Ifet Feraget – a man who has become a symbol of legal struggle and honesty in Bosnia and Herzegovina, talked to us about many problems in our society, primarily justice, repression, discrimination and the support he has from citizens in everything he does for the Memić and Dragičević Families.
The citizens who have been supporting the Memić family since the first day of their fight for the truth are very well aware of what greatness it is when the name Ifet Feraget is spoken. A man who did not spare himself or his knowledge in the legal battle that he is still leading today, without even a little thought, responded to the cry of another father who also lost a child, Davor Dragičević. Through a joint struggle with these families, his character has become synonymous with truth and justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But that greatness of a man and a professional carries with it a huge weight, because truth and justice in the system in which we live are certainly the two most dangerous words. A Banja Luka resident by birth, a Sarajevan by place of residence, he advocates to the last breath for the truth about the murdered young men David from Banja Luka and Dženan from Sarajevo. The bridge built by the characters of David and Dženan, together with the character of Ifet Feraget, resembles Andrić’s “Na Drini Ćuprija”, an indestructible connection which, despite all the “efforts” of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, will never be able to break again.
Few people in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not heard of you and your inexhaustible struggle for the Memić and Dragičević families. You are a person admired by every civic activist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but you are also the pride of your profession. How did you decide to enter into this unequal battle for truth and against injustice?
I thank the citizens and the media for their enormous support, without which cases Dženan Memić and David Dragičević will not be able to end. We owe great gratitude to the associations Justice for David and Justice for Dzennan, which raise the awareness of citizens with their struggle and point out the importance of the struggle between civil society and citizens in the realization of human rights. We owe a special thanks to His Excellency Mr. Valentin Inzko, but also to the gentlemen from the European Union (report of the EU expert Mr. R. Pribe), although their support could have been more concrete. Without shedding light on these two obvious murders, it is not possible to talk about the rule of law, nor about democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, nor about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s candidate status for EU membership. This is a completely unequal battle, but the fight for justice must be persistent and persistent. I took both cases because the lawyer must serve justice and the special motive is that I am still revolted and shocked that despite such strength of evidence in both cases I still did not have an adequate investigation because prosecutors are trying to cover up these two obvious murders and the system still does not react.
Have you ever before, through the cases you brought before the courts, had experience with such obvious concealment of evidence and concealment of perpetrators?
Although I have already answered your question, I must say that covering up such obvious murders is something that cannot happen in a somewhat regulated legal system. Therefore, these two cases unfortunately show that there is no rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina and that is what worries every citizen and that is the main reason why Bosnia and Herzegovina, after five years of submitting an application for EU membership, still has no chance to get candidate status. On the scene, we have the complete inertia of the judicial system.
Can you tell us how far these two cases have come so far and is there any hope that Justice will be satisfied in the end?
In both cases, despite more than clear evidence that these were murders, an adequate investigation has not yet been opened, which shows that the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not functioning. However, there is hope that justice will be served because justice simply has no alternative. Former Commissioner for Enlargement of the European Commission Mr. Johannes Hahn promised that the commission would keep both of these cases in focus. We will continue the fight and certainly reach the goal, and the goal is to establish justice and punish all those responsible for these murders, but also all prosecutors and members of the police who are in any way involved in attempts to cover up these murders.
You were born in Banja Luka, and you live in Sarajevo, we can say that you are from Sarajevo. This struggle of the two families has united the two cities with an unbreakable bond of unity and solidarity, and there is great support for you and your families from the citizens of Banja Luka and Sarajevo. How much does that support mean to you in your legal struggle and what do you think about civic activism in Bosnia and Herzegovina in general?
Every support I receive from the citizens of Banja Luka, Sarajevo and from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina means a lot to me because it shows the civic solidarity and faith of the citizens in the very idea of the rule of law. Although I live in Sarajevo, which I love, I must say that I also love my Banja Luka, which I carry in my heart.
Observing the behavior of the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina towards civil activists, it is indisputable that there is a great violation of civil rights. How do you, as a lawyer, look at it and does it make any sense in such a system for citizens to complain to the courts about their rights?
In Bosnia and Hercegowina, the principle of prohibition of all types of discrimination, both in the Constitution of Bosnia and Hercegowina and in the Constitutions of the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been raised to such a high level that it is difficult to find anywhere in the comparative legal order in the world. We could say pure idyll, one perfect state. However, in reality the situation is completely different because civil rights are being violated en masse. This means that the citizens must continue to fight because the constitution is on their side.
During your fight for the families of the murdered David and Dzennan, you also had the opportunity to talk to numerous representatives of the international community. What is your opinion, is there really a real interest of the international community to resolve these two cases and to make much-needed reforms in our judiciary?
The international community is fully aware that the only solution for our judiciary is the new composition of the the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, the new High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council Law, amendments to the existing Criminal Procedure Code in terms of improving the position of the injured party are necessary to finally, resolving the Memić and Dragičević cases.
Are we to some extent to blame for the situation in which we and our country find ourselves?
We cannot avoid guilt as citizens, because democracy means a government that must function in accordance with the law, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina the government does not function in accordance with the law, and that is why citizens must punish such a government in elections. Citizens have the right to a judiciary that is efficient and can be trusted.
If any of the activists decided to seek justice for their violated civil rights before international courts, would you agree to be part of a process like that?
Justice before international courts means first of all the exhaustion of legal remedies before domestic legal institutions. Given my many responsibilities, including those in the David Dragicevic and Dzenan Memic cases, I still expect younger fellow lawyers to get involved in this fight and I will be on hand for them.
Do you think that such a verdict against discrimination and persecution could be a driver of change in our system, at least when it comes to human rights and freedoms?
Judgments of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg are not being implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so any new verdict will certainly not be a turning point until we all change the climate in society in terms of respect for the law and court rulings.
Given that we are an activist portal and our goal is to promote civic activism, human rights and freedoms, and the true principles of democracy, what would you say to our readers at the end of this conversation?
I have been told many times that the murders that the police cover up, such as the murders of Dženan Memić and David Dragičević, are never solved, and I always replied that those times must come to an end one day. Violation of the law and arbitrary application of the law is a practice that has been tolerated in our region for decades precisely because of the lack of an independent and impartial judiciary. That is why my message to your readers is that together we have an obligation to cleanse society as soon as possible of corrupt politicians who are the main culprits for the situation we are in.
Author: Slobodna riječ