Report from the first public debate: OPENED ABOUT THE POLICE
The Association of Citizens “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka, with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in cooperation with the Association “Justice for David and All Children of Bosnia and Herzegovina” organizes a series of public debates OPENED ABOUT POLICE, PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE, JUDICIARY AND POLITICS!
Citizens’ Association “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka, founded by some human rights activists “Justice for David” in cooperation with the association “Justice for David and all children of Bosnia and Herzegovina” Vienna, Austria with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) – For Social democracy, organizes a series of Zoom public debates on the topic: OPEN ABOUT THE POLICE, PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE, JUSTICE AND POLITICS! Leading representatives of the institutions of the system covered by the topic of debate are invited to each Zoom session. In addition to them, the invitation was sent to all those interested in public and political life.
OPEN ABOUT THE POLICE
The First Public Zoom Debate
The first, in a series of four public debates, was successfully realized on March the 20th 2021, from 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm via the Zoom platform. The technical moderators of the debate were Justice for David activists, Merlina Ivić, Vladan Malešević, Jelena Marjanović and Marko Nikolić. Live broadcast was made through social media channels. The debate had over 7,000 views on social networks. The moderator of the session was the president of the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka, Sofija Grmuša.
The participants in the debate are:
Peter Hurrelbrink – Director of the FES Foundation in BiH,
Tanja Topić – FES Foundation in BiH, research associate, Banja Luka,
Luka Miladinović – Spokesperson, Senior Inspector, State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA),
Igor Ličina – Department for Human Rights, OSCE Mission to BiH,
Nikolina Gasparević – Department for Human Rights, OSCE Mission to BiH
Barović Biljana – Advisor for Political Affairs in the Office of the Delegation of the European Union in Banja Luka,
Vedrana Pavlović – Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH, Sarajevo, Department for Monitoring the Exercise of the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty
Emina Halilović – Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH – Sarajevo, Department for Monitoring the Exercise of Political and Civil Rights,
Prof. Dr. Danijela Majstorović – Professor of English Linguistics, University of Banja Luka,
Ozren Perduv – president of the political party “Movement of Justice” and Davor Dragicević, leader of the global movement Justice for David and many activists of Justice for David.
Participation was also reported by:
Rami Blair – Deputy Director of the United States Embassy in BiH, Banja Luka
Andreja Sporer – Senior Legal Adviser in the Office of the High Representative, Assistant Legal Department, OHR
Nenad Međo – Suručni associate, Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH, Banja Luka,
*** due to private obligations, they did not attend the debate.
During the plenary lecture, Sofija Grmuša emphasized that the Ministry of the Interior, as the primary bearer of police activities, has recently been in the public spotlight due to inadequate work, organized crime and corruption that is present in the work of this institution on a daily basis. If we analyze the work of the police from the angle of the organized murder of David Dragičević, it is clear how inadequately this institution reacted from the very beginning. During the search for the missing David, the police did not take all legal steps, nor did they organize an adequate search for the missing young man. After finding the body of the murdered David, the police continued their activities in the direction of violating basic rights, while as an institution they were in charge of protecting those same rights. By this, we primarily mean the organization of the controversial press conference on March the 26th 2018, and the numerous lies that this institution tried to hide the objective facts. During the plenary lecture, Sofija Grmuša pointed out the chronological overview of the inadequate and disturbing behavior of the police from the point of view of the “Dragičević” case, which in an objective analysis can be a sign of highly organized criminal activities.
From the angle of the appearance of the first, civil, non-political, long-lasting protests “Justice for David”, we can clearly see how much the police directed their activities against the citizens, in the direction of violating basic human rights. The biggest witnesses are the events from December the 25th to 31st 2018, when we had police violence against the citizens of Banja Luka. Police violence continued during 2019 and 2020 as Justice for David activists continued with daily peaceful assemblies. After many prominent details about the criminal police activities, the participants in the debate were asked open questions:
* What are the mechanisms for protecting citizens from inadequate police work?
* What are the mechanisms of action of civil society against the inadequate work of the police whose primary task is to protect citizens?
* Who should be responsible for police actions?
* Who should citizens turn to for help when they are persecuted by the institutions of the system whose primary role is to protect citizens?
* Who should be responsible for these actions?
* To whom should citizens report violence, abuse and persecution?
* How much did the police contribute to the protection of citizens?
* How did international organizations fulfill their obligation to protect citizens in the example of the persecution of “Justice for David” activists?
* How much did organizations help, such as the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH?
* Are the mechanisms for the protection of citizens exhausted?
* How can Justice for David further organize its activities according to the Institution of the Human Rights in BiH?
* What are the results of our actions so far?
Emina Halilović from the Department for Monitoring the Exercise of Political and Civil Rights of the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman in Bosnia and Herzegovina from Sarajevo pointed out the period of December the 25th and 30th 2018, when they received the largest number of complaints. The Ombudsman consolidated these complaints into one case of recommendations published on the 5th of February 2020 under the code PP-15/20. The case explains individually each complaint in relation to deprivation of liberty, excessive use of force and torture and the conduct of the police in these situations. This system of recommendations was sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska, and a response was received according to which this institution claims that it will act on all recommendations, which of course did not happen.
From the aspect of freedom of assembly, a special report was prepared in February 2020 and sent to all institutions of the Ministries of Interior in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to all Assemblies at the cantonal, entity and state levels, and the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The report also clearly states that the internal ways of functioning of the police are inadequate, they do not enable the participation of citizens. In situations of inadequate treatment of citizens by police officers, they are not adequately sanctioned or punished.
From the point of view of the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, during the debate, the ways of communication of civil society organizations in the context of filing complaints were emphasized. There is a possibility to file complaints where it is necessary to clearly describe certain events and facts in order for the Institutions of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina to further send recommendations that are effectively used in legal and judicial proceedings.
Emina Halilović emphasizes the problematic nature of the currently valid law on criminal procedure and the non-existence of an investigating judge, which prevents the participation of the injured party. He also points out the lack of exchange of information between the police and the Prosecutor’s Offices, and the existence of non-cooperation between these institutions of the system. Judicial reform in 2003 abolished the investigating judge, and the possibility of the injured party as a prosecutor. The problem of this matter is further reflected in the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the countries with the highest number of non-enforcement of court judgments. Judgments are often not enforced.
Luka Miladinović, Spokesman and Senior Inspector, State Investigation and Protection Agency, points out that Davor Dragičević addressed the State Investigation and Protection Agency with a request for access to information, and the request was answered. For now, the State Investigation and Protection Agency has not been involved in resolving this case, and only the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska has acted. Luka Miladinović welcomed the activities of Justice for David and was pleased with the fact that the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina took over the “Dragičević” case.
Vedrana Pavlović from the Department for Monitoring the Exercise of the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty of the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Sarajevo pointed out during the debate that a recommendation had been sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska. The Republic of Srpska Interior Ministry responded that it would act on the recommendations, but this did not happen.
Vedrana Pavlović believes that the “Dragičević” case indicated the high prevalence of criminal activities of certain individuals within the Ministry of the Interior. The Republic of Srpska Interior Ministry should show strength and distance itself from individuals who have acted criminally. The very fact that such individuals work in the Ministry is devastating. Vedrana Pavlović emphasizes the importance of joint action in the direction of excluding such individuals from the work of the police, while openly asking Justice activists for David if they have ever called representatives of the Ministry of the Interior to some of their activities. The president of the citizens’ association “The Part of Justice”, Sofija Grmuša, and the president of the Assembly of the association, Marko Nikolić, point out that representatives of the system’s institutions were regularly invited to each of the organized activities, however, none of the leading representatives of the system.
The vice-president of the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice”, Merlina Ivić, points out that she submitted a request for a public gathering on Krajina Square several times, and no request was approved. Merlina points out the existence of complete documentation related to the submission of requests for peaceful assembly, and requests for access to information for criminal proceedings that are being charged against Justice activists for David. Merlina emphasizes how the Ministry of the Interior responded to the requests sent after the expiration of the legal deadline.
The Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina points out that this is a direct example of a specific violation of the law by the Ministry of Interior. They emphasize that there is a legal form of action in this case, with cooperation with Justice for David activists and further activities in this direction.
Igor Ličina, from the Human Rights Department of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasizes the legal framework for the activities of international organizations and emphasizes that international organizations are not there to directly protect anyone. If you look at the defined mandate of international organizations, it is clear that their primary task is to monitor the human rights situation. International organizations do not serve to replace the police, to replace all judicial institutions, or to replace the institutions of the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, established by the OSCE in 1996.
Commenting on the problems of the law on public gatherings, Igor Ličina emphasizes that at the beginning of 2019, a new draft law on public gatherings was proposed in the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, which was several steps backwards compared to the current law. The OSCE has made a clear statement on this bill and it has not been adopted. After that, the OSCE asked all Ministries of Interior to start drafting a new law on public gatherings that would be in line with international community standards. The current law is not in line with the standards prescribed by the European Union because there is no item of spontaneous assembly. The problematic nature of the current law on public gatherings implies the absence of spontaneous, peaceful, protest gatherings.
Igor Ličina further points out that the freedom of public assembly is currently not primarily understood in the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the way it is understood in European countries. It is often the case that a peaceful, spontaneous gathering is understood as a threat, as something that needs to be regulated, prevented, in case it is not announced.
* In the previous period, there were over 200 public gatherings in Bosnia and Herzegovina that were physically monitored by the OSCE. They determined that there is an essential need to change the law on public assembly, in order to comply with the standards prescribed by the United Nations, and the Council of Europe. As part of its activities, the OSCE managed to amend one of the 12 problematic laws on public gatherings. The law was successfully amended in the Brcko District and a law was passed that is in line with international standards.
The great legal diversity throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina prevents further progress. In addition to the above, bad legal regulations are not additionally harmonized with each other. Amendments to the law can create an environment for more adequate work of civil society organizations, especially when it comes to freedom of public assembly and expression. The new legislation must be in line with the 14 priorities set by the European Commission in order to discuss the status of Bosnia and Herzegovina for membership in the European Union.
Igor Ličina further emphasizes that the case of “Dragičević” as well as the activities of Justice for David clearly reflect the multiple problems of the entire society and that solving the case of “Dragičević” and “Memić” has its reflection in the fate of the entire state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The events of 2018 and 2019 targeting Justice activists for David are a violation of standards in the area of freedom of public assembly. Concrete examples of system obstructions, even minor ones, such as the impossibility of opening a bank account, which are difficult to prove, and which clearly indicate the general environment in the country.
Igor Lučina emphasizes the importance of media coverage during December the 25th to 30th 2018, which was the reason for the OSCE to initiate talks with the Ministries of Interior throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. A small number of Ministries have shown a willingness to cooperate.
Igor Lučina emphasizes the initiative to change the law on public order and peace, where an attempt was made to introduce a new provision of a prison sentence for photographing and filming a police officer. However, that law has not been passed. Ličina further emphasizes that in the domain of legal regulations of his activities, he is in the mood for further cooperation with Justice for David.
The president of the political party “Movement of Justice”, Ozren Perduv, points out that the example of peaceful gatherings of Justice for David, which were forcibly banned by the Ministry of the Interior, clearly shows that the police did not follow OSCE guidelines at any time. Ozren Perduv also criticized the inaction of the Institutions of the Human Rights Ombudsman in Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the events from December the 25th to 30th 2018. On the other hand, Perduv emphasizes cooperation with the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina on other issues.
Prof. Dr. Danijela Majstorović, professor of English linguistics, University of Banja Luka, points out that the global Justice Movement for David resonates with other social movements in the world, while at the same time remaining active at the local level. She believes that Justice for David does not suit the international community because it is not tailored to their principles. He also believes that the international community does not use its standards in the institutions in which it can use them. Justice for David has identified major problems, and it is an example of a true movement that therefore does not suit the international community. An open question arises: Is it possible that after the war this energy and empathy circulated after such severe war traumas and that people united around one true idea of Justice for David and Dženan, overcoming national and other ethnic instances?
Davor Dragičević points out the non-cooperation of the office of the Ombudsman institution from Banja Luka in the mandate of Ljubinko Mitrović, where there was no effect on complaints about the inadequate work of the system’s institutions. No response was received to the complaints.
Davor emphasizes the importance of submitting all relevant reports to the institutions in Brussels, because the representatives of the international community in Brussels do not know about the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Davor emphasizes the need to be louder and more persistent in the direction of action towards the institutions in Brussels. Davor Dragičević pointed out that the fight for the resolution of the murders of David Dragičević and Đženan Memić implies a fight for basic human rights, which is a condition for the survival of the entire society and respect for the basic fundamental values. Justice for David and Dženan pointed to the biggest and burning problems in Bosnian society. Davor emphasizes that it is wrong to expect Justice for David and Dženan to solve all the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Davor Dragičević points out that the fight is still uncompromising against those who brought us to this situation and hold us hostage for over 20 years.
Conclusion from the first public Zoom debate OPENED ABOUT THE POLICE
· Numerous irregularities in police actions have been identified, following the discovery of David Dragičević’s body, beginning with the embarrassing March the 26th 2018 Conference.
· Serious human rights violations have been identified, in connection with protests by David Dragičević’s parents and friends, as well as other citizens and Justice for David activists.
· The actions of the Police towards Justice for David were found to be grave breaches of international standards, concerning freedom of peaceful assembly. The police violated the law, also regarding the right to access information.
· The OSCE confirmed that it had held talks with the Ministries of Interior on improving police relations with the media, but that certain ministries were not ready to cooperate.
· The Ombudsperson Institution confirmed that it had sent letters to the Republic of Srpska Ministry of the Interior, in the form of recommendations for police action at peaceful Justice for David gatherings, but that the police had not heeded any recommendations.
· The OSCE and the Human Rights Ombudsman gave full support to the “Path of Justice” and Justice for David activists, and further co-operation was agreed.