Report from the second international conference

“Discrimination, the role of NGOs and the importance of the media in civic activism”

September the 12th 2020.

Hotel “Jelena” Banja Luka

“Discrimination, the role of non-governmental organizations and the importance of the media in civic activism” was the topic of the second international conference organized by the citizens’ association “The Way of Justice” Banja Luka. The conference was held on September the 1th, 2020. in the conference hall of the hotel “Jelena” Jovana Dučića 25, Banja Luka.

The primary goal of this event is to insist on the criminal responsibility of all those who, by doing, but also by not doing, led to the obstruction of the investigation in the case of the murder of David Dragičević. The secondary goal of this event is discrimination, persecution and repression of human rights activists “Justice for David”. In addition, the conference covered the role of non-governmental organizations working in the field of protection of basic human rights and freedoms. The conference also covered the role of the media, freedom of media expression, fake news and their role in protecting and violating fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Association of Citizens “The Way of Justice” Banja Luka was founded in 2019. by some human rights activists “Justice for David”. Some of the goals of the association are: creating an institutional environment for a final solution to the murder of David Dragicevic and all unsolved crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, promoting rule of law and advocating for the harmonization of the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina with the laws of the European Union, promoting civic activism, educating members of the Association on laws, citizens’ rights and protection of human rights and freedoms, educating citizens on their rights to participate in changes to the system, cooperation with international organizations in the EU in the direction of achieving the goals of the Association, raising public and society awareness of civil activism and the importance of citizen participation in creating the system in which they live, promoting the right to access information relevant to citizens.

Among others, the conference was attended by representatives of: the Human Rights Department of the European Organization for Security and Cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Human Rights Ombudsman in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Transparency International in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banja Luka Center for Human Rights, Banja Luka Social Center, Helsinki Parliament of Banja Luka Citizens. The conference was attended by representatives of media houses from the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

If we take into account that Bosnia and Herzegovina have been a member of the Council of Europe since 2002, when it ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, this document has been an integral part of its legal order for 17 years. Therefore, the convention is directly applicable and has priority over other laws. Certainly, the most important question is what benefit the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have from the guarantees it provides them. The “Memić” case in the judicial system of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the “Dragičević” case in the Republic of Srpska show that in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is just a dead letter on paper because basic rights, such as the right to life, have been brutally violated. The question is why EU member states are passively watching this situation, instead of acting on time and much more concretely than before, which would lead to these and all future cases being adequately investigated.

After an introductory speech by Davor Dragičević, the father of the murdered David Dragičević, human rights activists “Justice for David” Merlina Ivić and Sofija Grmuša gave a plenary lecture entitled “Chronology of the case of the murder of David Dragičević and the first, civil, long-lasting, non-political protests “Justice for David”. The conference participants have heard the chronology of the “Dragičević” case with a focus on the controversial press conference, the activities of the police and the Prosecutor’s Office, the ways in which the first, long-lasting civil protests in Banja Luka were conducted, and the way the institutions reacted. The participants were acquainted in detail with the ongoing trials against human rights activists “Justice for David” regarding the accusations raised by members of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Srpska. They were acquainted with the details of the trial, statements and evidence presented by members of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Srpska and the final verdicts. The participants of the conference were acquainted with the public media coverage of these events, and all the ways in which the basic human rights of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina were violated.

After the plenary lecture, two panel discussions were organized. The lecture on “Discrimination, Persecution and Repression of Human Rights Activists” Justice for David ” was held by human rights activist “Justice for David” Lidija Matić. The central theme of this panel covers situations in which citizens fight for truth and justice, while they are repressed, their basic human and civil rights are violated, and numerous unfounded misdemeanor charges are filed. The activists are unjustifiably deprived of their liberty and detained in the police premises, because they were found on Krajina Square, where they were giving statements to the media. Citizens are discriminated against to the extent that they do not have the right to meet at all in a public place or to express their views publicly. Participants in this panel discussion were: Ifet Feraget, lawyer, Dario Sandić, lawyer, Uglješa Vučković, Transparency International BiH, Dejan Lučka, Banja Luka Center for Human Rights, Merlina Ivić, human rights activist “Justice for David” and Lidija Matić, human rights activist rights “Justice for David”. Ifet Feraget, lawyer of the Dragičević and Memić family, pointed out all the omissions of the judiciary and the Prosecutor’s Office, which in themselves imply discrimination and violation of basic human rights. The investigation into the murder of David Dragičević does not exist and is not being conducted, the Prosecution absolutely does not have the evidence it claims to have, so for these reasons it does not even initiate an investigation because in that case it would have to prosecute itself. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is initiating an investigation, which is absolutely not within their competence. The mere conduct of public institutions in an inadequate manner that is not in accordance with the law implies a violation of citizens’ rights and discrimination on all grounds.

The topic of the second panel discussion is “The role of NGOs and the importance of the media in civic activism.” The lecture on this topic was given by Vladan Malešević, human rights activist “Justice for David”. Participants in the second panel discussion were Vanja Stokic, Etrafika, Drazen Crnomat, Banja Luka Social Center, Aleksandar Zolja, Helsinki Citizens’ Parliament, Banja Luka and Miljan Kovač, president of the association “The Way of Justice” Banja Luka. Independent monitoring of NGOs is an important asset and a powerful tool in the hands of NGOs. Independent reports of human rights violations make a valuable contribution to respect for human rights and have the effect of putting pressure on often passive authorities to meet their obligations under domestic and international human rights standards. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small number of expert organizations deal with systematic monitoring and protection of human rights.

Drazen Crnomat from the Banja Luka Social Center pointed out that the concept of the fight for truth and justice in the case of the murder of David Dragičević implies a fight for the basic fundamental values of a society. The responsibility of civic organization in the context of the struggle for human rights implies the need for greater civil organization, a greater degree of civil activism and focused action on the institutions of the system. Civil lethargy and insufficiently high civil organization towards better respect for basic human rights were emphasized. Aleksandar Zolja from the Helsinki Citizens’ Parliament pointed out that “Justice for David” is a unique example of civic self-organization and directed civil action towards the institutions of the system that are inadequately and insufficiently functioning. He believes that non-governmental organizations also show insufficient engagement in the context of violations of basic human rights, which was clearly shown by the example of the arrest of human rights activists “Justice for David”. Vanja Stokić, a journalist who has supported the activities “Justice for David” and cooperates with human rights activists, stressed the importance of civic self-organization in the context of networking, connecting and strengthening the social network of all organizations working in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights activist “Justice for David” Lidija Matić emphasized the importance of the support of international organizations, which was largely lacking in the moments when the activists were most endangered and when they needed help and protection.

Davor Dragičević pointed out that the fight for the resolution of the murders of David Dragičević and Dženan 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.

Due to the COVID19 virus pandemic, the number of participants was limited. A live broadcast of the entire course of the conference was provided, which is available on our website