CEAS Announcement on the Occasion of the International Day of Defenders of Women's Human Rights and Brankica Janković's Re-Election to the Position of Commissioner for Protection of Equality

The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia elected Brankica Janković as Commissioner for Protection of Equality, which is her second term of office at the helm of this allegedly independent institution, in a non-inclusive procedure accompanied by many shortcomings, which the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) deems a bad choice.

CEAS  point out the serious errors in the work of Brankica Janković during her first term of office as Commissioner for Protection of Equality, which, in a nutshell, could be described as a systematically unequal treatment of certain actors of public life such as Jelena Milić, Director of CEAS, regarding with multi-annual reiteration of misogynist statements and other misogynist acts of Vojislav Šešelj against her, like publication of his book Jelena Milić - NATO Pubic Louse and against CEAS staff, all this using public resources, which we have grounds to believe ill-intentioned and exceeding Janković's attitude to one person or organization.

We are not flagging this case to emphasise inequity against ourselves, but because its protagonists are too well-known for the Commissioner to not act, and her replies to CEAS several letters requesting her action make a case study of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality as an institution failing to act, as long as Brankica Janković is running it, which is beyond treatment of a person or organization from civil society and which calls for due attention.   

Namely, having in mind that on one side there is Jelena Milić, who has been a long-standing:

  • target of serious threats sent from convicted criminals like Nemanja Ristić, as well as person against whom criminal proceedings are being conducted for murders such as Jugoslav Petrušić, on TV stations with national frequency – a public asset belonging to all the citizens of Serbia, CEAS staff included, allocated on the basis of certain criteria that cable televisions are not bound to comply with, and that are obviously not complied with;
  • target of serious threats via social media coming from hosts of trolls, but also from public figures, sent to her and her children;
  • target of tabloid lynch;
  • target of hazardous stigmatization by extreme right wing as one of the greatest “Serb-haters“ and one of the few who supported the work of public prosecutor in case against Ivan Ivanović;
  • offended and defamed in public on no grounds, on national TV stations and panels held in the premises of Belgrade University, thus the premises and institutions partly financed by CEAS' as a legal person and its staff as individuals, being regular tax payers, and by a university professor and physician employed with a public health organization, like Danica Grujičić, financed also by CEAS and Jelena Milić through individual and collective taxation;
  • person who, at a moment, got police protection due to the above;
  • plaintiff in costly court proceedings due to all the above, in cases that CEAS believes should have been initiated by competent national authorities, thus pressing dozens of charges for life threats that are de facto not adjudicated;
  • leader of CEAS organization and all above placed in the context of her professional engagement, thus everything above must refer to other citizens of the Republic of Serbia (RS) engaged at CEAS, who should also have equal treatment in public and before the RS institutions;
  • and that Vojislav Šešelj, a convicted war criminal, president of a political party until recently represented in the Parliament and MP himself, is on the other side, also partly financed from the RS budget to which CEAS and its staff contribute simultaneously with the grossest misogynist statements and acts imbued with misogyny perpetrated by him against Jelena Milić;
  • we consider it nearly impossible that the promotion of the book by the above mentioned Šešelj, Jelena Milić NATO Pubic Louse on TV channels with national frequencies went unnoticed by the Commissioner, even after its subsequent promotion in tabloid press, as well as the statements by Šešelj that “Jelena Milić is dying of the terminal stage of syphilis“ followed by laughter of his and others in the studio, to mention but a few Šešelj's acts against us that have gone unpunished for years, even without public denunciation. 

CEAS has grounds to believe that there are reasons why the Commissioner did not initially react to this very prominent case, which we believe must be investigated in more detail.  CEAS reminds of very swift reactions of Commissioner Janković in cases of women in power, for example, which CEAS is naturally supportive of, as they were exposed to discrimination motivated by their physical appearance, not actions. CEAS also reminds that Ms. Janković as the Commissioner responded to Vojislav Šešelj's misogynist statements in other cases, like the case of journalist Snežana Čongradin, which CEAS commends, of course.

CEAS especially underscores the absurd replies from the Commissioner's institution to many letters submitted by CEAS, requesting action during Janković's first tenure. These replies explained, in a biased fashion, that the institution had no more reasons to act as CEAS had reacted much earlier (indeed, we had, but having waited long enough for her to react, which never happened!). In addition, CEAS legal representatives claim that the repeated statements and acts are a new part of Vojislav Seselj's act of disseminating misogyny towards Jelena Milić and CEAS, which arose during the proceedings initiated by Jelena Milić and CEAS, and not the same act which the lawsuit has already covered, as Janković claims, which gives her a pretext not to act. Both Šešelj's behaviour which is not condemned and sanctioned, as well as the Commissioner's failure to act, followed by insulting action, certainly affect the work of CEAS, so we find both to be mobbing at work.

We hereby warn all relevant authorities, but also all entities which financially support the work of the Commissioner for Protection of Equality, against this bias. Namely, after a court hearing, Vojislav Šešelj claimed in public that he proved Jelena Milić had pubic lice, promoting this on the website of his Serbian Radical Party while still parliamentary, thus, again ironically, at our expense, so CEAS legal team filed a request to add counts to the charges. 

CEAS warns that the institution of Equality Commissioner should not discriminate against individuals and organizations on the basis of their remit and also their public interventions, which is what Janković certainly did in other cases, judging by whether the persons and organizations did a publicly acceptable work, which was based on arbitrary, tabloid, extreme right assessment or that of convicted criminals, the work approved by the government or done from the positions of the government, or dealing with the most serious issues of our recent past, while complying with all applicable regulations in the RS.

We recall the fact that the work of the institution of Equality Commissioner is funded from the RS budget, but also through projects finances by the institutions of the Western international community, such as the American USAID, and civil society organizations and persons working for them, such as CEAS, who with their tax and contribution payment regularly provide revenues to the same budget, ironically, also implement projects supported by the similar Western donors.

Belgrade, 27 November, 2020