zrenjanin-During the action “Opening of Otpor street” in the centre of Zrenjanin 10 activists of this organization were arrested. All ten of them and a Zrenjanin municipal PM were taken to the police station to be interviewed. The police seized their loudspeakers, a cassette-player, bread and salt, propaganda material and ordered the gathered crowd to disperse. “Recently, including the last intervention, the police detained and interrogated 37 “Otpor” activists. (Glas javnosti, 25 February 2000)

            Niš- ”Otpor” activist Vladimir Mladenović was hurt yesterday during the action “Investigation of traitors”. An unidentified elderly passer-by hit Mladenović with his stick and pierced his arm. (Glas Javnosti, 27 February 2000).

            Novi Sad- After being remanded in custody for over 8,000 hours 181 activists of the Bečej-based “Otpor” branch, now Boris Negelija (18), Strahinja Ivošević (22) and Daniela Bankova (18) from Bačkovo Petrovo Selo face preliminary investigation. At the request of the public prosecutor, the investigative judge, Siniša Simin, instituted proceedings under the Penal Code of the Republic Serbia, Article 176, para. 1, on grounds that the accused tried to “destruct social and private property.“ ”They charged me with something that I have not done; I have not affixed posters. I distributed calendars and other propaganda material -said Boris Negelija. They came to my house on 27 January, took me to the police station, and interrogated me for 3 hours. They behaved decently during the interrogation. (Danas, 1 March 2000)

            Beograd- Miloš Došen, “Otpor” activist, was beaten up by a group of guys in black leather jackets while he was removing posters “Counter Otpor.” Nikola Radaković, another activist, was beaten up, on the same spot, two weeks earlier. The following day Radaković’s father was beaten up by a gang in black when he tried to remove posters “Counter Otpor.” (Blic, 1 March 2000)

            Beograd- On 4 March two policemen beat up a secondary school member of “Otpor.” Four policemen stopped him and his friends at the bus station close to school “Dositej Obradović” and searched them. “One of them tore up my pocket, took out a wallet and pulled out “Otpor”’s small calendar, “said the boy. He added that the policeman cursed him, slapped him and threw him on the ground. One of the boys from his group was beaten up too, after which the policimen let them go.” (Danas, 6 March 2000)

           Kragujevac- Unidentified burglers stole all the equipment and membership -related documentation from Kragujevac premises of “Otpor; they also stole a computer and printer and about 700 filled up membership applications (Danas, 13 March 2000)

            Novi Sad- Four “Otpor” activists from Novi Sad were detained on 12 March in the vicinity of Ruma, after the police found “Otpor”’s propaganda material in their car. (Danas, 13 March 2000)

            Pirot- On 11 March the local police tried to break up the “Otpor”-staged action “Uproot.” The policemen checked the IDs of activists and threatened them with detention. (Danas, 13 March 2000)

           Kragujevac- Yesterday about 15:30 p.m. the police tried not only to prevent the “Otpor”-staged action, but also to arrest its activists engaged in affixing the “Otpor” posters in the downtown area. (Danas, 13 March 2000)

            Beograd- On the day when the action “Otpor (resistance) to Repression” was staged 54 activists of “Otpor” were arrested in 120 Serbian cities. Tamara Popović, an activist, told the 28 March press conference, that a total number of “Otpor” detainees rose to 256. “We did not get scared, we have more activists than they have cells in their jails.” (Glas javnosti 29 March 2000)

            Zrenjanin- “Otpor” staged an action in Zrenjanin intended to punish the local media RTV “Santos,” Cable TV “Zrenjanin”, TV Luna, Radio Zrenjanin and RTS correspondents’ bureau for “biased and unilateral information.” Fines ranged from 350,000 dinars (RTV “Santos”) to 750,000 dinars (RTS). “”We told them to pay the fines into the accounts of the socially most vulnerable denizens (...) we handed the fines personally. One of directors insulted and threw out our activists yelling all along that he would call the police to “rough us up properly.” But we managed to avoid all the provocations,” read the statement of the Student Movement “Otpor” in Zrenjanin (Glas javnosti 3 May 2000)

            Kruševac- “Otpor” activists and the Club of Young Members of the Serbian Renewal Movement organized a joint aciton titled “Do not allow that the names of your children appear in tomorrow’s newspapers.” Activist of “Otpor” Mladen Tripković read out names of all 56 citizens of Kruševac, members of the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian police who had died in the NATO aggression, and asked the question “which ideals and whose interests caused those deaths?” During the action those in attendance were told about the incident in Požarevac. Devulging of this information lured out several hundred people to gather at the “Fontana” square. We were joined by NGO representatives and those of Independent Trade Union of Retirees, told “Glas” Srđan Milivojević from Kruševac.” (Glas javnosti, 4 May 2000)

            Beograd- On 3 May “Otpor” activists, fearing possible police raids, organized  duty shifts in the Belgrade premises of the movement. During the night they were visited by leaders of several opposition parties. Duty shifts were organized because of the statement given by Ivan Marković, the Information Secretary of the Associated Yugoslav Left, who sharply criticized “Otpor” in response to the scuffle between “Otpor”s activists and workers of company “Madona” in Požarevac. In its yesterday’s communique “Otpor” levelled accusations at Marković for openly calling for “ the lynch of all those who think differrently” and “thus hinted at a possible raid“ of the Belgrade premises of the movement. (Danas, 5 May 2000)

            Šabac- “During the action “We are looking for Radojko Luković”, 13 “Otpor” activists were arrested and taken to informative inteviews,” reads the “Otpor” communiqué. “During the informative interview from 15 to 16.30 h Sergej Limbocki and Darko Pavlović were threatened by policemen; the first one was told that his glasses would be smashed into his eyes, while the second was threatened with a special treatment. Threats stopped when the legal counsel of detainees arrived. Other detainees were: Nikola Topić, Zoran Dimitrijević, Srđan Stanojević, Miloš Janković, Miloš Cvetković, Vladimir Todorović, Senad Dautović, Željko Terzić, Đorđe Stefanović, Ljuban Nikolić and Goran Radivojević,” stated “Otpor”. (Glas javnosti, 9 May 2000)

            Batočina- Before the municipal misdemeanour judge in Batočina the first hearing of Vladan Vuković, local “Otpor” member, was held on 8 May. Vuković was dissmised from his job in the Republican Directorate for Roads on grounds of his “Otpor” membership in early 2000. He was accused by the Batočina police of spraying graffiti at the Batočina bus station in the late night hours beetween 24 and 25 April this year. In a misdemanour report the police stated that “he was disturbing citizens and destroying the city buildings.” Vuković was taken to the police station and compelled to sign the aforementioned statement. (Danas, 9 May 2000)

            Šabac- On 8 May Šabac police detained 13 “Otpor” activists and took them to the police station for informative interviews. They allegedly intended to affix posters with the image of Radojko Luković, an “Otpor” activist. All of them were released after an hour-long interrogation, and 831 posters and a flag were seized from them. After this action in Kraljevo the police detained Vladimir Milovanović and Vladan Slavković and interviewed them for about an hour. (Blic, 9 May 2000)

            Velika Plana- Trial of 5 “Otpor” members from Velika Plana before the municipal court was postponed. Thy were charged with “destroying the city” under the Misdemanour Act, Article 176. Their legal counsels stated that the three under-age and two adult secondary school pupils were reported by a Velika Plana municipal inspector, who failed to write down the date, place and time of incident. Under-age Miloš Jevtić, Marko Nikolić and Branislav Veljković, as well as adults, Slaviša Nikolić, and Nenad Radosavljević, wrote “Otpor” symbols and affixed posters across the city, and the evidence incriminating them was seized (propaganda material, brushes, paints). (Glas javnosti, 13 May 2000)

           Kragujevac- On 14 May the two policemen detained at the bus station “Otpor” activists Milena Rančić (17), Đorđe Antonijević (19) and Marko Lazović (17) for smuggling. Commercial crimes inspector, Milenko Lazović, told them they were detained for not having a receipt for the goods, that is, 20,000 match boxes with “Otpor” symbols which Rančić had brought from Belgrade; they were told to bring the receipt in order to have those match boxes restituted to them. (Glas javnosti, 15 May 2000)

            Čačak- On 14 May “Otpor” activists organized the acition “The AYL-Era Park”, in a big city park close to the building of the municipal committee of the Associated Yugoslav Left (AYL). They wanted to symbolically show to denizens of Čačak what kind of life they had in the present-day Serbia: no money, embezzled savings accounts, long lines before shops selling oil and sugar, and possibility to buy gasolene in canisters from the street peddlers. According to organizers before the action the police, whose station is also in the vicinity of the city park, detained three “Otpor” members, checked their IDs, and released them (Glas javnosti, 15 May 2000)

            Brus- On 14 May local “Otpor” activists organized their first-ever action called “Get to Know ‘Otpor’” Together with their colleagues from Kruševac and Aleksandrovac, the Brus-based “Otpor” activists handed to citizens propaganda material indicating the goals of this movement. “We stopped a bus full of policemen, greeted them and gave them leaflets, and they greeted us back,” said one “Otpor” activist (Blic, 15 May 2000)

            Mladenovac-Čačak- Ivan Marović told Blic that on 14 May the four activists of “Otpor” from Mladenovac, Violeta Jovanović, Neda and Divna Đorđević and Nebojša Vasilić, were detained while distributing bulletin “Serbia’s resitance fighers (Otporaši)”. They were released after 14 p.m. According to Marović the four “Otpor” activists were detianed in Čačak on no grounds whatsoever. (Blic, 15 May 2000)

           Aleksandrovac- The Aleksandovac police patrol on 15 May detained “Otpor” activists, Saša Pršić from Gornji Stupanj and Rade Radosavljević from Šljivovo. During a 70 min.-long interview the police interrogated them about organizers of the last week’s protest rally in downtown Aleksandrovac. Several hundred-strong rally was organized in protest over the transfer of medical doctor Čedomir Petković, President of the main committee of Democratic Party from Gornji Stupanj health centre to Stalać health centre, 50 km distant from Aleksandrovac. “The transfer was a punishment for his participation in the Aleksandrovac rally of the Župa District associated opposition held ten days earlier,” stated “Otpor” (Blic, 16 May 2000)

            Vrbas- Local police detained the three “Otpor” members and interrogated them for 6 hours. During their detention, 500 posters and other propaganda material of the movement, as well as the entire circulation of the last issue of “Ausajder” newspaper, published by the Democratic Youth of Vrbas, were seized. One of the inspectors most frequently asked question was: “Do you know the murderer of Boško Perošević?” (Blic, 16 May 2000)

            Novi Sad- Local police stated on 15 May that in the course of its investigation of assessination of Boško Perošević, President of the Provincial Executive Council of Vojvodina, its members detained 20 persons from areas of Novi Sad, Bačka Palanka, Vrbas and Srbobran, reasonably beleived to have connections with this crime. All arrestees were members of “Otpor.” Propaganda material and other “Otpor”-related objects were seized from them. The Novi Sad police also stated that the collection of other evidence and forensic work are under way (Politika Ekspres, 17 May 2000). “Otpor” members M. Gagić and S. Lazendić denied charges of being accomplices in the murder of Vojvodina’s Prime Minister and a high official of the Serbian Socialist Party, Boško Perošević, and stressed that on 14 April 2000 they were in Republika Srpska. “We were not accomplices in assasination of Perošević, as on 14 April we were visiting Stanko’s family in Republika Srpska for Easter and Đurđevdan holidays,” told Gagić the Banja Lluka press conference (...) Gagić also pointed out that neither he nor Lazetić have ever seen “a man who killed Perošević” and that they “were in a state of shock when they heard of Perošević’s murder.” He also stressed that “‘Otpor’ does not use violent methods.” (Blic, 20 May 2000)

            Novi Sad- After a 13 hour-long interrogation in the police station and before a magistrate, on 19 May Vladimir Pavlov, an activist of “Otpor” was released. The crisis headquarters organized a rally before the city police station at 20.00 h. When Pavlov informed by cell phone that he was in the magistrate’s office and expected to be soon relased, several thousand citizens, led by Mayor Dr. Stevan Vrbaški, President of the Executive Commitee, Dr. Predrag Filipov, Vice Presidents of Novi Sad Assembly, Bora Novaković and Miroslav Mrnuštika, President of RDSV Mile Isakov and members of the city government and opposition parties representatives headed for the aforesaid building to greet Pavlov...many Novi Sad denizens carrying “Otpor” and the oppostion parties flags went to the building housing the magistrate’s office and waited for Pavlov. Arrested members of “Otpor” and the opposition parties, members of the Alliance for Changes, were thoroughly “processed” in the police station: they were photographed in the postures with nubmers of their files, their fingerprints were taken and their flats searched, said Predrag M. Savić, President of the Municipal Committee of the Civic Alliance of Serbia and Coordinator of the Alliance for Changes in Valjevo. (Blic 20 May 2000)

            Beograd- Over 50 policemen yesterday prevented “Otpor” from staging a protest rally in front of the Faculty of Philosophy. At 12 h, when the protest was about to start, the policemen in plainclothes turned up at the venue and collectively started checking the students’ IDs. After that “action” they left, while 500 students at “Otpor”’s invitation entered the Philosophical faculty amphitheatre.

            On 19 May 2000 several “Otpor” activists were detained. Ivan Marović, one of the most active and prominent members of “Otpor,” after several hours of detention was released on that day. (Glas javnosti, 20 May 2000)

            Three Soko Banja activists of “Otpor” were ‘interviewed’ for about an hour by the local police. (Glas javnosti, 20 May 2000)

            The Kragujevac police first detained and then released “Otpor” members Darko Milenković and Predrag Stanković (Glas javnosti, 20 May 2000)

            Fourteen-year old Vojislav Laković was taken to informative interview in Vrnjačka Banja. The same thing happened to Vladimir Stanković in Zaječar (Glas javnosti, 20 May 2000)

            The Aleksandrovac police arrested in the past 48 hours five activists of “Otpor” and after several hours of interrogation, relased four of them. Ljubodrag Živadinović was remanded in custody. Names of detainees were put on file, their flats were searched and “Otpor” propaganda material found in them was seized. The policemen, who looked for firearms, did not find any in flats of “Otpor” members. (Glas javnosti, 20 May 2000)

            Subotica- Eight “Otpor” activists arrested on 18 May, during the session of the city parliament, after lengthy interrogation, were remanded in custody until yesterday afternoon, due to the visit of the Republican Prime Minsiter, Mirko Marjanović, to Subotica. “All activists of “Otpor” are OK. The only incident was related to Vice President of the Municipal Committee of Democratic Party and member of its Main Committee, Oliver Dulić, who was beaten up in the police station while, inquiring about his arrested brother Igor, member of “Otpor.” (Danas, 20-21 May 2000)

            Beograd- While trying to find refugee in the City Assemby, Marta Manojlović was roughed up by several policemen. She sustained serious head injuries. “They ran towards us, and started hitting us while we were scrambling up the stairs. Two steps away from the Assembly’s entrance, a policeman hit me hard with a baton on my back. I fell on the ground, but they continued to beat me with batons on my head, back and legs, and kick me with their heavy shoes.” Dragana Manojlović, denizen of Belgrade, yesterday appealed to all parents to “wake up” and “protect the only thing they have-their children.” Her daughter, 17-year old Marta, activist of secondary school movement “Otpor”, was roughed up on 18 May, at the Belgrade rally staged in protest over take-over of Studio B.

            Šabac- On the eve of the 19 May Šabac rally, two policemen detained NV, a pupil of the third year of the Agricultural school, because he wore the “Otpor” T shirt.

On their way to the police station the policemen searched his satchel, every notebook and book. In the police station his fingeprints were taken and he was photographed for his newly-opened dossier. Among other things he was asked about the origins of hsi “Otpor” badge and who he was hired to kill. On no grounds he was kept in custody for over 60 minutes, although he was told that he was not arrested and that he did not need a lawyer.  (Blic, 21 May 2000)

            Smederevo- Vladimir Gošić was detained on Sunday, for allegedly, as the police report stated, distrurbing public peace and order by wearing a black short-sleeved T-shirt with the message “Resistance till victory”... Darko Kalenić, a municipal magistrate, gave an eight-days deadline to the two defense counsels to bring witnesses ready to confirm that Vladimir Gišić did not disturb citizens “by propagating ideas of unregistered political organization and did not threaten public peace and order.” (Danas, 23 May 2000)

            Beograd- Popular movement “Otpor”, the Students Federation, the Students Union and “Generation 21” on 22 May succeeded in holding a rally at the Faculty of Philology, despite efforts of the faculty security teams and some unidentified guys to disperse students and ban the rally. 30 unidentified guys attacked Miloš Milošević durign the rally. They hit him several times in the faculty’s corridor, seized his camera and an attache bag with his ID, passport and money. Unidentified attackers then ran towards the Serbian Socialist Party seat. (Blic, 23 May 2000)  

            On 26 May the following persions were detained: Vladimir Ješić “Otpor” member from Novi Sad, who was hit by a policeman during the 25 May protest, filed charges agaisnt an unidentified policeman “for overstepping his official duty.” 15 “Otpor” members and the opposition activists were detained in Sremska Mitrovica for distributing leaflets. All of them, but Vladimir Jeremić, were released. During the sports manifestation “Death to fascism, and resistance to terror” in Valjevo, Igor Nedeljković, “Otpor” member and Predrag M. Savić, member of the Civic Alliance of Serbia, were arrested. On 25 May Milena Plavšić, an “Otpor” activist and a Kragujevac secondary school pupil was arrested. (Glas javnosti, 27 May 2000)

            Niš- Vladislav Janaćković and Marko Daković, activists of “Otpor” were detained. (Blic 28 May 2000)

            Kruševac- Mother and daughter, Danica and Ljubica Kvrgović, members of Democratic Party were detained and taken to informative interviews. Inspectors specially inquired whether they were members of “Otpor.” They were released after their fingerprints and photographs were taken and their dossiers opened. (Blic, 28 May 2000)

            Igor Popović, Ilija Malešević, and Vladimir Malbašić were detained in Ruma (Blic, 28 May 2000)

            Three under-age activists of “Otpor”, D.P., L.M. and T.N. and Robert Maletenski were detained in Subotica on 27 May. (Blic, 28 May 2000)

            Branko Ilić, “Otpor” activist thus commented, the latest wave of anti-”Otpor” repression: “In the past two months about 700 activists of “Otpor” were detained. Although our lives were threatened, the oppostion did not raise a finger to help us. Now we are under threat of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which in fact reads “Act against “Otpor,” and opposition is once again passive. Hence the only thing we can do is to appeal to people, interested in succeeding Slboodan Milošević, to start translating into practice their ideas, instead of holding innumerable meetings.”

            After being remanded in custody for 12 hours, actitivists of the popular movement “Otpor” on 28 May were released from the Požarevac police station. The police told them they were detained because they had copies of Banjaluka weekly Reporter with them. (Blic, 29 May 2000)

            Kraljevo- Local police detained, and after informative interviews released three “Otpor” activists. Nenad Košanin, Mihajlo Matović and 14-year old M.K. were detained during the action “Illegal construction- a foundation stone for old people’s home,” a parody of officially announced construction of 100,000 flats by the year 2010 (Glas javnosti, 16 June 2000)

            Kruševac- On 10 June the local police arrested 9 activists of “Otpor” and a passer-by at “Kod krsta” square. Activists organized that signature-collecting action in order to effect the registration of this Popular movement. Detainees were released after a two-hour long informative interview in the police. A female passer-by who had been detained together with “Otpor” activists, was the former worker of the special-purpose plant of “Crvena Zastava”, Zlata Nišlić, well-known in Šumadija for her anti-regime speeches during the protests of the special-purpose plant workers.

            Batočina- Vladan Vučković, “Otpor” activist from Batočina, recently fired from the Republican Directorate for Roads, was detained yesterday and interrogated in the police station. According to Vučković, the head of police station inquired about the structure of “Otpor” organization, its (non)registration status in Batočina and elsewhere, identity of authors of graffiti written across the town, number of “Otpor” members in Batočina and their background. “The conversation which lasted about twenty minutes, was conducted in a decent manner. However I have warned the police commander that unless a corresponding warrant is presented the next time, I shall decline to come to the informative interview,” said Vučković (Danas, 11 June 2000)

3. Attemps to legalize “Otpor”

            Council of “Otpor,” a branch of the Popular Movement, was set up on 24 May as a body with over 60 members, mostly professors of the Belgrade University who had rebelled against the University Act. “The Council was established so that both students and professors could devise a joint strategy in cases of physical violence, repression against the truth and calls for lynch,” said Milja Jovanović, an “Otpor” member, who took part in the founding assembly of the Council. In attendance were: Vesna Pešić, academician Milan Kurepa, professors Jovica Trkulja, Srbijanka Turajlić, Žarko Trebješanin, Ljubomir Madžar, Bora Kuzmanović, Čedomir Čupić, Dragor Hiber and other prominent personalities...Members of “Otpor” Council are people who come from many different walks of life: the former governor of the National bank, Dragoslav Avramović, singer Đorđe Balašević, actor Sergej Trifunović, journalist Zoran Ostojić. “Otpor” decided that the Council would have an advisory role in the crisis situation and in drawing up of its declarations (Blic 24 May 2000)

            Council for Democratic Changes collectively joined the Popular movement “Otpor.” “For us cooperation with people from diaspora, who are the principal donors of “Otpor”, is very important,” said Vukašin Petrović and added that “the regime’s claims that they were financed by the foreign governments and their secret services were sheer nonsense.” Petrović went on to note that: “‘Otpor,’ as an association of citizens shall not change anything in its system of actions. “Otpor” shall not get a leader and the main organizational body shall be the presidency and later, all actvisits,” said Petrović. He added: “In the past month over 750 activists were arrested. While earlier they were only detained and questioned, now their dossiers are opened and record is made of all their activities.” (Blic, 25 May 2000)

            Popular movement “Otpor” on 26 May held its founding assembly and decided to submit a registration application as an association of citizens to the Federal Justice Ministry. “Otpor” invited all those interested in its activities to take part in its founding ceremony and become founders of the popular movement “Otpor.” It was quoted in its Statute that the goals of the association of citizens were advocacy of democratization of society, dissemination and promotion of anti-fascist ideas and raising of terrorism and violence awareness. The University Committee for Defense of Democracy decided to collectively join “Otpor.” (Glas javnosti 26 May 2000)

            On 29 May an “Otpor” delegation submitted its application for registration as an association of citizens. But, the Federal Ministry of Justice declined to enter the Popular movement “Otpor” into the register of associations and social and political organizations. That negative decision was signed by the Federal Justice Minister, Petar Jojić (member of the Serbian Radical Party.) In a reasoned opinion in writing it was stated that “it is a widely known fact that.... members of the applicant (movement) for quite some time now have been operating illegally and contrary to our regulations by organizing public rallies at which they call for a massive rebellion aimed at forcible overthrowing of the constitutional order.”


            Developments preceding the 3 May incident in front of a café “Pasaž,” and the ensuing chain of events, represent one of the most salient examples of the political reality in Serbia, of the effects of the entire repressive apparatus (misuse and harassment of the media and journalists, abuse of the judiciary), and of weakness, inadequacy, and lack of ideas of the opposition and other regime’s opponents.

            “Otpor” activists, Radojko Luković, Momčilo Veljković, and lawyer Nebojša Sokolović, were beaten up on 2 May in the Požarevac café “Pasaž.” After having tried to prevent harassment and blackmail of Dragan Milanović, also “Otpor” activist, the three of them ended up in the Požarevac hospital with serious scull injuries. Luković also sustained grievous jaw, both eyes and arcades injuries, while Veljković had both arcades broken (Glas javnosti, 3 May 2000)

            In the aftermath of the incident the Požarevac police detained Momčilo Veljković, Radojko Lukovć and Nebojša Sokolović from Požarevac on charges of attempted murder of Saša and Milan Lazić. They were remanded in custody. In its report the police stated that “the aforementioned...are known as delinquency-prone persons.”

            Ivan Marković, Secretary of the Associated Yugoslav Left stated that “there was an attempt to murder a nineteen-year old member of the Associated Yugoslav Left in Požarevac.“ “A group of hooligans with the fascist symbol of “Otpor” attacked in a café “Pasaž” younger members of the Yugoslav Left and shot at Milan Lazić. Then Milan’s brother Saša was seriously injured when one of the hooligans hit him on the head with the butt of his pistol. Hooligans who presented themselves as the Youth movement “Otpor” were led by a middle-aged man Radojko Lazović. In this attempted murder he was assisted by the notorious Požarevac delinquent Momčilo Veljković” (Glas javnosti, 3 May 2000)

            Uroš Rakić, member of the University Left-Wing Committee, also demonized “Otpor” by calling it “a terrorist organization... whose members are not students or secondary school pupils...but criminals, jobless and destructive personalities guided by enemies of this country and their money... “Otpor” is tasked with carrying out terrorist actions aimed at creating chaos and civil war in this country. The event in Požarevac was a task they were entrusted with by their older colleagues at the 14 April rally...anticipated in their mention of arrests and murders of the political opponents. It is an implementation of Đinđić’s tactics of fighting against the authorities everywhere: in streets, at markets, everywhere. Čanak’s pillars for hanging have unfortunately materialized first in Požarevac, and then in Čačak.” (Večernje novosti, 4 May 2000)

            Dragan Milanović, who was allegedly the cause of brawl, stated: “On Friday Zoran Jovanović Roleks and Milan Lazić beat me up and threatened me with even worse treatment if I do not bring them my “Otpor” de-registration form. As there is no such thing, two nights ago, at 18.30 h I brought them a membership application form in order to tear it up in front of them.” Milanović added that on that night he asked for the police escort, but despite promises, it did not materialize. “They did not want to let me go, and demanded that I sign an application form for the Serbian Socialist Party membership. Momčilo Veljković and Radojko Luković, who were also in café “Pasaž,” asked the others to let me go, but Milan Lazić called his brother Saša instead. When he came the brawl broke out.” Dragan Milanović, the main cause of brawl, is currently in hiding in Belgrade. Milanović told Beta Agency that he had no imminent plans to return to Požarevac, for one of the brawlers threatened to kill him. (Glas javnosti 4 May 2000)

            Deputy General Director of the Catering-Commercial Company “Madona” from Požarevac, Vladimir Ašanin, yesterday denied that workers of that enterprise started the brawl with activists of movement “Otpor” two nights ago in Požarevac. In a written statement submitted to Beta Agency, Ašanin argued that “four “Otpor” activists, assisted by 11 men attacked and tried to rough up two young men...but instead got beaten up. Then they started accusing the security teams and lying about their injuries.” Ašanin denied that “Madona” workers who took part in the brawl were bodyguards of Marko Milošević, son of the Yugoslav president and underscored that “they were not the attackers, but rather the victims” (Danas 5 May 2000)

            In a lawsuit brought by the Požarevac municipal committee of the Associated Yugoslav Left against the RTV Studio B, the latter was fined 450,000 dinars. Studio B was charged with “broadcasting an absolutely untrue information that three persons sustained serious injuries when four bodyguards of Marko Milošević attacked members of “Otpor.” The Požarevac branch of the AYL also stated that “hooligans were arrested and taken to the police station for attacking members of the basic organization of the Associated Yugoslav Left Požarevac.” (Blic, 4 May 2000)

            Families of “Otpor” members, injured in the recent incident, submitted to the YUKOM Torture Victims Assistance Center medical documentation, that is, copies of medical reports of General hospital “Jova Dulić” in Požarevac indicating that on 2 May, Sokolović Nebojša, Veljković Momčilo and Luković Radojko were medically examined in that medical institution. The aforementioned medical documentation also indicated their injuries: one of the examined had a split wound in the area of the left-eye arcade, his nose was broken and he had a brain concussion The second person had a split wound in the back of his head, while the third person had bruised right eyeball, his right cheekbone was broken and his nose bones were believed to have been broken. (Blic, 5 May 2000)

            At “Otpor”’s proposal the opposition scheduled a meeting in Požareac, after which an avalanche of the regime’s threats ensued:

            The Rakovica committee of young members of the Yugoslav Associated Left stated that: “ ‘the alleged youth’ organization “Otpor,” had attempted to murder members of the AYL. Terrorists from “Otpor,” paid criminals guided by ideas of the nazi ideology, traitors of this country attacked the AYL members and tried to kill them just because there were people who thought differently, who did not want to betray and sell their country.“ “When offered to join the Serbian Socialist Party they responded they were members of “Otpor”,” reads the AYL communiqué (...) “Otpor” membership application forms are intended for Hitler jugend with the Fascist symbol, those bent on committing murders, the fifth column youth which through their terrorist actions in a short span of time, but repeatedly, tried to destabilize both our country and the left-wing forces, for they had to justify the money they had got from their Western financiers and commanders. However enlistees of the destructive criminal organization “Otpor” shall end up like their Western bosses, despised by their people and branded as traitors and the fifth-column by the history (Politika, 5 May 2000)

            Nikola Šainović, member of the Executive Committee of the city committee of the Serbian Socialist Party, stated: “We shall not tolerate provocation, violence and introduction of notorious methods from the fascist history into our political life.” He also stressed: “We were not frightened of the biggest power in the world. We shall respond adequately, in an energetic manner and shall take all the legal measure to protect ourselves and our people.” (Večernje novosti, 5 May 2000)

            Due to pressures piled on him, Boško Papović, investigative judge of the Požarevac District Court decided to delegate the Požarevac case to another judge. He told Beta Agency that on 8 May he suspended detention of Momčilo Veljković, Radojko Luković and Nebojša Sokolović, after having determined that there was no reasonable doubt that they tried to kill people from the security services of “Madona.” “I acted in line with my conscience, expertise and in keeping with the provisions of the Act on Criminal Proceedings. My conscience is clear, for it cannot be reasonably believed that actions taken by the accused Momčilo Veljković, Radojko Luković and Nebojša Sokolović, were tantamount to the criminal offense of attempted murder. Consequently as there are no grounds for detention, I released the accused from detention on 8 May in the afternoon, “said Papović (Blic, 11 May 2000) (N.B.: Boško Papović, a magistrate of the Požarevac District Court, Đorđe Ranković, a magistrate of the Požarevac District Court who took part in the unheld opposition meeting and Jovan Stanojević, the Požarevac District Public Prosecutor, who refused to institute proceedings against the accused, were relieved of their duties on 12 July 2000, while Radojko Luković and Momčilo Veljković were detained again on 9 May. (Blic, 10 May 2000)

            On 9 May, the date on which the opposition rally was to be held, the regime launched its most brutal wave of repression against citizens heading for this town and journalists. That is why the rally was called off and a new one was scheduled for 15 May in Belgrade. The opposition’s communiqué read: “Slobodan Milošević’s regime clearly bent on repression, violence and terror, did its utmost to prevent the democratic opposition meeting in Požarevac, although the rally was not officially banned. The police forces cordoned off all the access roads to town. A genuine counter-rally was to be held and the podium for the counter-rally speakers had been placed in the spot originally chosen for the podium of the opposition leaders. Those actions were stage-managed by the top leadership. All the aforementioned indicates that the regime intends to cause clashes among citizens and even a civil war in the country.” (Glas javnosti, 10 May 2000)

           Požarevac police accounted for its 9 May repressive measures in the following manner: “We detained 10 offenders who tried to disturb the 9 May (the Day of Triumph over Fascism) celebrations. Among those 10 detainees there were several grave recidivists. All detainees were from areas of Belgrade, Despotovac, Jagodina, Smederevo, Svilajnac and Velika Plana, and not a single one was from Požarevac,” told the Požarevac police communiqué. (Glas javnosti, 10 May 2000)

            In a separate development many journalists were detained Serbia-wide. In Požarevac the following journalists were detained: Nataša Bogović, Bojan Tončić, Veljko Popović, Imre Sabo (from Danas), Mile Veljković (Beta and Blic correspondent), while several foreign journalists were expelled from the city: Gillian Standford from the London “Guardian”, David Godfraw and Joel Finks (both from Netherlands), Dušan Tubić, translater of the Dutch team, Dragan Zamurović (from the French agency “Gama”), and Miloš Radivojša, Vladimir Đorđević, Dragoljub Petrović and an assistent camera man from “Video weekly” (VIN). Detained were also photoreporters Branko Belić (NIN), Ivan Dobričić (“Nedeljni telegraf”), Studio B correspondents from Mladenovac, Miloš Maslarić, Jelena Petrović, Novica Dabić and Pavle Ješić. Marina Fratucan (“Radio Free Europe”), Bojan Erdeljanović (TV Montenegro), Žarko Bogosavljević (Radio 021), Gmizić (Radio 021), Jovan Đerić (Radio In), Nenad Šeguljev (Independent Radio) were detained in Novi Sad. Sergej Bibić, RTV Pančevo camera man was detained in Pančevo (Blic, 11 May 2000)

            Twelve members of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the Christian Democratic Party of Serbia and activists of “Otpor” have been remanded in custody since 9 May. Their lawyer Ružica Lekić said that they were detained because of “shouting insults at the protest rally.” (Blic, 12 May 2000)

            On 30 May before Milan Bojić, a magistrate of the Požarevac District Court and Dragan Petrović, Deputy District Public Prosecutor, the first witnesses were heard in the case against “Otpor” activists Momčilo Veljković and Radojko Luković, and a jurist Nebojša Sokolović (...) Statements were given by “Otpor” activist Dragan Milanović, who had been harrassed by “Madona” workers, and workers of that company Saša and Milan Lazić... defense counsels suggested that detention of Veljković in the Požarevac investigative prison, and of Lukić kept in investigative prison in Belgrade be suspended. Likewise the search for Nebojša Sokolović (Blic, 31 May 2000)  

            The Požarevac District Court extended for another month detention of “Otpor” members, Momčilo Veljković, and Radojko Luković. Ruling of the District Court reads: “detention of Veljković and Luković is extended until 2 July since ‘it is reasonably believed that they have committed a criminal offense of assisting in attempted murder.” The ruling was justified by the fact that investigation could not be completed in the course of the last month “due to objective reasons... no-show of witnesses, workers of company “Madona”, Milan Bajić and owner of cafe “Madona” Zoran Ivanović.” (Glas javnosti 4 June 2000).


1. Notion

            Notion of terrorism varies from country to country. But the generally accepted and most accepted definition of terrorism is the following: organized, public and planned act of violence directed against a symbolic target (most frequently a large number of innocent people) intended to spread general fear and achieve a specific political goal. An essential feature of terrorism is the public assumption of responsibility by terrorists for criminal offense committed, which in turn focuses the media attention on their political goals. This is a specific component, for if it lacks, so does a terrorist act. Political message sent in this manner to public at large must be crystal clear, with serious threat (of consequences) and public ‘by-line.’

            Notion of terror can be defined as a way of rule through intimidation, tyranny, elimination of opponents by most cruel means (persecution, oppression, murders) which are not in compliance with generally accepted human rights standards.

2. Terrorism in Serbia

            If the aforementioned definitions of notions of terrorism and terror are accepted it can be concluded that in Serbia there are no terrorists, but there is terror. However the ruling parties positions on this issue, often-quoted in this report, demonstrate that Serbia is packed with terrorists and that measures taken to date have not been effective, which in turn prompted the regime to enact a special anti-terrorism act.

            For the time being definition of criminal offense of terrorism laid down by the FRY Penal Code, Article 125 is still in place. That is: “anybody who causes an explosion or fire, or commits any other generally dangerous action or act of violence creating insecurity among citizens, with the intention to threaten the constitutional order or safety of Yugoslavia shall be punished by term of imprisonment of minimum three years in prison” Public opinion is unaware of the fact that representatives of the independent media, opposition parties, “Otpor”, non-governmental organizations and other proclaimed “terrorists” have ever committed an act which could correspond to the legal or general definition of terrorism. The fact that a large number of citizens are against the current authorities does not mean that they are against the state and its contistuional order, for the authorities and the state are not the same thing.

            The fact that assassinations (qualified as terrorists acts) of Pavle Bulatović, the Yugoslav Defense Secretary, Žika Petrović, former director of Yugoslav Airlines and Boško Perošević, President of the Executive Council of Vojvodina, are yet to be solved, contributes largely to the mood of uncertainty. As nobody has claimed responsibility for the first two assassinations, and moreover the police is yet to find their murderers, it is not clear how the regime can qualify those assassinations as terrorists acts. Added to that the question remains why several unsolved murders, those of Zoran Todorović-Kundak, General Secretary of the Associated Yugoslav Left in 1997, Radovan Stojčić Badža, Assistant Interior Minister, in 1997, Dragan Simić, the police colonel, Head of Savski Venac police, in 1999, Milorad Vlahović, police colonel, Assistant to the Head of the Belgrade police crime squad, killed in 1999, etc, have not been qualified as terrorists acts. All this calls into question the efficiency of the police work.

3. Comments on the Anti-Terrorism Bill

             The Serbian government assessed the assassination of Boško Perošević as a terrorist act, and five days after that event, the Associated Yugoslav Left suggested to the Serbian Assembly and government to adopt the Anti-Terrorism Act in a summary procedure. But ultimately it was the Federal government who tabled the motion for the Bill and then submitted it to the Federal Assembly on 23 June 2000.

            Provision of Article 1, para. 1 of the Bill lays down: “Anybody who intends to threaten the constitutional order or territorial whole of the FRY or of its constituent republic by provoking an explosion or fire or abducting a person or commiting other act of violence or seriously threatens to take any widely considered dangerous action or to use nuclear, chemical, bacteriological or other generally considered dangerous means, which in turn causes feeling of insecurity or fear among citizens, shall be punished by minimum 5 years term of imprisonment.

            Paragraphs 2 and 3 cover heavier or more serious offenses, for which paragaph 3 envisages at least 10 years in prison or life sentence. In addition to the fact that this article stresses the intention of a perpetrator to act against the constitutional order, instead of underscoring the fact that citizens may be intimidated by such terrorist acts, what is also striking is the punishment for such misdeeds, namely, the life sentence. In our system which supplanted the death sentence (eliminated from the federal legislation) with the maximum 20 years’imprisonment, recent introduction of the draconian penalty, without any prior discussions, represents a serious misuse of authority. The Act, either because of lack of expertise or hasty drawing up thereof, does not specify whether convicted persons have the right to parole or conditional release, for in practice convicts who serve their whole sentence are very rare.

            Provision of Article 2, para. 1 spells out: “anybody who intentionally distributes or makes accessible written documents, audiovisual, electronic or other material which call for or incite the commission of acts quoted in Article 1 of this Act, shall be sentenced to at least three years in prison.” Paragraph 2 of this article envisages that those who in the commission of act quoted under para 1 of this article are assisted from abroad shall be sentenced to at least 5 years in prison. Having in mind that political propaganda labels all its political opponents as terrorists, a broad and deliberate interpretation of this provision provides the regime with the opportunity to  mete out the same punishment to those found guilty under paragraph 2 of this article and those who plant bombs.

            Article 5, first paragraph envisages: “ the offense committed with the intention of making possible the arrest of the other perpetrator during his/her attempt to commit the offense, shall not be considered a criminal offense under Articles 1-3 of this Act.” Paragraph 2 envisages that “the Federal Interior Minister gives instructions regarding actions quoted in paragraph. 1”

            It is legally and morally absolutely unacceptable that, as instructed by the Federal Police Minister, “agents provocateurs” encourage and induce citizens to try to commit the criminal offense of terrorism, and thereafter not only go unpunished, but moreover the said offense is not treated as a criminal offense at all. Paragraph 1 of Article 6 determines that “at the proposal of the Federal Public Prosecutor or Federal Interior Minister, President of the Federal Court may, if deemed necessary for conducting the criminal proceedings, rule on preventive detention of a person reasonably believed to have committed a criminal offense specified under this Act.”

            Article 7, para. 1 envisages that “President of the Federal Court, having obtained the opinion of the Federal Public Prosecutor and the Federal Interior Minister, may every seven days review reasons for preventive detention,” while paragraph 2 envisages that “preventive detention may last up to thirty days.”

            Provision stipulating that anybody else, and not only the court, may determine detention (preventive custody) or suggest its duration, as in the aforementioned case-one of the ministers, is contrary to Article 24 of the FRY Constitution and Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. If President of Federal Court ‘assesses” that it can be ‘reasonably believed that a politically “incompatible or unfit” citizen committed any offense specified under this Act, that citizen shall spend 30 days in jail. Under this Act political opponents shall not be convicted due to lack of evidence, but may be ‘preventively detained’ on grounds of even a smallest suspicion. Thus a person can be 20 times interrogated and “detained,” without ever facing an indictment.

            Paragraph 2 envisages that that “a preventively detained person may be immediately told about reasons for his/her detention and his or her rights, and his/her family shall be immediately notified of the same reasons.”

            Although a preventively detained person should be acquainted with his/her rights, and their nature, this Bill does not mentions such a possibility. It is interesting to note that the official reasoned opinion in writing envisages para. 3, Article 8 which reads: “defense counsel elected by a preventively detained person shall be present at the official questioning.” The absence of this paragraph 3 in the Bill, whose original incorporation was obviously intended, can be accounted for by its excessively democratic nature.

            Article 12, para. 2 spells out: “Public, that is, the state prosecutor can file charges without previous investigation and the consent of a magistrate/misdemeanor judge.”

            Article 157 of the Criminal Proceedings Act lays down that “the goal of investigation is collection of evidence and data which have a bearing on a decision whether the indictment shall be raised or pre-trial proceedings suspended.”

            Contrary to all principles of criminal proceedings, para. 2 of Article 12 introduces the practice of non-investigation in case of grave criminal offenses and filing of indictment at will of the public or state prosecutor.

            Provisions of Article 14 and 15 envisage deadlines much shorter than the ones envisaged under the Act on Criminal Proceedings, due to alleged-urgency. Hence an objection to indictment can be submitted within 3 days (eight under the Criminal Proceedings Act), extra-debate council must rule on an objection within 48 hours (the Act on Criminal Proceedings does not envisage any deadline); the main hearing must commence within 15 days from the receiving of indictment by the court (2 months under the Criminal Proceedings Act); an appeal against the ruling can be made within 10 days from the transcript-submitting (15 days under the Criminal Proceedings Act). 

            The afore-mentioned provisions violate the principle of contradictory nature of criminal proceedings, for citizens are deprived of their right to adequate and well-prepared defense from charges related to commission of grave criminal offenses.

           Following the analysis of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, we conclude that reasons for its adoption are similar to those which motivated the enactment of the Public Information Law, University Act and amendments to the Misdemeanour Act. The only difference lies in the fact that the enactment and enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Act shall have much more serious effects on citizens and their rights and freedoms. If this Act is strictly enforced, particularly with respect to all those whom the ruling coalition has labeled as terrorists, the Serbian prisons shall not have the capacity to ‘accommodate’ all the alleged offenders. Even if it is not ‘strictly’ enforced its announcement has achieved the desired effect: it has spread panic and fear among the citizenry and it will exist as a lawful, legal act legalizing all repressive measures taken to date.

                                                            * * *


            After ten years of stormy developments in the political scene of Serbia, relevant political protagonists have demonstrated their strength, goals and methods of their attainment. The regime is in such a tight spot, that it cannot retreat under pressure from international and domestic public opinion. It has no other devices left in the protection of its power but to step up its repressive laws and measures and even introduce new, even more radical ones. In the situation when the regime fears the loss of power, and the opposition fears its succession of power, it seems that the regime manages its fear and other facts of political life much better. Its experience in ruling, along with a permanent abuse of state institutions (notably the police and judiciary) and the media, enable the regime to preserve a more dynamic and active role in the political struggle.

            Current vocabulary used by the authorities to discredit the opposition, media, NGOs and all political opponents, speaks volumes about their weakness. Thus Ranko Bugarski says: “After many years of all kinds of verbal violence, from shameful war-mongering propaganda to the monstrous hate speech targeting its political opponents, along with many lies, displaced thesis and similar rhetoric strategies, it seems that the predominant discourse has now two basic features: constant deprivation of any significance and simultaneous intensification of the public speech and vocabulary.” (Nin 13 July 2000)

            The opposition and other non-regime subjects are faced with such a situation in which they can only follow and take note of increasingly authoritarian moves of the authorities. But such a passivization of the opposition cannot be explained only by the current advantages of the regime. Moreover, those advantages were won thanks to previously demonstrated weaknesses of the opposition proper. Unfounded and boundless ambitions of some leaders, their strife and splits, mutual deceits and accusations and hundreds of unfulfilled promises, have imploded the opposition and brought it into disrepute.  Added to that an ‘oddly’ (to say the least) effected privatization enabled a number of people from both the regime and opposition ranks to get rich, which in turn led to the creation of the new elite, much removed from the rest of citizenry. Owing to the recent polarization between the elite and the rest of citizenry, an impasse or status quo was reached, in which only pauperized and humiliated broad strata of population sincerely want changes. Disappointed with political parties and leaders citizens at large were engulfed in apathy, depression and lack of faith in the possibility of any changes.

            Such a psychological state shall last until people are ready to realize that the most difficult change is the one of proper mind-set or awareness, and that an individual action is the beginning of every global action. Brave, public statements of some university professors, judges and students who have overcome their fears, represent a path to follow.

           “Outbreak of foul verbal diarrhea” is just a spin-off of the general decay of system. But such a hate speech and vocabulary also indicate “the firm resolve of the authorities to fight for their survival, with all the means available and irrespective of a price of such a fight.” Some of the regime’s methods are only a hint of the repression to come.


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