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Serbia: Getting difficult to get justice against personalities associated with the church

The Case against the Bishop of Vranje Arrives at the Supreme Court after Four Years

Wednesday 17 October 2007

From Blic Newspaper, September 29, 2007
- (edited for length and clarity)

Children were Mistreated by Bishop Pahomije and the Judges

During the sexual misconduct proceedings against Pahomije, children were treated unequally and discriminated against, says lawyer Stojkovic.
A demand to uphold the law was brought to the Serbian Supreme Court because of violation of the laws and norms governing the rights of children during the trial of Pahomije, Bishop of Vranje (54), who was acquitted by the Nis Municipal Court in March 2006 of the charge that he committed sexual misconduct against four boys who were training for the priesthood, Blic has learned. That the administration of justice later acknowledged that it made mistakes was small comfort to the mistreated boys and their families. Now, after everything, one can only expect a declarative statement. The law does not allow The Bishop to be tried again.

“As long as The Supreme Court accepts the previous prosecution, it can only bring a declarative sentence,” professor Goran Ilic of the Law Faculty in Belgrade explained to Blic. Our laws prohibit the repeating criminal proceedings against acquitted persons…

The proceedings against Pahomije, whose lay name is Tomislav Gacic, began in 2003 in the Municipal Court in Vranje. After two and a half years, the impossibility of delivering a verdict was recognized in April 2005. By a decision of The Supreme Court, the trial was moved to Nis. At that time, the trial began anew before the Nis Municipal Court. The four boys were again maltreated and forced to again testify before the court and confront Pahomije once more. Before end of the trial in Nis in March 2006, the statute of limitation for the two criminal acts committed in 1999 and 2000 had passed. The verdict of the President of the Council, Katarina Randjelovic, acquitted Pahomije of the charges for the two remaining criminal acts from 2001 and 2002 ’owing to a lack of proof.’

In the explanation of the verdict, she said that ’a definite degree of doubt certainly exists, but not a degree of certainty.’ In 2003 and 2004, the boys’ lawyers warned the court in Vranje that it is necessary to hurry the proceedings so the statute of limitations will not pass. They also prompted the faster trial in Nis so such a thing would not happen…

As we know, in the request for upholding the law, the lawyer Stojkovic additionally mentioned that the trial of Pahomije, which lasted nearly four years, violated a clause of Article Six of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which envisages that ’everyone has the right to a fair trial in a reasonable period before an independent and impartial court.’…

B. Janackovic
- V. Z. Cvijic

Prepared and translated by Rachel Long, Women in Black—Belgrade volunteer