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, JUDICIARY 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 ON POLITICS!
Fourth Public Zoom Debate
After successfully holding three Zoom sessions: Public debates on the topic of Police, Prosecutor’s Office and Judiciary with an emphasis on the activities of the court, we successfully organized the fourth debate: Open about politics! The debate was held on May the 15th 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, Marko Nikolić and Merlina Ivić. In parallel, 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 secretary of the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka, Vladan Malešević.
The participants in the debate are:
Tanja Topić – FES Foundation in BiH, research associate, Banja Luka,
Milana Kovačević, – a lawyer and a Justice for David activist
Miljan Kovač – journalist, Justice for David activist
Davor Dragičević – Justice for David activist
Ozren Perduv – President of Political Party “The Movement of Justice”
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 opposition politicians and positions to the sent invitations. Calls for debate were sent to all current parties and their leaders, and no one responded to this call.
After the murder of David Dragičević, the first, civil, long-lasting protests of Justice for David begin. The elections were the only turning point in this process, that is, the possibility that these events would affect the election results. They also tried to use the events related to the protest rallies of Justice for David from the opposition, whose campaign was almost based on this case. What is the role of politics and political turmoil in the specific of “Dragičević” case and in what way did politics influence specific events related to the murder and protest Justice for David?
During the plenary lecture, Vladan Malešević emphasized that in a short time it became increasingly obvious that members of the Republic of Srpska’s Ministry of the Interior were behind the cover-up of David Dragičević’s murder, which is clearly shown in the situation when the old and current Interior Minister asked the Chief Prosecutor to issue an order not to investigate David’s murder.
According to the position of activists during the beginning of the protest and in the moments of the greatest civic activity and concentration on Krajina Square, Vladan emphasizes that with the support of the media closed to the authorities, attacks on the group began with the aim of reducing the influence of public gatherings. Among the various attempts to slander the group by individual politicians and the media, we often had the opportunity to hear how the gatherings were politicized. In this regard, lawyer of the “Dragičević” and “Memić” families answered the question related to politics: “To conclude, politics, which indisputably had control over the judiciary that covers up the murders of children, Dženan and David forced Arijana Memić and Davor Dragičević to “enter” politics, with the aim of contributing to the creation of a better and more humane society in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is, a society in which the judiciary will effectively investigate – not cover up murders” – pointed out in one interview the lawyer of the “Dragičević” and “Memić” families, Mr. Ifet Feraget.
However, the first to introduce a set of events into politics was Milorad Dodik, with his arrival at the statement of condolences to the Dragičević family in their family house! Further, through the analysis, Dodik’s interest in the Dragičević case is even more noticeable because he attended the funeral of David Dragičević.
Milorad Dodik and Radovan Kovačević attended one of the larger protest rallies, Justice for David, in front of the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Banja Luka.
Politics has entered all pores and governs all segments of our society. That would not be disputable if politics was not responsible for covering up a murder. Through everything seen so far in these three years of the group’s existence, we can conclude that there is not enough political will to solve anything in not only the case of Dragičević and Memić, but also in many other cases that went unnoticed by the public. As a participant in many protests in our city aimed at the common good, Vladan Malešević emphasizes that politics played absolutely the same role in different situations. Whether it was student protests, protests for the preservation of a green area or protests due to the social position of a certain group of people, in absolutely every segment, politics had its fingers involved.
The political system has formed an immune mechanism that reacts in the event that situations occur in society that may threaten its existence. As examples, Vladan cites the Vulić case where the interest of investors was placed before the general interest and the interest of one family. The investor turned out to be close to the politicians in power. In the case of the murder of Milan Vukelic, it is known that Milan, as an architect, stood in the way of millions invested in the construction of the city park. Again individuals close to the authorities. In the case of the murder of David Dragičević, the evidence points to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which again leads to politicians in power.
What they all have in common is that the victim wanted to be denigrated in the worst possible way, and that is one of the ways the political system works when it feels that a rebellion that would threaten the system itself could result from all this. In the Vulić case, the system wanted to present the man as a bully who turned down an excellent offer to sell his land because he asked for more. In the case of Milan Vukelić’s murder, the victim was portrayed as someone who had been involved in crime until then, but now demanded more. In the case of the murder of David Dragičević, the victim was presented as a bully, a robber and a drug addict. All this is in order to distract the public so as not to create a revolt against the injustice that is definitely behind the system made up of political elites.
The influence of politics on all spheres of society is inevitable, but in addition to these examples that we have mentioned, there is also a positive side of politics in the case of the murder of David Dragičević. This positive role was manifested through the establishment of the Inquiry Committee in the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska with the aim of revealing all relevant facts related to the accident of David Dragičevič until then. Following the report of the Inquiry Committee, the Prosecution launches an investigation into the murder. The negative impact of the policy related to the inquiry committee is that the report was not adopted by the deputies in the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, which was announced by Milorad Dodik before the vote. Milorad Dodik’s statement that the report of the Inquiry Committee showed the incompetence of the opposition casts another stain on political influence, although the report of the Inquiry Committee showed a lot and is the only official document from one institution.
In the years of David Dragičević’s suffering, there were also general elections, so some opposition politicians saw a chance that this unfortunate event could serve as a shot that could intimidate the government and win the elections. At times, the set of opposition campaigns seemed to be reduced to giving support in the square. Many activists took advantage of the gathering in the square and to collect signatures for the elections. Some pictures of the opposition helped the authorities in spinning and served as proof that the opposition was behind the protest, which was certainly not true. At the time, it seemed as if the politicians in power could hardly wait for such images in order to divert the public’s eyes from the essential problem in the case of the murder of David Dragičević. There are still politicians and positions and oppositions that support the group but do not stand out in public or in the square during the protests.
There were very few politicians then who understood the weight of the struggle in the square, and even today there are very few of them. After the arrest and prosecution of parents and individual members of the group, politicians quickly returned to the party rut and to the game on the political scene, which has not brought any concrete results to ordinary citizens except that the position is still the position and the opposition is still the opposition.
It often seemed to an independent observer from all this that this was a well-coordinated combination of individual politicians from the position and the opposition. The government-oriented media reacted readily while opposition politicians provided material with their behavior. From the present perspective, we can say that those people who in any way participated in bringing politicians to the square on the one hand intentionally or accidentally worked against Justice for David.
That politics is everywhere is also proved by the fact that individuals from the group were forced to establish political parties in order to exercise some of their basic human rights. After the plenary lecture, open questions were asked:
What do you think was the attitude of politicians towards groups and gatherings in the square?
What do you think could be different?
Did the protests in the square affect the political scene?
How much and how do you think politics influenced the group and the protests?
How do you see the relationship between politics and the Justice Movement that emerged from the
the need to transfer the informal struggle for rights to the political field as well?
From your point of view, what steps would you recommend to both the citizens’ association and
a political party?
In an open debate, Davor Dragičević emphasizes that political support for Justice for David activists in 2018 was very high, while 3 years after the murder of David Dragičević, justice has not yet been obtained, the fight is still going on, while political support has been completely lost.
The political elite of the Republic of Srpska and their biggest actors are behind the cover-up of the murder of David Dragičević, and the kidnappers and murderers of David Dragičević are in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska. Milorad Dodik was the first to introduce politics at the big door, coming to David’s funeral and David’s house. In a series of events, there was a direct meeting between Milorad Dodik and Davor Dragičević in the Palace of the President of the Republic of Srpska during the period of the greatest concentration of protest rallies of Justice for David. At that meeting, it was clear that Milorad Dodik was protecting the perpetrators, accomplices and those who were covering up the murder of David Dragičević.
Politicians who were allegedly supportive in Krajina Square were there out of self-interest or the interest of their party, none of them were sincere with the aim of establishing responsibility for the abduction and murder of a 21-year-old child who was not forgotten by members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska. All the weight of this crime will eventually fall on the politicians of the Republic of Srpska entities, especially on some of the deputies of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska who are sitting next to one of the killers, Dragan Lukač.
In the context of changes in the political scene of the city of Banja Luka, Davor emphasizes that it is necessary to radically change the system in order to establish the rule of law, because changes of individuals without changes in the functioning of institutions can not be considered changes. Davor addressed the citizens of Banja Luka directly: “My dear Banja Luka citizens, I don’t mind you walking around the city smiling or celebrating, I mind that my child’s killers are still at large and walking freely around the city next to you, and Banja Luka is mine like David’s city. ”
Ozren Perduv points out that at the beginning of the protest rallies of Justice for David, no one even assumed that they would get here and that a political party would be formed at all. Until the police showed their true face, there was no talk of forming a political party.
When it happened, December the 25th 2018, and when the police and politicians in whose function is the police of the Republic of Srpska showed their true face, we came up with the idea of formalizing the activities of the informal group Justice for David. As a result, the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice” and the political party “The Movement of Justice” were formed, where activists decided to politically articulate their actions and form a party because the protest pressure did not yield any results.
The volume of gatherings during 2018 did not give results, which it would certainly give in every other more developed country. The government did absolutely nothing to shed light on this monstrous crime, on the contrary, the government through its instruments, police and prosecutors began to persecute, discriminate and abuse citizens and the activists realized that they were absolutely unprotected or had any support from the alleged opposition and decided to formalize their actions and embark on a political struggle. Ozren emphasizes that he is disappointed with the behavior of the opposition, because in addition to a few hundred legal proceedings against the activists, they did not offer any help or support in legal aid or any other. There was not the slightest support from the opposition in the context of the legal struggle that the activists are leading. We rightly wonder where these alleged opposition politicians are in the context of the huge number of trials against the citizens of the Republic of Srpska.
The election law of Bosnia and Herzegovina is such that only political entities may run and not informal groups or associations of citizens, such as in Serbia. From all of the above, the political party “The Movement of Justice” was founded and Ozren Perduv was elected president in November 2019.
During the establishment and legal registration of a political entity, there were a number of system obstructions where foreigners were not allowed to open a bank account. Certain banking entities justified their refusal to open a bank account with actions of money laundering, terrorism and arms sales. The account was eventually opened at Raiffeisen Bank. Ozren emphasizes the transparency of the party’s work, where all bank statements and data are public, so there are no arms sales or terrorism, although it is clear to activists that the current government considers Justice for David activists to be terrorists and foreign mercenaries.
The murder of David Dragičević is not the only political murder, but there have been many such murders. Among other things, there is the murder of Milan Vukelić. If the society as a whole has gone through the murder of Milan Vukelić, then it is not disputable that even more monstrous murders and crimes that remain unprocessed and unpunished have continued to happen in our capital.
In the context of the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska, Ozren Perduv especially emphasizes the disappointment and election theft that occurred in the general elections in 2018, during which there was no reaction from the opposition, they did not file criminal charges, did not file lawsuits and accepted this state of affairs, entered the National Assembly and agreed to such results and gave legitimacy to the National Assembly and the Government of the Republic of Srpska, thus being accomplices in this political situation in the Republic of Srpska. We note that Draško Stanivuković and Jelena Trivić agreed on Krajina Square that they would not enter the Assembly of the Republic of Srpska.
Ozren Perduv further emphasizes that it is devastating that everything in our society is politicized. After the registration of the political party, the Movement of Justice the Justice for David activists were given the right to advertise on the Public Service of the Republic of Srpska. It is also important to emphasize the presence of activists on Krajina Square for the purpose of political promotion in the previous local elections, because without the registration of a political party, activists did not have the right to set up a stand on main Square.
The Justice Movement is fighting for substantial changes, but the question is how many citizens are ready for these changes. Reality shows that a large part of the citizens agreed to this state of affairs because great efforts are needed to change the consciousness of citizens.
Tanja Topić, a research associate at the FES Foundation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasizes that there should be no illusions that politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina works in the interest of the citizens or that opposition political parties are any different. Opposition parties saw in the social movement Justice for David their own interest and profit from the events on the Square and the opportunity to use the events for their own political option and for personal promotion. The support of the opposition was not sincere and systematic.
Justice for David has introduced a radical change in the behavior of civil society and non-governmental organizations, as well as governmental and project organizations, which is among the greatest contributions of Justice for David, as everyone is influenced by politics. It is a special pity that in the case of the murder of David Dragičević and in this tragedy, all the problems of the institutions and all the supremacy of the political elites over the citizens were shown.
Tanja Topić points out the beginning of the period of the regime’s reckoning with dissidents fifteen years ago, and states that in the beginning it was a couple of individuals with whom the regime dealt in the most cruel way, attacks, labeling, that they were foreign mercenaries, traitors who received money to overthrow the Republic. Then there were attacks on the media because a clear distinction was made between regime and non-regime media, where free media were banned from entering institutions, and letters were sent to all leading individuals forbidding them to make statements on certain “non-regime” media. “The car broke down” at Justice for David because there was a case of the “voice of a small citizen,” a waiter, an ordinary man seeking the truth for his murdered child.
How much do the citizens here want something different and how much they silently gave a blessing and justified this state of affairs. A complete systemic change of consciousness is needed, a part of the citizens is very passive, a good part of the citizens have left, while a large part of the citizens justifies this state of affairs. Research conducted by the FES Foundation for ten years has shown that a large part of citizens justify beating and abusing journalists. A large number of surveyed individuals believe that it is okay to beat up and beat journalists. Tanja emphasizes the perseverance and persistence of Justice for David and believes that we should not give up and that in the continuity of action, Justice for David has come to concrete results.
Miljan Kovač points out that if we take into account that our society has changed in the last 10 to 15 years, looking at the factual state of affairs clearly shows that society is changing in a negative direction, there is greater disrespect for human freedoms and greater violations of human rights. If we analyze the activities of the opposition parties, it can be seen that they have never acted in the direction of protecting the citizens as much as with the aim of taking away and taking over power from the positional parties. Justice for David has done more to change society than any other opposition party.
The changes that Justice for David pointed out to problems that we did not know about and that turned out to be big, primarily on the work or inaction of the judiciary, on the other hand, the police faced for the first time citizens who know their rights very well. For example, it happened for the first time that citizens were arrested during a press conference. Due to the strong activity of civil society in the context of action, Justice for David has exposed the enormous corruption and organized crime that is present in the work of institutions.
Miljan Kovač also points out the insincerity of the opposition parties that used the popularity of the movement and bought political points, no change was in their goal because they benefit more from the current state of affairs. A series of activities showed that the opposition side does not differ much from the regime, which is clearly seen in the attitude towards Justice for David activists. The Justice Movement as a political party should not side with any current political bloc.
Justice for David had a great influence on the media, where the media also face situations they have not faced before. It highlights here refers to the public service that paid a large fine for the lies told at the expense of Justice for David activists.
Davor Dragičević emphasizes that a large number of governmental and non-governmental organizations that were allegedly in the service of democracy, but with the appearance of Justice for David, totally failed the exam. Davor emphasizes the international community’s lack of interest in the general political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Domestic politicians use this very skilfully and keep the people in the past with media and other manipulations, under national and ethnic pressures and constant fear of war and war sufferings. In the post-war period, the international community invested several billions in recovery, most of which ended up in the pockets of current politicians. Particularly dangerous are the new generations of politicians who belong to the tycoon elite and, by entering politics, are trying to achieve complete domination over the judiciary so that they cannot be punished or prosecuted for nothing.
Milana Kovačević, a lawyer and an activist of Justice for David, emphasizes that politics, in addition to the naked interest, has also become a reality show. It has entered every segment of society, education, health care and finally the judiciary. Representatives of opposition parties were on the square because there were a lot of citizens on the square then, for that reason they had interests to stand with the citizens on the Square because every citizen is a potential vote for them, while now, when a smaller number of citizens are gathered, they do not see interest in supporting Justice for David activists and therefore they do not exist today. Milana points out that she had hope for radical changes after the 2018 general elections, after which there was great disappointment. All the events related to the murder of David Dragičević have shown the problems of our society and what kind of people we are and what our priorities are. The political scene is such that the same nationalist themes are constantly highlighted while real problems are bypassed.
Jelena Marjanović raised the issue of general corruption of system institutions from lower instances to the roof pillars of a society, judicial institutions where it was shown that the ruling regime has so well developed a corrupt network of control in each institution that it is difficult to expect one system instance to function adequately. Jelena also emphasizes the readiness of activists for such engagement and sacrifice, because in difficult moments of existential endangerment, the priorities of each individual and the readiness to fight for goals that are bigger than himself are clearly shown.
In that context, Vladan Malešević points out that this is all a well-formed system of division, into which people are divided into suitable and unsuitable, party and non-party, nationalists and those who are not. The system of deep divisions formed in this way is something that enables criminal elites to stay in power for such a long time. If we want to move forward, it is necessary to rise from that system of division, and it is necessary for each individual to start thinking differently on a personal level.
Ozren Perduv emphasizes how proud he is of Justice for David because so many concrete things have been done and how many legal battles have been won with the help of lawyers who are selflessly helping. The open question is what do politicians do specifically, apart from arguing on a national basis without any concrete struggle and without any concrete progress. A concrete example is the behavior of the opposition, which is largely based on everyday scandals and emotional skirmishes that have no concrete effect or results in reality. One of the reasons for the decision to form the Justice Movement is that all opposition formations were in power and did not change anything, and for that reason they are not trusted. How can we expect such individuals to bring about some changes in this society?
At no point did the opposition decide on a legal form of struggle. Although members of the opposition were also banned from rallies and arrested, none of them dared to take legal action to file criminal charges or to file an appeal or initiate a legal dispute. They did not act on any legal basis. I guess they should be an example of action for citizens and pointing out an adequate form of behavior, which is by no means the case with our opposition. Ozren Perduv asked an open question whether the opposition is ready to prosecute regime tycoons?
Milana Kovačević, a lawyer and an activist of Justice for David, emphasizes that the problem lies in the very set-up of the system because it is not the opposition that should prosecute regime tycoons but the Police, then the Prosecutor’s Office and the Court. Because the judiciary is the one that should be independent and objectively prosecute both the president of the state and an ordinary individual.
At the end of the debate, Davor Dragičević emphasizes that in every developed country, for certain individuals, political death would be one percent of the behavior of domestic politicians. The goal of domestic politicians is to escape responsibility and put themselves in a position of impunity and legal irresponsibility for their criminal actions. The position of impunity is the only goal for domestic politicians and not the interest of citizens and progress. The political elites that have been in power since the war until today are directly responsible for this state of affairs, for taking naked lives, for killing and killing our children: David Dragičević, Nikola Djurović, Jovan Arbutina, Milan Vukelić, Slaviša Krunić, Denis Marjanc, Mahir Raković and Dženan Memić. We must not allow this to happen again, there must be no compromise or anything in common with murderers and criminals. Criminals and murderers have neither religion nor nation, only their personal interest, and they also have their name and surname.
Conclusion from the second public Zoom debate OPEN About Justice!
- If we want to move forward, it is necessary to rise from that system of division, and it is necessary for each individual to start thinking differently on a personal level.
- A complete systemic change of consciousness is needed, a part of the citizens is very passive, a good part of the citizens have left, while a large part of the citizens justifies this state of affairs.
- Representatives of opposition parties were on the square because there were a lot of citizens on the square then, for that reason they had interests to stand with the citizens on the Square because every citizen is a potential vote for them, while now, when a smaller number of citizens are gathered, they do not see interest in supporting Justice for David activists and therefore they do not exist today.
- A concrete example is the behavior of the opposition based largely on everyday scandals and emotional skirmishes that have no concrete effect or results in reality. One of the reasons for the decision to form the Justice Movement is that all opposition formations were in power and did not change anything, and for that reason they are not trusted. How can we expect such individuals to bring about some changes in this society?
- Ozren Perduv asked an open question whether the opposition is ready to prosecute regime tycoons?
- The Justice Movement is fighting for substantial changes, but the question is how many citizens are ready for these changes. Reality shows that a large part of the citizens agreed to this state of affairs because great efforts are needed to change the consciousness of citizens.
- In the context of changes in the political scene of the city of Banja Luka, Davor emphasizes that it is necessary to radically change the system in order to establish the rule of law, because changes of individuals without changes in the functioning of institutions can not be considered changes.
- The position of impunity is the only goal for domestic politicians and not the interest of citizens and progress.