Sexual Harassment Of Female Customs Officer
The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the court should set aside the decision of the Niš Customs Office to transfer Anita Nikolić to a new workplace and order that the court costs be paid by the defendant. The HLC believes the decision to be unlawful and controversial.
Anita Nikolić has been in the employ of the Niš Customs Office since 15 May 1993, and worked at the Strazimirovci border crossing point. Soon after Nebojša Džonić became the new police commander at this border crossing in the fall of 2002, he began to sexually harass Nikolić, mainly at her workplace. He would make indecent gestures and sexual allusions in her presence, touch her, invite her to his apartment, and threaten her with losing her job unless she had sex with him. On 29 May 2003, Džonić grabbed Nikolić and tried to kiss her by force. She pushed him away and reacted stormily. Džonić then reported her, claiming that she slept while on duty. Disciplinary action was instituted against Nikolić but the commission never rendered a decision finding her accountable.
Nikolić wrote to the head of the Niš Customs Office to inform him about the case, and he considered that the solution to the problem was to transfer her. On 8 July 2003, Nikolić also informed the deputy head of the Border Police Service of being sexually harassed by Džonić, and alleged that Marija Ilić, a female police officer, was being subjected to the same kind of treatment by him. The municipal prosecutor started criminal proceedings against Džonić on charges of lewd conduct, civil injury, and offensive behavior toward a person acting in an official capacity in connection with the performance of duty.
Anita Nikolić was frequently denounced by her superiors for “airing dirty laundry,” and on 18 June 2004 was transferred to work at the Ribarci border crossing. The transfer order cited as the reason the needs of better organization of the customs service and instructed her that she could appeal within eight days of receiving the order but that it went into effect immediately. This is in contravention of the Law on Labor Relations in State Agencies, whose Article 14 prescribes that such orders must cite the specific reason for a new posting, and not only generalizations, which create a potential for abuse. Acting on behalf of Nikolić, an HLC attorney submitted an appeal against the transfer order on 25 June 2004. There has been no response from the Niš Customs Office to date.
In the appeal, Nikolić said she could not commute to Ribarci, some 90 kilometers from her home in Vladičin Han, since there is no public transport except for an international bus line connecting the Macedonian capital of Skopje with Bosilegrad, whose timetable would not allow her to reach her workplace on time or return home after finishing her shifts. On the other hand, working at Strazimirovci, some 55 kilometers from her home, is no problem for Nikolić as she is always given a lift to and from work by her colleagues.
The HLC urges the court to give careful consideration to this case and to hand down an decision in accordance with the facts, as well as to respond similarly in other similar cases.