9.8.2013. Balkan Insight, Serbian Court’s State Security Verdict ‘Scandalous’

Balkan Insight, 9.8.2013.

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Politician Vuk Draskovic said links between the judiciary and Serbia’s security services were behind the decision to overturn the conviction of security officials accused of trying to murder him.

Draskovic, a former leading opponent of Serbian strongman leader Slobodan Milosevic, said on Friday that the appeals court’s ruling, overturning the attempted murder convictions of the three ex-security operatives, was the result of strong links between the court and state agencies.

“This is a scandalous decision by the appeals chamber presided over by the judge Sonja Manojlovic,” Draskovic told local media.

“It is clear that as long as we have verdicts from judges like her, a protector of Milorad Bracanovic [former director of the Security Information Agency] and other members of the State Security, none of the perpetrators from this agency will ever be punished,” he said.

The appeals court ruled on Thursday that the conviction of the men, who were sentenced last year to a total of 22 years in prison for the attempted assassination of veteran politician Draskovic in 2000, was unsound because the law had been misapplied during the trial.

The court said that the trial violated Serbia’s criminal code and called the verdict “unclear and incomprehensible”, without giving any further explanation.

Draskovic questioned the judge’s credibility because in 2009 she released security boss Bracanovic, who was jailed for involvement in political murders, before his sentence expired.

He also alleged that her family members, including her son, are working with the Security Information Agency.

Analysts also raised concerns about court links to the security services.

Jelena Milic, director of the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies, said that there were many indications that Serbia’s unreformed state security organisations had influence over the justice system.

“This is just one example. The state, or parts of the state, is protecting perpetrators on the order of high officials. They are ready to protect murderers, obstruct the investigations into soldiers’ deaths, sacrifice the interests of refugees and other victims of the 1990s war,” Milic told BIRN.

The editor of the weekly newspaper Vreme, Filip Svarm, told Radio Free Europe that the case was obstructed from the beginning.

“We should bear in mind that people who were influential during the 1990s are linked with those who are currently in power,” Svarm said.

Both Milic and Draskovic agreed that state needs to reform its security sector urgently.

“It is extremely important to continue with transitional justice mechanisms as this will be the only way to change personnel in the security sector… which was once part of the criminal state. There is a clear need to prosecute those people before national courts,” Milic said.

Serbian deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic meanwhile insisted that those responsible for trying to kill Draskovic should be punished.

“Crime deserves efficient justice. Someone who deserves punishment should not wait for it for 30 years,” Vucic said.

During Milosevic’s ten-year rule, state security tried several times to kill Draskovic.

In an attack in 1999, four members of his political party were killed. For this crime, the leader of the Special Operations Unit, Milorad Ulemek, together with two more members of the unit, were sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Ulemek, known as Legija, is also serving a 40-year jail term for his role in the assassination of Serbian president Zoran Djindjic in March 2003.

For this article in Serbian please click here.