On Occasion of the Armed Forces Day

Belgrade, February 13, 2011

CEAS

CEAS

The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) believes that the euphoric manner in which the Ministry of Defense and the top government present the achievements of the reform in the Serbian Army and the defense system is not appropriate for the actual state of facts, given the tardiness of the process of establishing democratic control over the Army, security and information services, but first of all mindful of the numerous, still unexplained, violent deaths of Army members and the role of the Army in those accidents and in concealing evidence of MoD’s responsibility for deaths of RTS employees during the NATO air campaign. The intensive announcements of our units’ participation in UN and EU “peacekeeping” missions are imprecise or intentionally incomplete.

The persistent emphasis on successful export of ammunition industry products and its almost exclusive association to the Ministry of Defense does not make much sense if it remains unknown who are the persons responsible for its operations, whether the earned profits are included in the budget and how they are distributed, and which security and foreign policy repercussions may result from such export.

CEAS expresses its bewilderment at the media’s indifference to asking the competent authorities questions about these matters, at least on the occasion of the Armed Forces Day if not in the huge number of interviews with the Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff of the Military, which interviews rather resemble public announcements. Unfortunately, the same silence comes from the political parties which argue for radical changes in Serbia. CEAS finds that the establishment of full democratic and civil control and profound personnel changes in the Army and its services are the prerequisite for radical changes in Serbia, instead of personal and immaterialized verbal political preferences of particular actors in the political life.

CEAS reminds that establishment of professional army is in itself insufficient unless adequate personnel changes are simultaneously carried out among the officers, due to undisputable criminal heritage from the 90’s wars. The only way to replace the compromised personnel so far has been their promotion to retirement or declaration of surplus personnel, which demonstrates the incapacity of civil over military bodies, information and security structures, in fact the absence of democratic control. The civil bodies themselves have failed to impeach nearly anybody in the Serbian Army for criminal and professional responsibility on account of a series of evident faults and crimes committed in warfare and peacetime conditions. The extorted delivery of military personnel to the Hague Tribunal and trials for war crimes at the national courts, on which the top government has no clear opinion, thus remain the only essentially reforming moves in the Serbian Army.

CEAS remarks that it has taken the Serbian Government several years to finally, without any reactions from professional and broader public, appoint the general inspector who is supposed to monitor the work of information and security agencies, although it was obliged to do so a long time ago, further to the laws on Military Security Agency and Military Information Agency. This also indicates to the absence of democratic control, which must be the ultimate goal of all reforms in the defense and security system. The very selection of the relatively anonymous and incompetent for monitoring issues Bozidar Banovic, for the position of general inspector, leads to the conclusion that this move is made to meet the form but not the essence.

The absence of democratic control over the Army and its services and lack of coordination in operations of competent agencies have been recently and finally addressed by the War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic and the Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration Bozidar Djelic, in the context of the government’s inability to locate and arrest Ratko Mladic. Unfortunately, their statements have not been worth any comments of competent persons in the Army, Ministry of Defense, or members of the Serbian Assembly’s Defense and Security Committee which, obviously for political reasons, fails to exercise the authorities given to it.

CEAS once again reminds of the still unexplained series of violent deaths of soldiers, who died during the regular military service in peacetime conditions. They are all characterized by a number of controversies and obstructions in the course of investigation and by the fact that no one has borne professional or criminal responsibility for the soldiers’ deaths yet. The recorded and proved faults of legislative bodies in these cases indicate that they do not act independently, abiding by the law, but instead under the pressure of military structures which cover up their faults. As far as CEAS is aware, in case of death of the soldier Srdjan Ivanovic, who used to drive the then deputy chief of General Staff of Serbian Army Mladen Cirkovic and Ratko Mladic in the summer of 2005, before he violently died on the last day of his military service, the District and later on the High State Prosecutor’s Office in Leskovac addressed for five times the competent investigative judge with the demand to undertake additional investigative activities, among other hearing of the officer of Serbian Army Dragan Djordjevic from Leskovac, who was the last to see Ivanovic. The competent investigative judge and the court chamber rejected all those requests, although the Law on Criminal Procedure binds them to undertake some of the proposed investigative actions. In case of Radoman Zarkovic, who has more than twenty wounds on his body, which were impossible to be self-inflicted, and for whom the military bodies claim that he committed suicide, the investigative actions are allegedly carried out before the bodies in Nis without any reasoning as to how and why would that be possible, since the case must fall within the jurisdiction of military and even court bodies in Leskovac. In none of the mentioned cases, the same as in the Topcider case, has there been any progress for several years.

CEAS welcomes the decision to send the Serbian Army members to the EU and UN military and civil missions, but considers it irresponsible to insist on their “peacekeeping” character both in formal and essential terms. The UN mission members in Haiti, for example, lost their lives in rebellions. Members of EU missions in the Mediterranean and in Somalia are not only in peacekeeping missions but also in missions for establishment of peace, which have the mandate to use force. The Petersburg tasks, which are the basis of mission operations within the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (EU CSDP), implying armed operations, and the new “solidarity clause” defined by the EU Lisbon Treaty, are not at all discussed in Serbian professional public. The Serbian Minister of Defense, Dragan Sutanovac, in his numerous interviews, has never referred to or been asked about these matters.

CEAS reminds that also the EULEX mission in Kosovo, the mandates of which the Serbian Government disputes in many domains and now believes that EULEX should not deal with investigation on organ trafficking, is a mission of EU Common Security and Defence Policy. At the same time, Serbia and, more than anyone, the Minister Sutanovac, boasts with its intention to become a “full member” of that policy, without explanation of the precise meaning, announcing also the signing of the Security Treaty with EU. Anyway, the state of Serbia has announced in the National Security Strategy (NSS), adopted by the Assembly, that it undertakes the “obligations” resulting from EU CSDP. CEAS believes that, regardless of whether this concerns the recruited or the professional soldiers, they themselves and the public have the right to know more details about the state’s intentions regarding the use of the Army.

CEAS uses the occasion of the Armed Forces Day to ask the Serbian Government what the “unreserved assistance of MoD to the defense industry” actually means, as the Minister Sutanovac boasts with it? Who, according to the law, rules the operation of ammunition industry, the export of its products, the conditions of work in its factories and where do the alleged huge amounts of money from revived military industry of Serbia end up? Does the state of Serbia, which has established, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, strong non-aligned amicable and strategic liaisons with regimes now fought by the Arabian world but also with those which still manage to suffocate the people, such as Libya, supply weapons and ammunition, by mediation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to such regimes?

Given the fact that Serbia has exported to the official Iraqi armed forces the military equipment at the value of USD 300m, CEAS finds it necessary to have clearer awareness of the fact that the highest level of violence in Iraq is currently the intra-Iraqi violence. Official forces, armed by Serbia, among others, bloodily fight the strong forces which oppose their liaison with the USA. They are at least connected to Al-Qaeda which acts globally. In such circumstances, there are grounds for more courageous public questions as to whether Serbia should become a member of a collective defense system, and not only to boast with the achievements of export to controversial regimes and friendly relationships with NATO, which has no obligation to assist and react in case of an attack, underlining the commitment to the decision on military neutrality, which is anyway discredited by the mentioned intention to accept the obligations from EU CSDP in NSS. Coordination of operations of particular ministries towards higher security of Serbia and less embarrassment at the international arena, as well as harmonization of national binding documents which are also shamefully discrepant, would have to be one of the priorities in reconstruction of the Serbian Government.

CEAS believes that the commendations arriving from international community for the Serbian Army and Ministry of Defense primarily serve their own interests in establishment of cooperation and transformation in terms of interoperability, which can help them in the battles they fight. Such interests, starting with terrorist attacks on the USA, as well as the absence of common attitude of EU members about the Kosovo status, overrule those which would require and support establishment of democratic control and implementation of transitional justice before anything else. This is, in good part, the reason for such a disturbing state of facts in Serbia 2011.

Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, February 13, 2011

On Occasion of ICTY's Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Serge Brammertz's visit

Belgrade, February 11, 2011

CEAS

CEAS

CEAS believes that the statements made by the top government and politicians, claiming that Serbia is doing its best to locate and arrest the Hague fugitives, Mladić and Hadžić, are incongruent with the facts.

CEAS reminds that Miodrag Ivanović, father of the soldier Srđan Ivanović, has repeatedly declared in public, most recently in the program “Reaction” on TV station B92, that in the months before his death in the summer of 2005, his son used to drive general Mladen Ćirković, the then commander of Pristina Corps, and the Hague indictee Ratko Mladić.

The Serbian Army has recently retired Mladen Ćirković from the position of Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Military, failing to rally their strength or to show good will to examine at least his professional responsibility, if not the criminal one, for the violent deaths of three soldiers on regular military service in the barracks of Leskovac, in the period 2004-2005 (the case of Leskovac soldiers: Ivanović, Kostić, Žarković), while he was the commander of Pristina Corps, directly in charge of the matter.

CEAS reminds the public that the Minister of Defense, Dragan Šutanovac, recognized the existence of the Leskovac case last winter, for the first time, during a debate in the Assembly when he replied to the a DSS representative with the following words: “Would you like me to remind you about the affairs in the Serbian Military at the time when you governed Serbia? Would you like me to tell you about Leskovac? About Vranje? About Topčider, Mr. Tomić?“ Unfortunately, this confession, which appears accidental and extorted in the absence of other arguments, rather than a desire to finally clarify these cases, went by without an adequate reaction of the public or competent authorities and, first of all, without any supplementary explanations by the Minister Šutanovac.

CEAS has recently, pursuant to the Law on Free Access to Information, received replies from competent judicial authorities related to the cases of Leskovac and Topčider. They confirm a series procedural faults and actions which are uncustomary in judicial practice.

In the Ivanović case, the prosecution of jurisdiction in Leskovac, therefore a state authority, has submitted argumented proposals for implementation of additional investigative actions for four times. All the four proposals were rejected by the competent court chamber and the judge Mihajlo Petrović, who was reelected during the reform of judicial system. CEAS finds that the most important check which should have been made during the investigation was the exhumation of the late Srđan Ivanović’s body. Given the incomplete details from the forensic records, there is no other way to ascertain the way in which heroin was injected in the late Ivanović’s body, whether he took it on his own or after employment of force, and whether he had consumed drugs before. It is also a big failure that there was no hearing of the sergeant Dragan Đorđević, the last person seen with the late Ivanović, later on convicted for the criminal act of narcotics distribution.

Likewise, in the other two cases of Leskovac, a series of drastic procedural faults has been confirmed, violating the injured party’s right to trial in a fair and reasonable time period.

CEAS informs the public that the Higher Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade has been keeping the Topčider case since 1 January 2010, failing to initiate proceedings for more than a year. This is intolerable, since it has been indisputably confirmed by investigative actions that the soldiers in Topčider were killed by a third person. CEAS believes that the case needs a series of investigative actions, which have not been taken so far and would lead to a reliable assessment whether someone was hiding in the facility in front of which the guardsmen were killed. We believe the members of the National Council for Cooperation with the ICTY should be relieved of the obligation to keep the state secret, in order to assess whether they have any knowledge about the movements of Ratko Mladić at the time. This could be achieved only by actions of investigative judge after all the authorized persons who deal with detecting of Ratko Mladić’s residence are relieved from the obligation to keep the state secret.

CEAS finds it particularly important that the former Minister of Justice, Zoran Stojković, at some point stopped the investigation against several generals of the Serbian Military for hiding of Mladić, and the investigation against general Tomić has been recently reopened. CEAS welcomes the fact that the Prosecutor’s Office for War Crimes is now competent for processing of Ratko Mladić’s harbourers.

CEAS remarks that the Government of Serbia and the Ministry of Defense have finally managed to appoint the general inspector who shall be in charge of controlling the information and secret services’ operations. CEAS invites the new inspector Božidar Banović, Miodrag Rakić, President Tadić’s Chief of Staff and coordinator of secret services’ operations, and the Assembly Committee for Defense and Security, to examine possible influences of the services on the cases of Leskovac and Topčider, mindful of all the proved judicial faults and the inability or lack of political will in the Ministry of Defense and Serbian Military to identify the faults and punish those in charge of the violent deaths of soldiers, now obviously related to hiding of Ratko Mladić.

CEAS invites all national and international protagonists who evaluate the successfulness of reforms in judicial system so far and who shall monitor the future steps in the process, to pay attention to these cases as they may be referent for identification of the degree of judiciary independence in Serbia.

CEAS finds it impossible to discuss successfulness of reforming processes in Serbian Military, defense and security systems, and particularly establishment of democratic control over the army and services, until these cases are completely resolved and Mladić and Hadžić arrested.

If the western international community is really determined to arrest Mladić and Hadžić, it must demand from Serbian government, if the latter do not show interest on their own initiative, to provide answers about all the circumstances in the Leskovac and Topčider cases.

Belgrade, 21 February 2011

On Occasion of the 11th anniversary of NATO bombing of the RTS building

Belgrade, April 22, 2010

CEAS

CEAS

In the NATO bombing of the RTS building in Belgrade, on April 23, 1999, at 02:06 a.m. officially 16 RTS employees were killed, which is undoubtedly NATO’s responsibility.

Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) wishes to remind the Serbian public that, after the changes of the 5th October, although criminal charges were filed against nine officials of RTS, the judicial bodies processed and found guilty only Dragoljub Milanović, the then general manager of RTS, and sentenced him to 10-year imprisonment on account of the criminal act „criminal act of serious offence to public safety from Article 194 para 2 related to Article 187 para 2 and 3 of the Criminal Law of the Republic of Serbia.“

CEAS is warning the Serbian public that there is still no reaction of competent state authorities to the „Request of the Families of the Killed Employees to Renew and Expand the Procedure in the Case of Possible Sacrifice of Sixteen RTS Employees“, submitted by the victims’ families to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime in Belgrade back on April 3rd, 2009. Also, in 2006, the families presented to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime the book „Silence in Abardareva Street“, containing evidence which the previous court had failed to process.

CEAS believes that the RTS case, with regard to its complexity and the course of legal processes to the date, represents excellent material for monitoring of results of the reform in judicature in Serbia and strengthening of democratic institutions. The RTS case denudes some big challenges yet to be overcome by Serbia if it wishes for a radical breakup with the structures of Milošević’s rule and, being that, it deserves extra attention of professional, political and international public. There is an impression that those structures are still unable to control or direct the work of all the three branches of rule in Serbia, as well as media. Present state of affairs in the RTS case, unfortunately, indicates that nominal democratic authorities, despite occasional declarative demonstration of will power, lack the strength to remove the protagonists of Milošević’s criminal apparatus and their helpers from our institutions. It also gives rise to the doubt that the reason for the ignorant attitude to the RTS case and multiannual efforts of families to reveal the complete truth might be an attempt to hide the actual number of the killed.

The dubious state of affairs in judicature, which seems not to have started to clarify after the reform, is probably partly a consequence of the lack of full democratic control over the Military Security Service or infamous political agreements. Chronology of efforts made by families and associates and numerous pieces of evidence which they have gathered, but which have left the competent institutions indifferent, as well as numerous letters addressed by the families and their associates to the President of Serbia, Mr. Boris Tadić, and the Minister of Defence, Mr. Dragan Šutanovac, and which have never been answered, also speak in favour of this opinion.

CEAS reminds the public that in its Report „SOCIAL-POLITICAL AND LEGAL ANALYSIS OF CASES OF KILLED EMPLOYEES OF RTS, SOLDIERS KILLED IN TOPČIDER AND LESKOVAC AND THE CASE OF THE SOLDIER MILAN MATIĆ” from June 2009, it stated the opinion that the criminal act for which Milanović was sentenced was wrongly legally qualified by the then prosecutor Krsman Ilić, given the clear state of facts in this criminal case.

The sentence pronounced to Milanović being final, it only remains for the affected families to submit initiative to the Republic Prosecutor General’s Office to institute the request for protection of the rule of law to be used as basis for court decision that criminal law was violated to the benefit of the accused Milanović. CEAS announces that it will provide legal aid to the families regarding submission of this request. In fact, the actions of Dragoljub Milanović embrace all elements of the criminal act of murder in the first degree as per Article 114 para 1 item 9 of the Criminal Law of the Republic of Serbia. That decision, if adopted, would be of solely declarative nature, since Dragoljub Milanović cannot be delivered another sentence for the same criminal legal event, however it would be undoubtedly to the satisfaction of the families.

CEAS believes that the destiny of this request will be a measure towards progress of status in judicature after the reform, bearing in mind the following circumstances which have not been paid sufficient attention but which it finds quite indicative: the investigating magistrate in the RTS case, Vučko Mirćić, became after the re-election process a permanent member of the High Judicial Council; the prosecutor in the same case, Krsman Ilić, became an appellant in Niš; Radmila Dragićević Dičić who was the judge in the Draguljub Milanović case, became the Chairwoman of the Court of Appeals in Belgrade. On the other hand, the judge in charge of legal inquiry in the RTS case at the Supreme Court of Serbia, Novica Peković, was not elected for any judicial instance. Since there were gross ommissions by the public prosecutor, investigating magistrate and chairman of the committee in the process against Dragoljub Milanović, CEAS believes that their promotions are, to put it mildly, inappropriate.

CEAS expresses fear that these circumstances may affect implementation of its views presented in June 2009, that it is particularly important in this case to examine carefully and thoroughly the statement made by the retired lieutenant-colonel Lakić Đorović, who used to work at the Legal Administration of the Federal Ministry of Defence. It is important to check quotations from his statement that he was given a case filed in the Legal Administration as confidential under the number 466/2001 on August 9, 2001, as urgent for consideration and that, due to the importance of the case, it was decided to have it permanently kept. Lakić Đorović had insight into that case and he found that it contained over 20 letters and documents. Among others, there was a letter of the investigating magistrate of the District Court in Belgrade, Vučko Mirćič, requesting to release the officers who dealt with RTS defence from keeping official and military secret. The conclusion drawn by military officers of the Civil Defence Sector and Law Administration of the Federal Ministry of Defence, colonel Petar Pajčin, lieutenant-colonel Zulević, major general Aleksandar Ignjatović and colonels Milovan Mihajlović and Svetozar Cvetković was: „...not to release, until further notice, anyone from keeping military, official or state secret, since that would harm the national interests and security.“ All the above stated can be found in the case at Legal Administration filed as confidential under no. 466/2001 which is permanently kept and into which Lakić Đorović had thorough insight.

CEAS believes that despite the representations made by the current Minister of Defence Dragan Šutanovac that the Ministry has possession of no documents with transcripts of intercepted conversations between NATO pilots as pointed out by the families, it is necessary for anybody who has any knowledge or may have any knowledge of the case mentioned by Lakić Đorović to be released from keeping military, official or national secret, and such persons should be heard before the investigating magistrate and maybe confront him. Only such a procedure before the competent investigating magistrate, which should be instituted by the prosecutor, may help to reveal the complete truth and possible criminal liability of other persons besides the already convicted Dragoljub Milanović, who was sentenced on wrong legal qualification of the committed criminal act.

CEAS particularly appeals to organizations of civic society and representatives of the western international community who monitor the results of judicial reform, to follow the RTS case more closely and to intensify their help to the families of killed employees and their associates while struggling to find the complete truth and to bring to justice all those responsible.


On behalf of CEAS Jelena Milić and Dragoljub Todorović
Belgrade, April 22, 2010