Police officer Stamenković from Serbia was sentenced on a conditional basis (under the legal minimum not to get fired) due to the demolition of Savamala. This should not have prevented the Ministry of Interior from initiating disciplinary proceedings against him.

By: Saša Đorđević (BCSP)

Police officer Goran Stamenković was found guilty of illegal conduct during the demolition of Savamala and was sentenced (in Serbian) below the legal minimum, despite the fact that according to the court decision a serious violation of the rights of three citizens and damage of more than 1.5 million dinars occurred. In this manner, the conditions have been met for the police officer Stamenković not to be fired from the police and practically avoid any responsibility. The current justice account balance for the demolition of Savamala totals at 3,000 RSD or about 25 EUR, the amount Stamenković had to pay to cover the court costs.

Background on Savamala case

The election night of April 24, 2016 will be remembered for an event when a group of uniformed and masked people blocked and razed to the ground 12 objects in the Belgrade district of Savamala. The masked group has also captured and harassed night guards and random bystanders who found themselves in Savamala that night. Most importantly, the police refused to respond to the citizen’s calls and neglected to protect them.

According to the orders given by the still unidentified “top of police”, the police duty-shift chief, police officer Stamenković, acted contrary to the law during the demolition of Savamala and did nothing to prevent putting citizens safety and their property at risk. He was conditionally sentenced to 5 months of imprisonment for work negligence. The said sentence will not be enforced if Stamenković does not commit other criminal offenses in the next two years. However, the conditional sentence should not have prevented the Ministry of Interior from initiating a disciplinary proceeding against, not Stamenković (see response by the Ministry of Interior to the question, in Serbian).

According to the Law on Police (Article 202), the responsibility for a criminal offense does not exclude disciplinary responsibility for the same act, if there has been a violation of official duty. The duty-shift chief committed at least two serious violations of his official duty (Article 207 of the Law on Police) due to omissions in his work. He did not take action within his powers to ensure the safety of persons and their property. He committed dereliction of duty when performing tasks legally entrusted to him that caused material damage. Getting fired is envisaged as the most severe punishment for a serious violation of official duty, but in this case, there was no disciplinary responsibility whatsoever.

The Deputy Public Prosecutor Ana Borović, police officer Stamenković and his attorney Jovica Šošić, reached an agreement that allows the duty-shift manager not to get fired, while the victims, and tens of thousands of people who protested in search of justice for demolition in Savamala, received an unsatisfactory judicial epilogue. The Judge of the Special Department for the Suppression of Corruption in Belgrade, Miloš Labudović, agreed to this kind of justice. He accepted conditional sentence for the policeman Stamenković, i.e. a conditional prison sentence one month shorter than the legal minimum that was prescribed for the criminal offense of official misconduct.

The judge approved a plea bargain concluded by Borović, Stamenković and Šošić and ruled that the duty-shift manager is to be sentenced to five months in prison for the dereliction of duty, instead of a sentence ranging from six months to five years as sanctioned by the law for the criminal offence of official misconduct (Article 361 of the Criminal Code). This was just enough for Stamenković not to get fired which, according to the law, should come automatically if an employee of the Ministry of Interior is sentenced to a prison sentence of at least six months by a final judgment (Article 172 of the Law on Police).

Such a court decision was reached although the facts were not properly established when concluding the plea agreement, which is a crucial thing for the proper decision. In this case, the judge accepted the agreed-upon sentence proposed by the prosecutor and the defendant. Moreover, he considered that the mitigating circumstances (the degree of guilt, the motivation and the circumstances that led to the misconduct, earlier lifestyle, personal circumstances and the behavior of Stamenkovic after he committed criminal offense) were more important than the general rule that the sentence should be within the limits prescribed by law for that particular offence (Article 54 of the Criminal Code).

The lack of disciplinary responsibility and a mild sentence for unprofessional conduct of the police officer is a continuation of the systemic relativization of the Savamala case, which even reached the United Nations. At the session of the Human Rights Council, Serbia rejected Canada’s recommendation to improve the rule of law through a full and public investigation into the alleged involvement of the police and city authorities in the demolition of Savamala. The Serbian delegation rejected this proposal by providing arguments that there is no need to emphasize individual cases and that the national authorities are already carrying out all activities in accordance with the law. In vernacular language, this means that the prosecution is still waiting for the police to provide all the information requested, while the highest representative of the city government, which the President of the Republic mentioned as the individual who was standing behind the demolition, was promoted to the Minister of Finance.

It appears that Canada is more concerned with human rights in Serbia than our state institutions.

The article was originally published in the Pescanik.net website in Serbian.
Translated by Bojan Elek.


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TAGS: AnalysisCriminal LiabilityInternal ControlPolice SystemSerbia