The Inspection Department rebuts the allegations by the Third Basic Prosecutor’s Office that the New Belgrade Municipality building inspector failed to identify himself to the Interior Minister’s security and confirm that the seized camera was returned but only once the photos of illegal works carried out outside Nebojša Stefanović’c house were deleted.
By Jelena Veljković (BIRN) / Photo: BIRN
“It is completely untrue that inspector Dragomir Jovanović failed to identify himself on the spot and he was not apprehended because it was not possible to identify him or because of his observing as an unidentified person, as the Prosecutor’s Office says, that is ridiculous”, New Belgrade Inspection Department head Tatjana Đukić told BIRN.
We asked Đukić to clarify the allegations forwarded to Tanjug by the Third Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade but only once our article was posted on our portal. The Office had previously refused to answer BIRN’s questions.
As Tanjug reported, the Third Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office claims that, in this case, the police acted on the Prosecutor’s Office orders in line with the Criminal Procedure Code (ZKP):
“The police received orders to determine who the unidentified person was and, if this person really was a public official, to establish whether he acted in line with his authority.”
Tatjana Đukić repeatedly says that inspector Dragomir Jovanović had identified himself in line with the law and adds that a public official must present his official ID which fully substitutes for any other documents and that it is a public official’s obligation to present his official ID on-site and so to identify himself or herself:
“You have the Law on Inspection Control and the Law on Planning and Construction and the official ID is mentioned everywhere as a basis for a building inspector’s actions. When he or she show their official ID they do not need a personal ID that the police, later on, asked the inspector for. But alright, that is their defense now, they have to come up with a reason for having issued an order,” Đukić told BIRN.
We note that BIRN yesterday published an article on how New Belgrade Municipality inspector Dragomir Jovanović was apprehended on August 26, 2016, after he went on-site to investigate the claims in a complaint received the day before via phone that illegal construction works were being carried out in a street in Bežanijska Kosa. As it turned out, the works were being carried out outside the police minister’s house and, according to Tatjana Đukić, members of the minister’s security prevented the inspector from doing his job.
The police then took both the inspector and his boss to the New Belgrade police station, according to the statement of the Third Prosecutor’s Office carried by Tanjug, in order to establish who the unidentified person presenting himself as an inspector really was.
However, judging by what Đukić said, the police were more interested in learning the identity of the person who filed the complaint regarding illegal construction than the identity of the inspector, which is cited by the Prosecutor’s Office as the reason for the apprehension.
“They were interested to know who called, why they called, whether I knew where I had sent him, etc. I repeat, if some works were to be carried out, well we know how that is done, regardless of who and what you are, you inform the municipality about the works, and if you fail to do that, it is our obligation to send an inspector, it is that simple, nothing more,” says Đukić.
In its statement to Tanjug the Prosecutor’s Office also said that it had ordered the seizure of the camera:
“Once the Prosecutor’s Office was informed that an unidentified person was taking photos of a building of a protected person, that this person presented himself as a building inspector and refused to adequately identify himself, the police received orders to, in line with the Criminal Procedure Code (ZKP), temporarily seize the camera (as an object that could be used as evidence in criminal proceedings).“
The Prosecutor’s Office statement further reads that the camera was returned once the factual situation was established.
“It is true that the camera was returned that same day, but the two photos that the inspector took on the spot were deleted from the memory card, so there is no relevant information left based on which we could open a case,” Đukić told BIRN.
The question that remains is whether the police had really suspected his identity since they could have established it on the spot when inspector Jovanović phoned Đukić who then spoke to the police officer who had ID’ed Jovanović:
“They wanted to know who reported the works. I said that the procedure is completely identical whether illegal construction is reported anonymously or under a name and surname. An inspector then has to perform his duty and investigate the allegations in the complaint.”
The explanations that the Third Prosecutor’s Office sent to Tanjug instead of to BIRN, but also the new details presented by Tatjana Đukić, raise new questions for the Prosecutor’s Office from which we were again today unable to get answers.
Even though we expressed our expectations, both by phone and by email, that the Prosecutor’s Office will be accessible to BIRN as it is to Tanjug, we again failed to get answers to our questions because (just like the previous few days) the public prosecutor is not at the office.
The question left unanswered is whether the police had informed the public prosecutor of the Third Public Prosecutor’s Office, Boris Pavlović, that the police officer who had ID’ed the building inspector had established his identity on the spot, because the inspector showed the police officer his official ID and because the police officer spoke with his boss Tatjana Đukić on the spot.
If so, why then did the prosecutor issue orders for the inspector, as an unidentified person, to be taken in to the New Belgrade police station and for his office camera to be seized? Did prosecutor Pavlović also order for on-site photos of the reported works without required permits to be deleted from the memory card of the building inspector’s office camera and, if so, on what grounds?
Did the police inform the prosecutor during consultations about all the details and circumstances surrounding the event? Will Serbian Interior Ministry Internal Control be asked to establish whether the police officers had acted in line with their authority?
At a Gendarmerie demonstration exercise today in Kraljevo Minister Stefanović, who has been ignoring, since June 15, questions addressed to him by BIRN regarding this incident, finally spoke. He said in Kraljevo that the police had acted in line with consultations with the Prosecutor’s Office and in line with the law, as well as that all this happened two weeks after a man came to his house and threatened to kill him and his family. The minister made no mention of the illegal works outside his house.
Saša Đorđević of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy told BIRN that the ID card is not the mandatory and the only document based on which a police officer can establish a person’s identity and that this can be done based on any document with a photo. He noted that, in this particular case, the document was a building inspector’s official ID, which is sufficient to establish a person’s identity.
However, Đorđević says that the statement of the inspection department head points to a conclusion that the police were not the least bit interested in this:
“If it is true that the on-site photos were deleted from the seized camera and that the police were only interested in learning who had reported the illegal works, then everything is clear. The police wanted to hide the fact that works were being carried out and to find the culprit who started this whole thing, which is unacceptable. A police officer with integrity should remind the minister that he has to report the works to the municipality because he is not exempt from the law.”
Đorđević also adds that, when establishing a person’s identity, a police officer is obliged to explain why he is doing that, except when there are exceptional circumstances, and, judging by what Jovanović said, that had not been done.
“In order for this case to be resolved, it is important to enable the building inspection department to finish its job and establish the legality of the works. Since the Prosecutor’s Office has said that the building inspector had failed to identify himself, the police internal control should, on its own initiative, carry out an internal control procedure and establish whether there were any omissions in exercising police powers. In addition, the police inspector should file a complaint against the actions of police officers and request that the procedure be handled by the Complaints Committee.”