CEAS announcement: Unequal treatment of CEAS by judicial bodies and public institutions – the case of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies and its Director Jelena Milić

The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) is hereby expressing serious concerns regarding the failure of prosecutors’ offices and police to act on the received requests to bring criminal charges, submitted by CEAS and/or CEAS Director Jelena Milić back in 2015, for criminal offenses that include: violent behavior, threat to personal safety, racial and other discrimination.

CEAS wishes to remind the public that it was only very recently, namely, on 15th May 2019, that the Court of Appeals in Belgrade effectively sentenced Branko Tomić from Majdanpek to eight months of house arrest under electronic surveillance for his death threats to the journalist Tatjana Vojtehovski and her daughter on Twitter. By this decision the Court of Appeals actually passed new and harsher sentence for Tomić, having previously annulled the original decision of the Higher Court in Belgrade, passed in February 2019, whereby Tomić was sentenced to eight months of suspended jail sentence with mandatory revision after three years, all on account of the committed criminal act of threat to personal safety.        

Similar procedures for received threats have been conducted in the past in cases of program editor of the Association of Independent Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV) Dinko Gruhonjić and former president of NDNV Nedim Sejdinović. The Department for High-Tech Crime of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, in cooperation with the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office, arrested I. M. (32) from Belgrade under suspicion that he sent a number of threatening messages to Dinko Gruhonjić through his Internet blog.     

Since 2015 CEAS has submitted a number of requests to the bodies in charge to bring criminal charges against both unknown and known offenders for grave threats delivered to the addresses and phone numbers of CEAS and Jelena Milić, as well as social media accounts. However, so far there has been no reaction to any of these requests.      

In case of CEAS and Jelena Milić, it is evident that serious threats, misogynistic attacks and other forms of defamation are being completely ignored or due procedures are deliberately slowed down (apparently, the prosecutor’s office has no knowledge of Šešelj’s whereabouts!). Some of these acts have been committed by public figures with high visibility, including: Vojislav Šešelj (sentenced for war crimes within the Mechanisms for International Criminal Courts in the Hague for instigation of deportations of Croats from Hrtkovci in Vojvodina), Nemanja Ristić (who was sentenced before the Higher Court in Podgorica to eight years in jail for organized crime and attempted terrorist activity and is wanted by Interpol on the warrant issued by Montenegro), Miša Vacić (one of the founders and leaders of the party Serbian Right which on 20th May 2019 entered the local government in Vranje), Jugoslav Petrušić (Serbian-French agent and counterintelligence operative, member of the French military intelligence organization DRM, who was tried in 2016 for espionage on behalf of France, murder of two Kosovo Albanians and other criminal deeds committed in KiM during the NATO air campaign in 1999), Dragan Đorđević (president of the Association of Disabled War Veterans and Families of Killed Soldiers of Serbia).

We wish to emphasize that on 25th March 2015 CEAS and its Director Jelena Milić filed an official request for the opening of the criminal procedure against Nemanja Ristić for the threat to personal safety as defined in Article 138 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia. This request has never been processed and it is still stuck at the Department for High Tech Crime at the Higher Court. The request for criminal charges against Miša Vacić is still being considered and the case has not moved beyond the Department for High Tech Crime of the Higher Court since 2016.     

CEAS and Jelena Milić are currently suing for defamation several print media outlets: Informer, Republika, and Pravda. It must be emphasized that we are the only civil society organization that has been subject to worst kind of media lynching, even after the media stopped attacking other civil organizations for their cooperation with the Soros Foundation.     

On 2nd November 2018, CEAS and its Director Jelena Milić motioned a procedure before the First Basic Court in Belgrade against the above-named war criminal Vojislav Šešelj for defamatory claims he made in the TV show “Good morning, Serbia”, aired on TV Happy on 15th August 2018. Šešelj has been known for misogynistic and defamatory insults against Jelena Milić before and after this show, always in live appearances in TV programs with the national frequency. In April 2019 he published the book “NATO crab Jelena Milić”, which he also promoted using TV programs with the national frequency as a platform. CEAS reported this to the Commissioner for Protection of Equality Brankica Janković, who replied that she was unable to respond because CEAS had already motioned a court procedure and that she had not heard of the case and therefore she failed to react on her own. However, the intensity of defamation in the tabloid press was so high that we find it hard to believe that their activity went unnoticed.           

Šešelj’s misogynistic attacks directed at Jelena Milić have not caused any reactions of the government bodies, opposition parties, the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, ombudsman, Regulatory Committee for Electronic Media or so-called independent democratic media. On the other hand, similar but not so frequent attacks Šešelj launched against some of the female MPs have resulted in commendable condemnations.         

CEAS wishes to emphasize that Director Jelena Milić is one of the very few persons from the list of “30 Serb-haters” who joined the criminal action against Ivan Ivanović and SNP Naši who published this list in March 2014, thereby demonstrating her confidence in the efficiency of the Serbian judiciary. However, unfortunately, in November 2017 the Higher Court in Belgrade acquitted Ivanović of all charges that by publishing the list of “Serb-haters” he committed an act of racial and other discrimination.  

We also must draw attention to the fact that on account of the received death threats Jelena Milić was assigned special police protection in March 2016, which she rejected after the wrecking incident in Savamala, which clearly showed that the police refused to respond to the calls received from citizens, after issuing a statement that she did not want to have a “privileged” treatment. This decision was passed in spite of the fact that CEAS and Jelena Milić are rarely protected by the representatives of the civil society and other public figures in Serbia. We believed that this might be a result of the sensitive themes handled by CEAS – such as the causes and consequences of the NATO bombing, lobbying for Serbian membership in NATO, investigation of Russian influence in Serbia and war crimes. We also emphasized a disbalance in the media presence and differences in media reactions of the government bodies and public figures who pay much more attention to the cases of harassment and threats directed at human rights activists or collaborators of investigative journalism portals dealing with corruption.                 

CEAS is also probably the only citizens’ association in Serbia that had been harmed by identity theft. Namely, one Vencislav Bujić, with close links to Đorđe Višekrun and Nikola Sandulović, in cooperation with a high representative of the organization „Ne davimo Beograd“, who was listed on the ballot for the local elections in Belgrade, and university professor Milo Lompar, established a mirror organization under the name of SEAS, which was falsely presented to the donors, partners and associates of CEAS. Unfortunately, in spite of flagrant copying of whole chapters from our Articles of Association, our Internet visibility, logotype and other elements of identity, the Serbian Business Registers Agency, where false CEAS was registered, as well as other competent bodies responded that there was nothing we could do about this kind of behavior.         

In their daily life and operation, CEAS and Director Jelena Milić are still exposed to unending threats and attacks, especially through social media platforms of Facebook and Twitter. These have been reported to the bodies in charge on a regular basis, however, to no avail. The media which republish our content, with or without our consent, so far have failed to remove numerous death threats and other brutal statements from their comment sections.    

Bearing all this in mind, we are deeply concerned by the failure of the official bodies and agencies in charge of protection of human and gender rights to take action, as well as by the absence of solidarity and stronger reactions of the general public, civil society organizations, opposition, and so-called independent democratic media. It appears that this selective approach of the government bodies, apparent lack of solidarity and prejudiced approach evident in the reporting by so-called independent democratic media, reactions of the civil society and public figures and institutions, when treatment of CEAS and Jelena Milić is compared to reactions in other similar cases, is now determined primarily by the inclination to one or another proposed solution for Kosovo. CEAS wishes to remind the general public that in the ten years of its operation it has not violated or disregarded any of its original principles and values and has never given up on the methods of objective and factual analysis promoted from the very beginning.           

Belgrade, 24.05.2019.