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NO 171-172

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Helsinki Charter No. 171-172

January - February 2013


Ten Years Later

Ten moral and political duties

By Vladimir Gligorov

„The horror! The horror!“
Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness


The first dispute within the coalition that won the May 2000 elections was over replacement of high ranking security officers. Then they confronted over the cooperation with ICTY. And when they finally parted ways over a national strategy Premier Zoran Djindjic was assassinated. Motives behind his assassination have not been cleared up since 2003. It is these days only that we might witness a definite change of the political strategy. On the other hand, institution-building and fight against organized crime still have a long way to go.

Why the motives for the assassination have not been properly investigated? Usually it is hard to track down perpetrators when motives are unclear. But it is unusual to have perpetrators who are identified and convicted and still remain in the dark about their whys for killing not a John Doe but the Premier. Since the goals was to eliminate the Premier, motivation has to be – if not exclusively but then predominantly – political. How is it possible not to know for sure about the political objective of the Premier’s murder? And how come that this political objective has not been investigated and evident in the outcome of the trial?

One of the possible answers it that motives were so obvious that they called not for any special investigation. Given that assassins had worked for the government, it was obvious that the assassination resulted from a political conspiracy: the conspiracy to replace highest officials and change the governmental policy. This implies that all the details of the conspiracy and all accomplices are easy to find out. And yet, it is possible that all this had not been the matter of investigation because it was also a common knowledge. We do not know who and how deeply has been involved, but the planners, in this role or another, are known and not secret. They might have not communicated directly among themselves, but they had surely reached some kind of tacit agreement. Anyway, the manner in which defendants, consequently convicted persons, behaved, indicates that the planners had worked in coordination. This means not that all aspects – political and criminal alike – of the conspiracy cannot be detected. After all, if a murder is to lead towards a desired goal, everyone has to be familiar with everything, in principle at least: from who has to do this or that to who will react this way or another. All this information are available to investigators and the judiciary that really want to disclose the complot and track down the planners, including their motives for the murder.

Actually it is not enough to put executioners on trial without knowing their motives or their whys for the crime. This could be another reason why political motives for the assassination have never been investigated: the outcome of the investigation has been too obvious. If so, then this is more about law enforcement and the judiciary that hushed up the whole affair than about unreadiness to investigate the political background and motives behind the Premier’s assassination. This logical conclusion raises another question: why is there no public pressure for detecting the motives behind the assassination and revealing the reasons for the cover-up? For, revealing whether the cover-up of the political background protects anyone, why and whom exactly would certainly be in the public interest. But there is no public pressure whatsoever and no one seems to be concerned with the fact.

An explanation might be that the general public is familiar with everything related to the conspiracy, its political motivation and the accomplices involved. If so, the public is not eager to learn what it already knows. And this makes the general public an accomplice in the cover-up of the truth about the crime. For, everyone knows the truth, which is – embarrassing. The truth is morally disconcerting. Everyone involved in the cover-up of facts that are widely known this way or another washes hands of morality. For, political and judicial actions would be moral imperatives. On the other hand, ignorance or private knowledge can suppress the duty to act in accordance to a common knowledge.

How is this conspiracy of silence possible? People are anxious about what would be revealed although they actually know the truth. And they dread facing up the truth about the criminal system although they know that their stated has rested on crime. And that such system had been backed by almost plebiscitary support. Hence, the political motivation for the Premier’s assassination actually exemplifies criminal motivation of governmental authorities that had not been politically and ideologically unsupported.

This should be viewed in the context of the support for the national program that was not to be given up even at the cost of the cover-up of the assassination of the Premier. Probably not even the authors of various explanations about the murder believed in what they were saying given that the assassins were identified. For instance, the explanation according to which Djindjic was murdered because he was after resuming the national program and taking a firm stance on Kosovo implies that assassins are unknown. The explanation is unsustainable since the accused and consequently convicted persons had been in the service of that national program. It was embarrassing and still is to listen to people who knew what the rest did, or even more, about the murder, executioners and the political background of the assassination claiming that Djindjic had been gunned down exactly at the point when he planned to resume the national program for the safeguard of Kosovo. Have conspirators counted on some foreign circles to which Djindjic would be less acceptable because of his attitude? This is surely worthy of learning – the same as other circumstances they have banked on, including international reactions to Djindjic’s murder. Judging by these reactions, their calculation was wrong.

Speaking of the overall context, preparations for an EU-Western Balkans summit in June 2003 were probably most decisive. The main goal of the summit was to ensure the strongest possible commitment of EU to admit all Balkan states. Unsettled constitutional and territorial problems in the region, including the Kosovo issue, were major stumbling blocs in the way toward attainment of this goal. Given that some EU member-states were skeptical about the entire program for the Balkans’ integration into EU, Serbia was expected to spell out its interests in Kosovo. It was obvious that the process of solving the problem of Kosovo status had be launched to change the dynamics of political developments in the Balkans and the region’s attitude towards EU. From this point of view, it was only logical that Djindjic wanted to place the Kosovo problem on EU’s agenda and thus make EU and other international factors more commitment to cutting the Balkan knot. His reasoning – even if open to discussion – made a context relevant to EU’s bigger interest in Kosovo status and criticism of some member-states skepticism about accession of remaining Balkan countries. In the months and weeks before his assassination, EU’s commitment to admit all Balkan states into its membership was quite uncertain. And what was actually attained in Salonika was a conditional commitment of sorts that only after political interpretation became a full commitment to all Balkan states’ membership of EU.

Serbia’s policy in the aftermath of Djindjic’s assassination, the one resulting from the parliamentary elections, ensured continuity with the “national strategy” laid out in and implemented ever since late 1980s. The outcomes of the strategy were the same – that is, usually harmful to the country and its citizens. This is a common knowledge. What is crucial is the difference between “the urgency for the action” Djindjic demonstrated in early 2003 and the policy of buying time that ensued. The later not only wasted ten years but also accumulated duties – moral and political – that will be weighting on the society and citizens even longer.

It might make sense here to look back at more than two decades, at the time when Serbia took the wrong turn with massive support from its citizens and with unprecedented euphoria. One generation has taken upon itself the responsibility for this deviation, directly or indirectly. That was the time when Serbia was faced with the choice between dedication to democracy and use of all means to achieve national interests, with probably more success than ever before. It was rather embarrassing to watch people discovering, all of a sudden, the advantages of brute force and foul play in order to achieve the allegedly welcome national goals. Exchange of territories and “humane resettlement” were extreme forms invoked to justify the use of force and crimes in the process of rounding off an ethnic state.

Djindjic’s political career should be viewed in this context from its very beginning. His tragic end put an end to his political career. Today, Serbia is again faced with a probably different denouement: it could be said the one Djindjic was after in late 2002 and early 2003. If developments take a better course this time, Serbia might venture into revealing the background of his assassination at long last, which includes the policy of crime in the past twenty-odd years.


NO 171-172

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