Humanitarian Law Center Asks President Kostunica to Release Prisoners

Request for the release from prisons in Serbia of victims of violation of due process

Belgrade, 7 October 2000

Mr. Vojislav Kostunica
President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

 Dear Mr. President,

The people have elected you President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and thus paved the way for the rule of law in our country.

May I recall that prisons in Serbia contain people who have been deprived of their freedom and convicted solely because of their ethnicity or political convictions.

Fourteen persons from Kosovo, including two minors, have been in detention for the past 17 months, without any legal grounds whatsoever. Though their 30-day police detention orders expired on 12 June 1999, no proceedings have been instituted against them to this day nor have they been notified by the judicial authorities of the reasons for their continuing detention. All are at the Penitentiary and Correctional Institution at Sremska Mitrovica:

Xhevdet Podvorica from Dmos, Podujevo municipality and Bekim Istogu from Vrbovac, Glogovac municipality, both minors
Burim Morina from Suva Reka
Bajram Gashi from Drenica
Xhemshir Halili from Glogovac
Aziz Hamza from Suva Reka
Skender Mekaj from Naberdjan, Pec municipality
Sabri Krasniqi from Mekovac, Pristina municipality
Ekrem Leci from Barilevo, Pristina municipality
Arsim Hasani from Podujevo
Zijadin Blaqori from Pristina
Ekrem Ejupi from Sekirica, Podujevo municipality
Skender Hasani from Likosane, Glogovac municipality
Qerkin Brajshori from Pristina.

Finding that the facts were wrongly or incompletely established or the legal qualifications erroneous, the Serbian Supreme Court has either set aside or modified the lower court judgments against all Kosovo Albanians convicted of terrorism. In every case in which it decided to modify the lower court sentences, the Supreme Court considerably reduced the terms of imprisonment, for instance from 14 to two and a half years.

The District Court in Nis sentenced Flora Brovina to 12 years. The Supreme Court quashed the decision, finding that the trial record contained no evidence that she was guilty of seditious conspiracy in conjunction with terrorism. Brovina is still in detention.

One hundred and forty-three Kosovo Albanians from Djakovica, who were arrested in their homes while sheltering from the bombing, have been detained since 7 May 1999. Proceedings against them were instituted six months after they had been taken into custody. Judge Goran Petronijevic, who presided the panel of the District Court in Leskovac, sentenced them to a total of 1,624 years in prison, saying they were collectively guilty as the authorities expected them to provide "logistic support, not to hide in their houses." Police officers who gave testimony said they arrested these Albanians because they were of military age. There is no doubt in this case that hostages, not perpetrators of a criminal offense, were put on trial. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the appeal. Miroslav Filipovic was sentenced to seven years by a military court for espionage and spreading of false reports. The judgment pronounced on political instructions and not on the basis of the law. Filipovic remains in custody.

A journalist of the former Dnevni Telegraf newspaper is serving a term at the Padinska Skela jail for defamation of Minister Milovan Bojic.

Following the refusal of several judges to try Vladimir Nikolic, an official of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the case was taken by Judge Pavle Vukasinovic of the Serbian Supreme Court, who is also a member of the Federal Election Commission. At a secret trial, Judge Vukasinovic sentenced Nikolic to 22 months in prison for disclosing a state secret. The judgment, however, fails to say what secret, to whom, when and where Nikolic disclosed it. The real reason for Nikolic's arrest and conviction was his refusal to be a police informer after he was dismissed from his job at the State Security Service.  Police stopped Nikolic in the street when he was taking his son to school, handcuffed him and placed a hood over his head, and took him to the basement of a police facility.

Thousands of men in Serbia are being prosecuted by military courts for avoiding military duty during the wars waged by former FR Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic. They are still afraid to return to the country and their homes.

The public in Serbia and the whole of former Yugoslavia is convinced that the police are holding Ivan Stambolic, former President of the Serbian Presidency. Stambolic was last seen on 25 August. Government agencies must tell his family and the public where he is and who ordered his abduction.

Since you have pledged to the citizens of this country that you will consistently and without delay apply the Constitution and laws and establish the rule of law, we appeal to you to use your influence to obtain the release of people who are in detention or prison because law enforcement agencies and the courts served the political interests and needs of the former government.

Yours truly,

Natasa Kandic
Executive Director, Humanitarian Law Center

From Balkan Human Rights List, distributed by "grupa484"


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