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Serbia – a country of impunity for the assaults against women defenders of peace and human rights

Wednesday 1 April 2015, by siawi3

Source: Women in Black Belgrade, March 30, 2015

Serbia – a country of impunity for the assaults against women defenders of peace and human rights

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On 28th March 2014 it will be exactly one year since Yukom (the legal representative of Women in Black) filed criminal charges against Radomir Počuča, the then spokesperson of the Anti-terrorist Unit of the Ministry of Interior Affairs of Serbia, because of the criminal offence Security threats, precisely because of his call for violence through the social network Facebook, aimed against activists of the organization Women in Black.

Ever since that day, for a whole year since this procedure was launched, not a single main hearing was held in this judicial proceeding.

Let us remind of the chronology in this case:

On 27th March 2014, Radomir Počuča posted a link on his Facebook account, taken from the informative portal Blic, with the news item that the organization Women in Black was commemorating the 15th anniversary of the crime committed against Albanian civilians in Kosovo, which was accompanied with the text: “I think this should not be allowed to take place. With all due respect, gentlemen hooligans, Hardmen, Gravediggers, Labor, The Firm (football clubs’ supporters), instead of wasting your fists in mutual brawls, and being great patriots as you are, join forces and give it to those who deserve thrashing”;

On 28th March 2014, criminal charges were filed against Radomir Počuča for having committed the criminal offence Racial and other discrimination;

On 1st April 2014, the members of the right wing organization The Pledgers (Zavetnici) held a protest rally in front of the premises of the organization Women in Black, as a sign of support to Radomir Počuča. The rally was secured by the police, which blocked the traffic in the entire block around Zeleni venac. This leads to the conclusion that it was also the assessment of the Police that the gathered participants of the rally were going to behave violently;

The first main hearing, scheduled for 20th June 2014, was postponed because of the lawyers’ strike;

On 23rd July 2014, the main hearing about this case was not held either, because the defendant’s defense attorney was on annual leave;

On 17th September 2014, the main hearing was scheduled yet again, but was not held because the defendant failed to show up. On his Facebook profile Radomir Počuča posted, on 15th September 2014 (two days before the scheduled main hearing) that he had gone to fight as a volunteer in Ukraine, on the side of the pro-Russian forces;

Due to the lawyers’ strike, the hearings scheduled in October and November were also postponed. In the meantime, we received information from the Higher Court that the apprehension of the defendant had been ordered and that a warrant had been issued for the defendant, and that accordingly, remand had been proscribed for him.

The UN Declaration on the rights and responsibilities of the individuals, groups and state organs in promoting and protecting the universally acknowledged human rights and fundamental liberties binds all UN member states to protect human rights defenders against all forms of violence. The activists of the organization Women in Black appealed to the state by pressing criminal charges against Radomir Počuča, seeking that their rights to freely engage in the struggle for equality and respect of human rights be protected. One year after that event, state organs have not undertaken anything in this procedure. Moreover, a situation has been allowed in which it is not known where the defendant is, with no prospects of a continuation of the procedure, let alone within a reasonable delay. It is the state’s responsibility to insure the availability of the person against whom criminal charges have been pressed, but in this concrete case, this obligation has not been fulfilled, since the accused Počuča is unavailable to judicial organs and his whereabouts are unknown.

With such (non) acting of the state institutions, the state directly encourages potential assailants against NGO activists who are engaged in human rights issues. Human rights defenders are left to themselves and they run daily risks that the assaults could be repeated, since the message which the individuals, perpetrators, receive from the media and state institutions in this and other similar cases is exactly that such criminal offence will be treated with impunity.

Belgrade, 27th March 2015

Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights - Yukom

Women in Black