Debate report: OPEN ABOUT THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE!

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 OPEN 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.

Debate report: OPEN ABOUT THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE!

Second Public Zoom Debate

The second, in a series of four public debates, was successfully realized on April the 3th 2021, from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm via the Zoom platform. The technical moderators of the debate were Justice for David activists, Sofija Grmuša, Jelena Marjanović and Marko Nikolić. A live broadcast was made through social media channels. The debate had over 5,000 views on social networks. The moderator of the session was the vice president of the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka, Merlina Ivić.

The participants in the debate are:

Tanja Topic – FES Foundation in BiH, research associate, Banja Luka,

Igor Ličina – Department for Human Rights, OSCE Mission to BiH,

Alma Mehonić Kišić – Expert Advisor in the Department for Monitoring the Exercise of Rights in the Judiciary and Administration, Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH, Sarajevo.

Davor Dragicevic and Suzana Radanovic, parents of the murdered David Dragičević.

Ozren Perduv, President of the Justice Movement Political Party. 

Human rights activists Justice for David, organizers and representatives of the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka.

* We especially emphasize the weak response of prosecutors to the debate. Invitations for the debate were sent to all institutions of the Prosecutor’s Office and to the prosecutors personally, and none of the prosecutors responded to this invitation, except for the answer sent by Želimir Lepir.

During the plenary lecture, Merlina Ivić emphasized that the activities of the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Banja Luka have recently been in the focus of great criticism, major scandals, nepotism and corruption. The problem refers to the current law on the work of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Srpska. According to the legal provisions, the Law on Public Prosecutor’s Offices of the Republic of Srpska (Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska No. 69/2016) all the powers are ono prosecutor in a criminal investigation. According to this law, the injured party is not able to participate in the criminal proceedings, the whole process is up to the prosecutor. If the plaintiff does not act in accordance with the law and moral norms, the whole process is disrupted. The activities of the acting prosecutor Dalibor Vrećo, who was previously known for numerous scandals, also acted inadequately in the “Dragičević” case. The plenary lecture on the actions of the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office in the specific case of David Dragičević and mechanisms for civil society action against inadequate work of the Prosecutor’s Office.

During the plenary lecture, the vice president of the citizens’ association, Merlina Ivić, emphasized that the prosecutor Želimir Lepir did not use the CMS program and  assigned the “Dragičević” case to prosecutor Dalibor Vrećo. Following the report of David Dragičević’s disappearance, a number of investigative actions were not initiated, as well as the exclusion of video surveillance or the printing of base stations. In the case of initiating these actions, there is a reasonable assumption that David would be found alive. Prosecutor Šasa Labotić tried to criminalize the victim by filing an indictment against the dead David Dragičević, thus confirming the allegations of the criminal press conference of the Ministry of the Interior. After sending the report of Želimir Lepir, Minister Dragan Lukač requested the issuance of an order not to conduct an investigation, which was supported by the answer sent by Želimir Lepir. During the period of operation of the international legal team, a statement was given by the lawyer Zora Nikodinović-Dobričanin that the case could not be resolved while the acting prosecutor was Dalibor Vrećo. Acting prosecutor Dalibor Vrećo is the bearer of the indictment filed against criminal technicians who worked together with inspector Siniša Kojdić, who was released by the same prosecutor by making a decision not to conduct an investigation. The prosecutor cannot accuse his associates in the case because that is his biggest responsibility. Due to the decision not to conduct the investigation, lawyer Ifet Feraget appealed to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The District Public Prosecutor’s Office had to conduct an investigation against Siniša Kojdić, but, as Merlina Ivić emphasizes, it did not do so, because the team would open a Pandora’s box containing evidence that the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office, together with the Republic Prosecutor’s Office, was engaged from the very beginning. on the cover of the abduction and murder of David Dragičević. As Merlina emphasizes, due to all the above facts, the injured party Davor Dragčević requested the exemption of the acting prosecutor. The decision not to conduct an investigation against Siniša Kojdić and the lack of an effective and appropriate investigation in the context of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights indicate that the responsibility lies with the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office and the acting prosecutor.

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 Prosecutor’s Office directed its activities against citizens, in the direction of violating basic human rights. The biggest witnesses to that are the activities related to the destruction of the key evidence in the investigation, David’s underwear. During the death by strangulation or drowning, fluid was expelled from the body and the underwear was destroyed, direct evidence that David 

Dragičević was brutally killed. After numerous prominent details about the criminal activities of the police and the prosecution, the participants in the debate were asked open questions.

  • Instead of solving the murder case, are we witnessing the persecution and arrest of the parents of the murdered David and the prosecution? Who controls the work of the Prosecutor’s Office, to whom are the Prosecutors accountable for their actions?
  • Does the sequence of events in the case of the brutal murder of David Dragičević show that the Prosecution is above the law?
  • What are the reasons for such behaviours of appointed prosecutors? Who should be responsible for the inadequate actions of the prosecution? To whom should citizens report inadequate work of the prosecutor’s office?
  • To whom should citizens file criminal charges when, on the example of the brutal murder of David Dragičević, we see how inadequately the prosecution is acting? How much did the prosecution contribute to respect for human rights, how much did it act according to the law?
  • How can Justice for David further organize its activities against the prosecution? What are the results of our actions so far?

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, nor to replace the institutions of the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, established by the OSCE in 1996.

Igor Ličina further points out that discussions on the Prosecutor’s Office are especially demanding in the context of finding interlocutors, due to the existence of investigations and case management, so it is difficult to encourage prosecutors to discuss the work of the Prosecutor’s Office on pending cases and investigations. The work law of the Prosecutor’s Office itself implies a certain secrecy of conducting the investigation, which should be, impartial and correct. He also points out and emphasizes the weak response of prosecutors to the debate, which is a direct indicator of how ready this institution is for cooperation and open dialogue. Ličina points out the publication of Reinhard Pribe’s report, which indicates that a serious number of prosecutors are not conducting criminal investigations as expected, and that the quality of criminal investigations is very controversial and that criminal proceedings take a very long time. A similar opinion is stated in the European Commission’s report on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s status for membership in the European Union. The right to an efficient and fair trial enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights is something that can certainly be placed in the context of the analysis of the work of the Prosecutor’s Office.

The president of the political party “Movement of Justice”, Ozren Perduv, and the vice-president of the association of citizens “The Path of Justice”, Merlina Ivić, emphasize the expressed unwillingness of the Prosecutor’s Office for open dialogue and cooperation. Representatives of this institution did not even dare to respond to a large number of invitations. Considering that, among other things, the goal of organizing debates is to let us know the opposite side. Merlina Ivić referred the open question of the reasons for the lack of interest of the representatives of the institution of the Prosecutor’s Office to an open dialogue.

Davor Dragičević points out that prosecutors are placed in a situation of complete freedom, above the law and above the state they serve. There are a large number of international and local organizations that deal with this issue of the rule of law and human rights, while the situation of these same rights is never worse, which can be characterized as an anti-civilization and anti-democratic act. Davor believes that these organizations themselves should raise these issues, the lack of the rule of law, in this case the specific work of the prosecution. We want to hear the other side, and we have shown that many times, but obviously the other side is not ready to answer clear and loud questions.

Jelena Marjanović points out the situations in which Justice for David correctively influenced the work of the system’s institutions, specifically the Prosecutor’s Office due to great public pressure and persistence of activists, where certain prosecutors started initiating certain processes and opening investigations after a large number of activities and requests.

Due to technical problems, Alma Mehonić Kišić, expert advisor in the Department for Monitoring the Exercise of Rights in the Judiciary and Administration, the Institution of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo responded with a message and gave guidelines for action in the context of complaints about prosecutor Dalibor Vrećo.

Ozren Perduv emphasizes the provisions of the Law on Public Prosecutor’s Offices (LAW ON PUBLIC PROSECUTOR’S OFFICES – decision US, 121/2012, 101/2013, 111/2014 – decision US, 117/2014, 106/2015 and 63/2016 – decision US)) Article 29, according to which prosecutors cannot be prosecuted, arrested or detained in custody nor may they be held liable in criminal proceedings for the opinion they give or for the decisions they make in the course of their official duties.

This law enabled Dalibor Vrećo to behave in this way and act in the way he acted in the “Dragičević” case. Such law was passed in the National Assembly, and we all know who is the majority in the Assembly. Dalibor Vrećo’s behavior in the “Dragičević” case is justified by the legal framework that enabled him to do so, which was passed in the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska.

The only instance to which inadequate work of the prosecutor’s office can be reported is the Office of the Disciplinary Prosecutor in Sarajevo. If you look at these disciplinary measures, you can see how minor and strongly implemented they are. Perduv emphasizes a number of proceedings, letters and criminal charges that Justice activists for David filed with the prosecutor’s office in Banja Luka. Due to the events from December 25 to 30, 2018, through the filing of criminal charges against a number of police officers until the arrest of activists in Krajina Square in June 2020, which Justice for David activists directed towards the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Banja Luka. The letters also emphasized, among other things, that certain Prosecutors would report to the Office of the Disciplinary Prosecutor in Sarajevo or organize protests in front of the District Public Prosecutor’s Office if nothing was raised about those criminal charges. These events are just some in which Justice for David activists  correctively influenced the work of the prosecution.

During the debate, Marko Nikolić, President of the Assembly of the Association of Citizens “The Path of Justice”, pointed out that in addition to all the above, the issue is from one angle and political in nature, because the political structure in the National Assembly passed such laws that enable such behavior of prosecutors. In addition to the currently valid law on the work of the Prosecutor’s Office, the law on criminal procedure is also problematic, which prevents the participation of the injured party in the criminal process. Nikolić emphasizes that changes to these laws or the launch of an initiative to change these laws will have a great political impact.

Jelena Marjanović emphasizes that the activities of Justice for David have shown how problematic the work of these institutions is in one case, one can only assume how investigations and processes were conducted in previous cases of murders, unsolved murders and accidental deaths. An open question was also asked about Dalibor Vrećo’s role in the “Dragičević” case, which is the most problematic of all active prosecutors in terms of the number of corruption scandals. The question remains why that prosecutor was placed on all cases related to the “Dragičević” case and not some other prosecutor?

Sofija Grmuša, president of the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice”, emphasizes the situation of the criminal charges filed against her, Ozren Perduv and Davor Dragičević, for the events from December the 25th to 30th 2018, for endangering the security of Minister Dragan Lukač. Sofia particularly highlights situations of suspension of the investigation against her and Ozren Perduv while the trial against Davor is still pending. What is the purpose of open proceedings against Davor Dragičević? Are these proceedings aimed at endangering the security of Davor Dragičević and his primary arrest in the event of his return to Bosnia and Herzegovina?

For the first time in a long time, a prominent Justice for David activist, Danijela Ratešić, addressed us publicly. She points out how many anomalies the system has revealed with the murder of David Dragičević and the appearance of the Justice for David protest. He also emphasizes the importance of the protest regarding the initiation of the investigation and the qualification of the murder, which took place on the hundredth day of the protest, due to great public pressure. He also emphasizes the interference of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Dragan Lukač, in the case of the order not to conduct an investigation, which only shows how strong the connection of political influence on judicial institutions is in the specific case of the prosecution. Danijela also points out how independent the work of institutions is and how dependent it is on individuals who are connected by political power.

Danijela described in detail the events of December the 25th and 30th 2018, where a huge number of police activities were carried out without the order and consent of the prosecution. By behaving like this, it is clear how much the police are abusing the Prosecutor’s Office as an institution. In the case of David’s murder and the persecution of Justice activists, it is clear to David that the police are acting without a warrant from the Prosecutor’s Office, while the Prosecutor’s Office is not initiating investigations even after legitimate reports. Daniela emphasizes that the political connection, which enables institutions to act in this way, is a general crime which, unfortunately, has become an everyday occurrence in our society. By not responding to the call for this debate, the representatives of the institutions only confirm that they are not working in the interest of the citizens who pay them.

Suzana Radanović emphasizes that legal provisions are not as problematic as the autocratic rule of one man in the Republic of Srpska, as well as the lethargy of civil society, which wakes up insufficiently and does not raise its voice against injustice.

* Davor Dragicevic points out that there are a small number of civil society organizations with which one can openly cooperate. The biggest problem is that the Prosecution is under the influence of politics. It is an institution that, together with the police and the court, should represent the pillar of the state and make that state strong and respected. However, we see that the institutions are under the baton of politics and thus enable so much corruption and organized crime within these institutions. The activities of the Prosecutor’s Office so far have only been a matter of buying time and were not aimed at resolving the case. Davor Dragičević welcomed the opposite side, which he knows how to follow the debate, and emphasized that Justice for David activists  have a great advantage and emphasized the importance of the activities of Justice for David in the context of democratization and building a stronger, better and more just society. The “Dragičević” and “Memić” cases will certainly affect the state of the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Conclusion from the second public Zoom debate OPEN ABOUT THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE!

● Numerous irregularities in the prosecution’s proceedings in the case of the murder of David Dragičević have been identified.

● 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 inability of the injured party to keep up with the investigation and investigative actions in the context of the case of the murder of David Dragičević was established.

● The problem of inadequate work of prosecutors in the context of the murder of David Dragičević was pointed out, which gives perpetrators a sense of security, because the prosecution can and does not have to conduct an investigation.

● Better mechanisms need to be found for disciplinary proceedings against acting prosecutors who do not conduct investigations or do not conduct them adequately.

● It was clearly stated that the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) has such an obligation, but it was also noted that the ODC does not have sanctions that are adequate for prosecutors found to have obstructed or not conducted investigations.

● According to the actions of the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office during the investigation into the murder of David Dragičević, the impotence of the Prosecutor’s Office over the Police was noticed, although it is legally regulated that the police act on the orders of prosecutors.

● Numerous illogicalities have been identified in the work of the Banja Luka District Public Prosecutor’s Office in the context of the murder of David Dragičević. The best example is the appointment of one prosecutor, Dalibor Vrećo, for all cases related to the murder of David Dragičević, while four prosecutors were appointed and changed in the case of initiating proceedings to endanger the security of Minister Dragan Lukač against Sofija Grmuša and Ozren Perduv, who were accused of inciting Davor Dragičević to endangering the security of the Minister.

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