Despite taking responsibility for the aggression on September 24th in Banjska, Zvecan, Milan Radojic continues to be free in Serbia. The fact that the investigation against him has been stalled for more than three months is stated by Serbian lawyer Luka Jovanovic.
In an interview with The Geopost, Jovanovic also speaks about Kosovo’s supply of Javelin anti-tank missiles, emphasizing that it has received significant attention in Serbia, especially after the terrorist attack that left police officer Afrim Bunjaku dead.
He is critical of the functioning of the law in Serbia, especially in the case of the beating and torture inflicted by BIA on opposition politician Nikola Sandulovic. He emphasizes that when it comes to Sandulovic, Serbia has ignored the basic rights guaranteed in its criminal procedure for its citizens.
The Geopost: The State Department has approved the sale of Javelin missiles to Kosovo, which have proven very effective in the war in Ukraine. Belgrade and Moscow have reacted very nervously. How likely is it that Serbia will now quiet down with the ‘rattling’ of weapons?
Jovanovic: It should be said that this sale of missile systems primarily garners this much public attention and time precisely due to the tacit awareness of how dangerous the security situation was in northern Kosovo at the end of September last year. Also, the situation itself serves as an unpleasant reminder of the circumstances that the investigation being conducted in Belgrade regarding the case of Milan Radoicic and his group, concerning their activities in Banjska, has practically not moved forward for more than three months. Radoicic is the only suspect named in the investigation in Belgrade, even though the Interpol warrant issued about a month ago listed about ten individuals by name and surname. There have been no additional statements from the Prosecutor’s Office, and there have been no comments related to the possible expansion of the investigation or any reporting on its progress. On the other hand, it is possible that, due to the election season in Serbia itself, this topic was not as prominent as it deserves.
The Geopost: Don’t you think that at least the Serbian opposition public should emphasize that case, despite pre-election activities, considering it as one of the severe violations of this government?
Jovanovic: Certainly, at one point when the Banjska story started, immediately after the incident, there was a belief or at least talk that the entire incident could be a more significant factor or topic in the elections that ended at the end of last year. However, as the investigation started, almost nothing substantial was further discussed on that topic during the elections and certainly not after them.
The Geopost: After the elections, we have the case of opposition figure Nikola Sandulovic, who was beaten and arrested after visiting Kosovo, and also, it seems, modest reporting on that topic in Serbian media. His lawyer Stojkovic did the same but went through a significantly different experience. How much is Vucic’s Serbia a legal state and how much an individual’s arbitrariness, looking only from the perspective of these two cases?
Jovanovic: To answer this question adequately, we must first understand that these cases, although, at first glance, seem to have a lot of overlaps, are fundamentally very different. Here I am talking primarily about the case of Mr. Sandulovic. The problem that occurred is not what Sandulovic did, it’s not even a question of who Mr. Sandulovic is; the fundamental problem is what the state did and how. Because here we are actually talking about the state reacting to, practically, social media postings, where Mr. Sandulovic posted a comment related to laying flowers on a grave. He was, according to our current information, unlawfully taken to the headquarters of the Security Information Agency (BIA), where, lacking a better word, he was beaten, and due to that treatment and the violation of his rights in that procedure, he was brought into a serious health condition. In that sense, even further actions in Niš were extremely problematic. Because we have an exceptional situation – in Sandulovic’s case, the Prosecutor’s Office that is not competent for what Mr. Sandulovic is suspected of in the investigation is acting. Here, even though there is constant talk about laying flowers, the basic thing that Mr. Sandulovic is suspected of is spreading hostility in a way known to the prosecutor through a tweet – a comment on social media. But for such cases, as always, Belgraders unfortunately had too many opportunities to see what the actual practice is and what the competencies are. For all criminal offenses of that kind committed via social media, the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade is truly competent for the entire territory of Serbia and its special department for High-Tech Crime. There is no possibility of delegation or substitution. This is one of the unknowns related to the Sandulovic case because we do not know how the Niš prosecutor even entered that case after the beating of Sandulovic, which numbers were dialed, what agreements were made, and why they were made with Niš when, in practical terms, any prosecutor’s office in Belgrade could have handled the same job without risking Sandulovic’s health in a long journey.
The Geopost: What do you want to say?
Jovanovic: The question was actually about how much Vucic’s Serbia is a legal state. In the specific case, all the details I provided speak volumes about the level and state of the rule of law in Serbia.
Regarding Mr. Stojkovic’s case, fortunately, at this moment there is no case of Stojkovic in the sense that he has not suffered any serious discomfort, at least not in the order of Mr. Sandulovic due to what he did. He is practically one of the first and few voices that spoke about the Sandulovic case publicly, even though his involvement in that sense is not fully clarified to the public. He is someone who publicly spoke about the case but formally, based on what he himself published, is not engaged as a defense attorney in that specific proceeding.
The Geopost: Still, what does the government want to prove or show in these two cases?
Jovanovic: That’s what we were talking about. The topic of the Stojkovic-Sandulovic cases is not laying flowers, not even trust between Albanians and Serbs, not even freedom of speech, but the basic rights guaranteed in the criminal procedure of the Republic of Serbia to all its citizens.
The Geopost: So, it doesn’t guarantee everyone?
Jovanovic: Well, according to concrete information, it has ignored the rights of Sandulovic. Seriously. And it has attracted much more attention in Europe and the world than in Serbia. Unfortunately, our focus is too dictated by post-election combinations and the consequences of December 17th. But even in that specific mindset, there had to be a place for this case because it is no less worthy of attention than the protesters who were arrested on December 24th after the protests in front of the City Assembly.
The Geopost: Does this tell us that the opposition gathered around the “Serbia against violence” list has the same views as the regime of this state towards Kosovo?
Jovanovic: The specific stance of the opposition, “Serbia against violence,” on key issues such as Kosovo, as well as issues related to the dialogue, is that they actually try to remain ambivalent and unclear, trying to play on both sides of the field. Their silence regarding Sandulovic would be most appropriate to ask the media why the Sandulovic case had this kind of conspiracy of silence in Serbia as it did. Perhaps it is about the personality of Mr. Sandulovic himself, perhaps it is about his gesture; I cannot answer with certainty. Only journalists and politicians who, in this very delicate situation, chose to remain silent can answer that.