Report from the public debate

“The first 1000 days of the struggle for Truth and Justice, 1000 days of social, sociological and legal phenomenon!”

December the 19th 2020. Hotel “Jelena” Banja Luka

“The first 1000 days of the fight for Truth and Justice” was the topic of a public debate organized by the Association of Citizens “The Path of Justice” Banja Luka. The public debate was held on December the 19th 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 and 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 a retrospective of the first 1000 days of the struggle for Truth and Justice, the mechanisms of the struggle that were used in the previous period and the results achieved in the context of civic activism.

1000 days have passed since the discovery of the body of David Dragičević at the confluence of the Crkvena and Vrbas river. To this day, there is no information on any results of the investigation by the Banja Luka District Prosecutor’s Office. David Dragičević disappeared on the night of March the 17th – 18th 2018. He was found dead at the confluence of the Crkvena and Vrbas rivers in the center of Banja Luka six days later. David’s death and the criminal conference of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Srpska initiated several months of protest rallies “Justice for David” on Banja Luka’s Krajina Square. From the very beginning, David’s parents claim that David’s death is not without elements of a crime, but that it was a murder. On June the 28th 2018, after three months of conducting pre-investigation activities, the District Prosecutor’s Office issued an order to conduct an investigation against unknown perpetrators due to the grounds for suspicion of a murder. To this day, no further information has been provided on this case.

David’s death, criminal press conference of the Ministry of the Interior, several months of protest rallies “Justice for David”, absence of any information on the results of the ongoing investigation, persecution, discrimination and repression of human rights activists “Justice for David”, criminal protests and trials of parents of the murdered David, but also human rights activists “Justice for David”, are just some of the topics covered by the presentation “The first 1000 days of the struggle for Truth and Justice” followed by a debate in which participated: Jovana Kisin, lawyer, Milan Malešević, lawyer, Dejan Lučka, lawyer, Banja Luka Center for Human Rights, Prof. Dr. Miodrag Živanović, philosopher, University of Banja Luka and Milkica Milojević, journalist. The moderator of the debate was Jelena Marjanović, a human rights activist “Justice for David”.

Professor Dr. Miodrag Živanović, as he states through his long and successful career as a professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Banja Luka, was a participant in many protests and gives full support to “Justice for David” activists. He mentioned the “Dragičević” case on his numerous visits to domestic and foreign universities, and points out that the “Dragičević” case is widely known as well as the social movement “Justice for David”. During the debate, he emphasizes that from the point of view of life in a broader philosophical sense, in the case of the murder of David Dragičević, there is no progress, the taken life cannot be returned. Commenting on the complete social situation in this case, as well as in the cases of other unsolved murders, Professor Živanović points out the problematic existence of a strong ethnic matrix on which our current society is built. A society built in this way has become a collection of instruments directed against man. Such a situation leads to a strong sense of hopelessness and despair on which is difficult to base changes. A number of problems such as the structure of the state, the structure of government, the subordination of lower state bodies to higher bodies in which there is no clear and concise order and lack of political will to change prevent progress and reforms needed in every part of society. It is impossible to get Justice in such inadequately organized and installed society. Such state organization humiliates people and the basic principles of human existence, nullifies social capital and reduces the capacity for change.

Dejan Lučka, lawyer, from the Banja Luka Center for Human Rights, emphasizes the great need to fight for basic human rights, because state institutions unfortunately understand human rights only as an idea that they refer to when it works in their favor and which is easily violated when it does not suit them. When we look at the catalog of human rights and the constitutional order, starting with the Dayton Agreement and Annex 1, we see that during these 1000 days of “Justice for David”, basic rights are violated on a daily basis, starting with the elementary right to life. This means only the murder and cover-up of the investigation, as well as the persecution and discrimination of “Justice for David” activists. Freedom of assembly and expression is violated through every civic activity “Justice for David”. Human rights look nice on paper until human rights are applied to the case of the social movement “Justice for David”. This situation indicates that there is a large discrepancy between “de jure” and “de facto” application of human rights in practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina when it comes to “Justice for David”. During the debate, Lučka pointed out the huge passivity of the institutions of the international community, which further complicates the fight for basic human rights. The protection mechanisms that exist on paper are not applied in practice. This situation is the biggest shame of the institutions of the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina, because obviously the parents of the murdered David are forbidden Justice and the activists of “Justice for David” are forbidden the right to assembly and free expression. Dejan Lučka believes that it is crucial to continue writing letters to all institutions in charge of human rights and addressing the international institutions of the United Nations Committee, which are not classic legal institutions but work in the field of human rights. He emphasizes the focus of the media and the constant address to the institutions of the international community. Justice for David, in addition to insisting on resolving the case, must insist on free gatherings on Krajina Square, which must be a place where clear messages are sent in the way it was done during 2018. It is necessary to continue the fight at the international level and address to assist institutions of international law.

Lawyer Jovana Kisin has represented many “Justice for David” activists in many misdemeanor, administrative and civil proceedings. Over 50 misdemeanor proceedings were conducted due to the shouts “Justice” and “Justice for David”, in which activists were released of all charges. Requests for public assembly are not allowed in the first instance and were confirmed by the signature of the Minister of the Interior in the second instance. In this case, an administrative dispute was initiated where the Court accepted the position of the Ministry of the Interior, in which another location was offered instead of Krajina Square. As the lawyer Jovana Kisin states in the debate, not all legal bases have been fulfilled in that context, because the Ministry of Internal Affairs has made a number of claims that are not true. The explanations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs state that the person who submitted the request was punished, which is not true. The court accepted this position of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A request has been submitted for review of this judgment before the Supreme Court, and after that instance there is a possibility of transferring the case to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Following these state legal instances, there is a possibility of initiating proceedings at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Of particular interest is the lawsuit filed by activists against the state for continuing discrimination. This litigation is the first of its kind where citizens have risen up against the state because discrimination has been present against activists from the very beginning. In addition to all the above, criminal charges were filed which had no effect due to the inaction of the Prosecutor’s Office. Lawyer Jovana Kisin points out the problematic nature of the law on the work of the Prosecutor’s Office, because the current law implies that the injured party has no rights. Previous, older legislation was better because it allowed the injured party to participate in the process and investigation. The current Prosecutor Office’s Law puts the injured party in a position of total helplessness. Complete decisions and all responsibility are in the hands of prosecutors, who, as we see in the “Dragičević” and “Memić” cases, act according to their personal implications and findings, and not according to the law. For the described reasons, the question arises as to the effectiveness of the filed criminal charges? If prosecutors do not do their job on a legal basis, what is the purpose of raising criminal charges? Lawyer Jovana Kasin believes that filing criminal charges is not without effect because all charges remain recorded. When there is a change of prosecutors, it may mean that the new prosecutor will act differently. In the case of direct human rights violations that have occurred in the case of the arrest of “Justice for David” activists, it is possible to address the Constitutional Court directly, which was also used in this case. Lawyer Jovana Kisin emphasizes the persistence of “Justice for David” in the context of using all available legal resources. In addition to the constant defense in which Jovana Kisin participates as a lawyer, she emphasizes the importance of further legal struggle in the context of filing criminal charges and lawsuits by activists. In addition to the fight with legal means, it is also possible to fight without legal means. The Citizens’ Association can be the initiator of changes in the law because the current law on public assembly deviates from all European Union laws on public assembly. It is necessary to keep the focus in the media, to be present and persistent in legal and any other struggle with social activism.

Milan Malešević, a lawyer, points out that the fight of 1000 days of “Justice for David” is a huge social, sociological and legal phenomenon. From the first day, there was a gathering of sincere, empathetic individuals in the square who could not stand injustice. During the 1000 days of struggle for Truth and Justice, activists were exposed to such torture, repression, discrimination and persecution that is rarely seen in the history of social activism. Lawyer Malešević asked the question, what is the reason for that? The reasons for this pressure lie mostly in the symbolism of social resistance. Countless criminal charges filed by the Ministry of the Interior against the activists stated that they held banners that read “Justice” and that they held a picture of David. The other side is scared because it shows that this social movement will survive. Another reason lies in the fact that activists did not gather around some national, ethnic, agricultural or sociological idea, but around the idea of universal human values. Such a heterogeneous group has shown that discord is not possible because it is based on humane principles and actions. It was not clear to anyone that people gather so disciplined day by day, and they have no personal benefit from it except, truth and justice and humane values. As lawyer Milan Malešević points out, 1000 days of perseverance, 1000 days of repression opened 1000 new questions that deviate from the basic question, and that is the question “Who killed David?”. Those who do not give an answer to this question, do not give it, because they know that this question does not stop only at this question, but would open 1000 new questions. This refers in particular to unsolved and covert murders and cases similar to David’s. As lawyer Malešević emphasized in the debate, in a state where corruption is present in all parts of society, it is difficult to expect judicial institutions to function. In the context of future activities, lawyer Malešević believes that the minimum that can be continued means strengthening the political part of Justice for David as well as citizens’ associations through various activities, both legal and social. Lawyer Milan Malešević points out that not a single incident was committed in 1000 days, and thousands of activists were gathered each time. Proud of all people from “Justice for David” that no one has ever fallen for any provocation. Lawyer Milan Malešević believes that nothing worthwhile cannot be obtained easily and quickly, and emphasizes the importance of continuing the activities of “Justice for David”. Lawyer Malešević emphasizes the disputable indifference of the rest of the citizens who are not fighting for their rights.

Journalist Milkica Milojević pointed out that she admires the persistence and perseverance of the “Justice for David” activists. Not everyone has the courage to be free enough not to give up their freedom and persistent enough not to give up the principle they stand for. From the point of view of the media, journalist Milkica Milojević emphasizes the importance of the focus of the media because it is one of the main tools of activism. “Justice for David” needs to be in the focus to make a social impact. Journalist Milkica Milojević suggests through education and workshops for volunteers in the context of writing texts that would have “Justice for David” among other topics. Journalist Milkica Milojević gave a detailed description of the behavior of the media from the beginning of the protest until today. She points out the lack of interest of the academic community in the social movement “Justice for David”, which happened for the first time in the history of this society. Journalist Milkica Milojević divided journalistic engagement in the context of “Justice for David” into three groups. The first group consisted of the media who were disinterested from the beginning, and also discriminated against activists and the social movement “Justice for David” through the texts. The second group were those who were part of the activists and realistically followed the events and contributed to the popularity of the movement. The third group used the movement’s popularity and reported briefly in 2018. without helping the movement in any way. Journalist Milkica Milojević also points out the influence of “Justice for David” on the media, because due to the appearance of “Justice for David”, many media changed their focus and started reporting in other directions. She also points out that many aspects of “Justice for David” remained unexplored and insufficiently covered by the media. Journalist Milkica Milojević believes that it is necessary to return the symbols of “Justice for David” to the media and popularize the Association of Citizens “The Path of Justice”. Journalist Milkica Milojević, from the point of view of the social movement, considers the request for the resolution of the case of David’s murder to be the most important for these 1000 days, but also the request for a more just society. Thanks to this, “Justice for David” has survived and each activist individually deserves a praise.

In the context of the conclusions of this Public Debate, the citizens’ association “The Path of Justice” will organize its activities in the form of projects based on the fight for basic human rights, sending letters to entities, states and international institutions and legal struggle in the context of criminal charges and lawsuits. We hereby extend a public invitation to all interested citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the world to join us in the formal struggle for Truth and Justice and join some of our activities.

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