Last year started with the murder of Kosovo opposition leader Oliver Ivanović and finished with an attack on opposition politician Borko Stefanović. In the meantime, lawyer Dragoslav Miša Ognjanović was killed and journalist Milan Jovanović was attacked and his house was burned. But what has been happening during the whole year were criminal liquidations in which 29 persons were killed.
Beside these happenings, there were acquittals for some famous cases such as Dragoslav Kosmajac who was described by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić as “famous narco boss”. Kosmajac has been charged for incitement for abuse of power and illegal obtaining of the state land. Later on, he was charged for tax evasion as well, but in the end, the court declared him innocent because of the lack of proofs.
Another well-known case – Darko Šarić – got second first-instance verdict after facing obstructions and lasting for years. He got 15 years of jail for smuggling 5.7 tons of cocaine from South America to Europe. His punishment became lower after appeal court abolished the first verdict which jailed him for 20 years.
On the other hand, the first verdict in the case of Savamala and confession of guilt for the attack on journalist Milan Jovanović, do not reflect that these cases are really solved, considering that masterminds are still unknown.
Having that in mind, it seems that the police and other competent institutions in most of the cases have failed.
We asked journalists from different media that covers this topic and three of them wanted to answer – Vuk Cvijić from weekly NIN, Bojana Pavlović from KRIK, and Miroslava Derikonjić from daily Politika – top 5 criminal cases which in their opinion marked 2018.
This is what we got.
1. Criminal liquidations
The conflict between two Montenegrin clans left nearly 30 persons dead in Serbia and region. More than 10 of them were killed in Serbia.
“Unfortunately, the whole previous year, from the beginning to the end of it, shows the inability of the authorities to fight organized crime. This is evidenced by a continuous and frightening series of mafia murders which continued in 2019”, said journalist Vuk Cvijić.
Mira Derikonjić thinks that police haven’t done much to prevent brutal liquidations on the streets of Belgrade and to decrease criminal scope.
“Considering that members of clan were killed in almost all parts of the city at any time of the day, by putting explosives under the cars or some classic ways, citizens could be harmed as well as a collateral damage and police haven’t done enough to make them safe in the capital”, Mira Derikonjić explained.
A wave of mafia-like violence in Montenegro – including gang killings, arson attacks and car bombs – has NGOs and citizens groups calling for a mass protest on Saturday. https://t.co/PHUIq0fuv1
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) April 4, 2018
2. Murder of Oliver Ivanović
A politician from Kosovo, which was opposition to Serbian list supported by the Serbian government, was killed on 16 of January 2018. Vuk Cvijić reminded that before he was murdered, Ivanović has been exposed to a brutal campaign of the pro-government media.
“Even if president Aleksandar Vučić promised that this murder will be solved in case that would not end solved from Pristina’s side, one year after instead of the answer who killed Oliver Ivanović we just got the claim from authorities who did not”, Vuk Cvijić said, referring to Milan Radoičić who passed the polygraph.
Milan Radoičić was one of the suspects and the person whose name Oliver Ivanović stressed in his last interview for BIRN.
Journalists reminded that polygraph cannot be used as proof at the court, but Bojana Pavlović also noticed that “what Radoičić exactly said remains unknown, because police declared that record as a top secret”.
Several people have been arrested in connection with the murder of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, including a former colleague, two policemen, and others with alleged links to criminal gangs.
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) November 28, 2018
3. Murder of the lawyer Dragoslav Miša Ognjanović
Belgrade lawyer who represented Luka Bojović, among the others, was killed in July 2018.
“This murder is the evidence that mafia is not just killing among themselves,” said Vuk Cvijić and reminded that despite promises from authorities it still remains unresolved.
Police and all other relevant state authorities failed in this case because of the lack of facts known nowadays, Mira Derikonjić stressed adding that murder of Miša Ognjanović spread the fear between lawyers.
Dragoslav Ognjanovic, a well known Serbian lawyer, was killed on Saturday evening in front of his apartment building in the Novi Beograd neighborhood. Police is still at the scene, while surrounding streets are blocked.https://t.co/BhfyU5VMal
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) July 28, 2018
4. The attack on journalist Milan Jovanović
A local journalist who reported on corruption was attacked in December 2018 at night when his house was set on fire with him and his wife inside.
Bojana Pavlović stressed that this is happening while Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić is highlighting the media freedom in Serbia.
“Police arrested three suspects, but Jovanović said that he is not feeling safe because masterminds, who in his opinion are protected by the highest level of the Ministry of Interior, aren’t arrested yet”, Bojana Pavlović said.
Anyway, police did not give him security before anonymous offenders broke into the apartment which Jovanović is renting, she added.
Vuk Cvijić commented this case as an example which shows that “the attitude towards professional and objective media is becoming worse and worse, while verbal attacks escalated into violence”.
He added that the way authorities deal with this attack is presented in the funny little punishment one of the suspects has got.
The Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said today that the police have arrested three people suspected of firing shots and setting the journalist Milan Jovanovic’s home on fire in the Belgrade suburb of Vrcin.
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) December 23, 2018
5. The illegal facility at Pančić’s Peak at the Kopaonik Mountain
The illegal object which became one of the examples of violation of the rule of law after BIRN reported on it in 2017, was supposed to be demolished in 2018. Now we are in 2019 and the illegal bar with a mysterious investor is still there – at the top of Serbia.
“All responsible authorities in the case of an illegally constructed facility at Pančić’s Peak violated the law because a concrete structure of 1000 square meters in the National Park was not demolished in 2018”, Bojana Pavlović commented.
Police and Ministry of Construction were transferring responsibility to each other in the name of law, but what they were actually doing was protecting the mysterious investor, she explained.
The same opinion has Mira Derikonjić who reminded that facility has not been demolished because the police assistance was missing, but the question we should have in mind is if they really couldn’t or they didn’t want to demolish it, she added.
“Illegal constructing of 1000 square meters facility was happening almost without problems, in front of all responsible institutions”, Mira Derikonjić commented.