On the occasion of misdemeanour proceedings against the activists of the Youth Initiative STATE DEFENDS WAR CRIMINALS
The Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Stara Pazova has filed misdemeanour charges against nine activists of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights over the incident that happened on January 17 2017 in the Vojvodina village of Beška. The activists interrupted a forum hosted by the Srpska napredna stranka (Serbian Progressive Party) as a sign of protest, because one of the speakers was the convicted war criminal Veselin Šljivančanin. They were forcibly expelled from the auditorium, beaten and injured. The Humanitarian Law Center believes that the decision of the Prosecutor’s Office in Stara Pazova to initiate legal action against the attacked activists is an indicator that state institutions are siding with war criminals and charging those who take a stand to oppose them.
Veselin Šljivančanin was sentenced before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to 10 years in prison for aiding and abetting the torture of Croatian prisoners of war and civilians in Ovčara, Vukovar, before they were soon afterwards killed at the nearby location of Grabovo. After having served two thirds of his sentence, Šljivančanin returned to Serbia and engaged himself politically by supporting the ruling Srpska napredna stranka.
The activists of the Youth Initiative in Beška tried to express the view that war criminals have no place on the platforms of ruling parties, for which they have been doubly punished – firstly, by suffering physical violence at the scene; and now, by having to endure the judicial process that has been initiated against them.
The activists of the Youth Initiative are charged with 1) rude, insolent and reckless behaviour, and 2) insults, violence, threats and beating. The Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Stara Pazova already knows or can easily ascertain that the activists’ protest against the participation of Šljivančanin at the forum was peaceful and civilized, and that afterwards the activists were the ones who were exposed to “rude, insolent and reckless behaviour, insults, violence, threats and beatings” by other visitors to the Srpska napredna stranka forum. Therefore, it is quite clear that the misdemeanour proceedings were initiated because of the expressed view that war criminals do not deserve to be given space in public institutions and at party rallies. At the same time, the Prosecutor’s Office has dismissed the criminal charges that the physically assaulted activists filed against the unidentified attackers from Beška, which has served to release in advance those responsible for the violence committed of any responsibility for the mental and physical injuries inflicted.
The HLC warns the public that the way the Youth Initiative activists were dealt with in this situation is a clear message from the state of what can happen to anyone who opposes the newly established trend of rehabilitating convicted war criminals into the public sphere and state institutions. Therefore, the HLC urges the Prosecution to drop the misdemeanour charges against the activists of the Youth Initiative and instead initiate a criminal prosecution of those who inflicted violence. In doing this, the Prosecutor’s Office will show that the Serbian judiciary does not protect thugs, but rather, the human rights of all citizens, including those who express their opinion in a non-violent way and oppose the glorification of war criminals in the country in which they are living.