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Legal Assistance Report

(1 Feb - 31 Mar 2001)


February and March 2001 ominously heralded the return of violations of human rights registered at the outset of the SFRY disintegration (1991).

After initial euphoria, the pre-election promises lost its cutting-edge and were reduced to poor practice.

The past decade marked all segments of society. Bad habits of authorities and citizens have not vanished overnight. Technology of rule and the existing system have not been improved. Authorities say there's still time, citizens who bear the brunt of the authorities inefficiency say that the time has run out.

Citizens of Serbia face difficult questions, which nobody wants to tackle as yet: -serious co-operation with the International Tribunal for War Crimes in the Hague
-restitution of property seized since 1945
-restoring rights to many persons, victims of political persecution and investigation into the manner of acquisition of property
-establishing institutions of legal state, as instruments of functioning thereof

The focus is once again on judicial proceedings linked to real estate, national discrimination, social cases.

The Helsinki Committee Legal Assistance Department counselled several hundred person, both the FRY citizens and refugees in Serbia, in dire need of legal assistance. About 800 advice were rendered while complete legal protection was given to 34 persons.

According to their structure the cases we handled can be thus categorised:

a) Citizens- property and procedure related to those cases (8), social cases (4), displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija, the police harassment (2), the judiciary work (2), draft-dodging, documents, re-settlement, enforcement of final sentences.

b) Refugees from the Republic of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, displaced persons from Kosovo and Metohija, pensions (2 cases), tenancy right in Zagreb, citizenship.

c) Legal assistance within project "I want to go home"

In the aforementioned period we counselled in person 346 persons and by phone 52 persons, travel documents for the return of 293 persons to the Republic of Croatia were obtained, subsequent registration of 351 persons in the book of citizens was effected, 93 information about submitted applications was given.

d) Foreigners in the FRY
-temporary seizure of money at border passes
- expert advice-the Amnesty Act and its implementation

e) Lawyers' services
-Compensatory damage for unlawfully mobilised persons-12 hearing before the Municipal Court in Belgrade.
-in criminal proceedings against Mišic Bogoljub from Kosovska Mitrovica: interview with the accused, visit to the UNMIK prison, power-of-attorney taken at the request of our client.
-labour dispute before the first-instance court in Belgrade, Ratomir Jelic against "The Public Metropolitan Transport Company"
-eviction from the flat, before the Fist Municipal Court, Spahija Isljam
-contract invalidation before the First Municipal Court, Zagorka Sredojevic
-eviction, the First Municipal Court, Iseni Mitat against "Pobeda" Company
-Wounding and mobilisation before the Second Municipal Court, Šijan Milan against the FRY-the Yugoslav Army
-Labour dispute before the Second Municipal Court, Žakula Stevo against "Beograd-Sigurnost".

f) Adoption of the new republican and federal laws (1 February to 31 March 2001)

At its third emergency session the Republican Parliament on 12 February 2001 passed:

1) The Amnesty Act (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia of 14 February 2001, entry into force on the eight day after its publishing)
Under provisions of this Act a large number of persons convicted of criminal offences under laws of the Republic of Serbia were pardoned, that is their sentences were reduced by 25%. However this amnesty did not cover any high-risk group of convicts.
It also bears stressing that the Amnesty Act did not cover the groups of so-called, political prisoners.

2. The Act repealing the Public Information law ( the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia no. 11 of 15 February 2002)
This Act lays down that all provisions of the PIL are declared nul and void, barring those relating to registration of public media and publishing of answers and corrections. Practically all provisions which served the purpose of harassing, cracking down on, and closure of media and their freedoms have been abolished. But as the Information Ministry has been abolished it is not clear whether a new law shall be passed or the matter of public information shall be covered by a number of provisions relating to akin activities. New authorities are rather self-confident and also confident of their good intentions, which is likely to leave this area legally unregulated (which has its downsides, but also good points).
Federal provisions-on 26 February 2001 sessions of both houses of the Federal Parliament adopted the Amnesty Act. (the Official Gazette no. 9 of 2 March 2001)
This provision amnesties persons who until 7 October 2000 committed or are reasonably believed to have committed criminal offences under Article 202, that is, refusal to take and use weapons, Article 214, refusal to respond to call-up papers and draft-dodging, Article 215, draft-dodging, Article 217 voluntary army deserters, Article 218, avoidance of registration and check-up, Article 219, non-compliance with military duty. All those offences are prescribed under the FRY Penal Code.
Added to that, the amnesty covers persons who between 27 April 1992-7 October 2000 committed criminal offences, prevented resistance to enemy under Article 118, staged armed uprising under Article 124, called on forcible change of social order pursuant to Article 133, associated for engaging in hostile activities pursuant to article 136, damaged the FRY reputation under Article 157. All those offences are prescribed by the Penal Code of the FRY.
Amnesty or the general pardon includes dropping of all charges, release from prison and striking off the sentences. This Act excludes persons convicted of or accused of the criminal offences of terrorism under Article 125, of crimes against humanity and violations of the international law under Chapter XVI, criminal offence of unauthorised production of and trafficking in opiates/illegal substances under Article 245 and criminal offence of substance abuse pursuant to Article 246 of the FRY Penal Code.
Thus-devised Amnesty Act does not cover citizens of Serbia of Albanian nationality who were arrested and remanded in custody in prisons Serbia-wide on charges of terrorism. According to the Justice Ministry sources about 500 persons were accused of terrorism and subsequently convicted.
In order to resolve this problems it is necessary to establish an ad hoc Commission within the FRY Justice Ministry to look into all the alleged terrorism cases and give its expert opinion on them. Then other proceedings could be taken on, notably dropping of charges against such persons.
On 27 February 2001 the Upper House (House of the Republics of the Serbian parliament) passed the Act on Amendments to the Law on Yugoslav Citizenship. (the Official Gazette of the FRY, no.9 of 2 March 2001).
Besides many unimportant amendments, there was a major one. Namely under provisions of Article 47 persons with citizenship of some other SFRY republic can now have dual citizenship. The novel feature is that the FRY also offers its citizenship to all those citizens of the SFRY who on different grounds had lost their citizenship.
This is a most welcome amendment as the FRY for a long-time resisted the mere idea of dual citizenship.
But how Yugoslavia shall treat in practice important issues, such as military service, documents, printed (entered) addresses, residence permits and pensions, remains to be seen.
On 30 March 2001 Dr. Vojislav Koštunica, the FRY President, in accordance with his unstated prerogatives took the Decision on Establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. That Commission is tasked with organising investigation into causes of social, interethnic and political conflicts which had led to the war, collect relevant evidence, shed light on the cause-and-consequences chain of events, to inform domestic and foreign general public on its work and results, establish co-operation with akin commissions and bodies in neighbouring countries and abroad for the sake of exchange of experiences in pertinent activities. Members of the Commission were also elected.
Thus-formulated presidential decision is incomplete, and in fact is far from the essence of similar bodies set up in the former enemy, now just neighbouring countries. Composition of the Commission, its competences and scope of work indicate that the problem was not seriously or sincerely tackled. In fact it appears that the function of this body is to feign an in-depth probe into recent war crimes. Moreover it is just part of the general trend to cover up recent past and obliterate responsibility for crimes against other peoples and their property.



The authorities lived up to expectations of many refugees, for amendments to the Law on the FRY Citizenship were finally passed. They include provisions providing for dual citizenship of refugees form Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. But it remains to be seen how a host of refugee-related issues, namely, the military service, documents, residence permits, shall be solved.

Many problems of the refugee population are gradually being solved, notably, their return to domicile countries, restoration of their rights and restitution of their property. Easier communications and freedom of movement are also expected to gain ground (notably as regards the Republic of Croatia).

a) Rights from the pension insurance

In analysing the overall settlement of the refugee problems, it emerges that the elderly refugees have encountered the most serious problems regarding their rights to the pension insurance.

There is no end in sight to numerous obstructions in this area. The Republic of Croatia and the FRY are yet to conclude an international agreement on social rights of citizens of their states. Three years ago a certain accord was reached and signed, but it was not approved by neither republican parliament. There is no balance of payments between the two states, hence minor rights belonging to the pension insurance are acquired through fictitious returns and registration of residence. This is done with a view to activating earlier pensions of retirees or attaining the rights to pension in line with requirements for retirement (completion of prescribed years of service).

Miloš Savic from municipality of Županja, citizen of the Republic of Croatia, attained his right to pension on 1 April 1990, in the former Yugoslavia. He left the Republic of Croatia on 9 November 1991 when he was deprived of his right to pension. He died on 6 February 1996. His son, as his hair, laid claim to all his father's unpaid pensions. For the time being nobody knows how Croatia shall settle such cases and whether in impending lawsuits also interest rates on those overdue pensions shall be also included. One thing is certain, namely that the number of such lawsuits shall increase, and that outstanding debts on those grounds are huge.

Those retirees who have not attained their pension rights in the former Yugoslavia, or those who have acquired those rights only in the years of exile encounter major difficulties and mostly cannot solve that problem. Obstructions by competent state bodies makes absurd all the pertinent legislation and inviolability of the acquired right to pension.

Milan Corovic, citizen of the Republic of Croatia, currently a refugee in Futog, born in 1930, filed application for determination of his pension on 18 November 1999. He paid his dues to the pension insurance fund as a farmer. But under the Act on Retirement Insurance, Article 32, insured farmers can regulate that right of theirs only when they pay their dues with attached interest-rates. In this case the impediment is the period of the past 5 years which Corovic spent in exile, and was therefore unable to pay his dues. Moreover in 1995 he sold his land in 1995, so his pension dues could not longer be determined on the basis of his profession of a farmer. The Croatian Retirement Institute is ready to issue the decision on his pension once he pays the amount of DM 2,500 as his outstanding debt. Obviously Corovic is not in the position to collect such a hefty amount. Moreover interest rates are swiftly accruing. The fact that his 'mechanical debt' was not in line with the law had no bearing on the decision of the bureaucratic apparatus. As the authorities have failed to take a firm stance on this issue, the administrative bodies continue to engage in obstructions. There is total disregard for the elderly and infirm, who can no longer fend for themselves. Such needy people should be in fact given full assistance in all their claims.

b) Tenancy rights

This broad area is not easy to define. It took different shapes as the time passed, but individuals, notably displaced persons or refugees could not exercise any rights from this area. Moreover it is a very delicate issue, for as previously demonstrated, the issue of return, the issue of invalidation of results of ethnic cleansing, can be solved only if timely return of all refugees to their homes is made possible. Obstructions in this area are more frequent than in the area of pension payment.

Family of Dušan Vojnovic from Zagreb under a death threat handed over its flat to the Croatian Defence Ministry in October 1992. There are official records of that case. In November 1995 the court ruled, in keeping with the Act on Tenancy Relations of the Republic of Croatia and on grounds of its 'non-utilisation' that the flat be given to another family, a family of refugees from Tovarnik. That family in the meantime was reinstated their property and granted loans for renovation of their houses. Vojinovic family learnt of appropriation of their flat in 1998, when they received an official letter informing them of the Ministry's decision. All members of family Vojnovic were born in Zagreb, and they acquired the tenancy right in 1966. Father was retired in 1986, one son was declared unfit for military service. But it seems that their origins bothered the authorities. The other son Milan was fired from "Zagrebacka banka" in 1991, and his wife Dragica was fired from "Auto-Market-Zagreb" Company in 1992.

After all the discriminating actions taken by the Republic of Croatia they became victims of new discrimination in the host country, namely the FRY, in which they sought refuge. They were accommodated in premises without heating and light. This caused various illnesses of members of the family. Their misfortune continued. Namely in 1999, during the bombing of Belgrade, their house was hit by a missile. They sustained light injuries, but lost everything else. They are yet to receive compensatory damage. Their savings evaporated in the collapse of pyramidal banking schemes ("Dafiment Bank"). They did not have money to pay for the funeral of their parents, nor to cover the costs of medical treatment of their son Milan. They think that the FRY has plans to be rid of them, by killing them slowly. In the ten years of their exile they have not experienced a single nice or humane moment. They cannot even receive adequate medical treatment, for they are being deprived of their basic refugee rights.

It seems that there no help in sight for them. Their flat in the Republic of Croatia was irretrievably lost in keeping with provisions of the Act on Tenancy Relations (a user can be deprived of his flat without going into the reasons of its non-utilisation). On the other hand the FRY, that is the Republic of Serbia, does not comply with any of its refugee- and displaced persons-commitments. The first reason thereof is the most trivial : Serbia is cash-strapped (foreign donations ended up in private pockets). Then refugees are not needed by anyone, and no money is not given to those whom nobody needs. The time when they were used as a leverage against Republika Srpska, that is for levelling accusations against the Republic of Croatia has passed.

c) Consequences of the Law on Citizenship in the light of possible dual citizenship

We have already said that the new authorities have passed amendments to the YU Law on Citizenship providing for dual citizenship. Its practical consequences have not been explicated. But such consequences shall be probably interpreted by sub-legal acts. The most frequent dilemmas are related to the legal status of persons facing mandatory military service duty. Namely the laws of the Republic of Croatia don't recognise the military service completed by original Croat citizens in the FRY or in the bogus-state Republika Srpska Krajina. Thus-served military duty was recognised in Serbia, although such persons were not in possession of dual citizenship. On the other hand those persons cannot exercise their status rights, for want of documents on completed military service.

Such and similar issues are yet to be resolved, and our clients facing such problems are rather sceptical about their outcome.

Svetislav Bajic from Pula, now a refugee in Belgrade, recently acquired the Yugoslav citizenship. He did the military service in 1994. After recent acquisition of the FRY citizenship he tried to resolve the issue of his military service with the Croatian authorities, namely asked them to recognise his completed service in line with his dual citizenship. But the Republic of Croatia does not recognise military service completed in another country.



Real legal issues, long-obfuscated by repression and absence of mechanisms of the legal state, are emerging now. Although the situation in this respect has somewhat improved much remains to be done. Accumulated problems must be immediately tackled and individuals and vulnerable groups must quickly resolve their problems. The judiciary work should be speeded up for they deal with the most delicate and important matters. Life has not been made any easier for national minorities on other grounds. Disintegrated society in Serbia is not in the position to cope with a growing nationalism and national romanticism which replaces the much-needed rational moves at this moment of time. The Montenegrin issue is yet to be solved, while the Kosovo one remains a sticking point. The FRY still does now know where its borders are, which territory its legislation covers and who is going to enforce all those laws. There are many imponderables and tension is growing. Social cases are on the rise, and there are no solutions in sight. Expectations are running high with respect to the forthcoming international donor conference. But those expectations are unrealistic in view of the fact that the federal authorities continue to shilly-shally about co-operation with the Hague Tribunal. Corruption cases are still not discussed publicly. War criminals and usurpers of the state property are yet to be prosecuted. The sick society is still not accorded the intensive care which it badly needs.. All areas are contaminated with illegal acts of individuals and groups. Responsibility is still not admitted, and most senseless arguments are used in continuing non-recognition of guilt. Nobody knows why there is so much delay in facing the responsibility for a decade-long chaos. On the other hand the republican government passes unpopular legal provisions and levies new taxes on a terribly pauperised society.

a) Property and relating procedure (initial stages of de-nationalisation)

Almost all cases we deal with are related to some property issues. Private property is probably the least protected area of life, after the one of the right to life. This region has traditionally disregarded the inviolability of private property. In other words in the past hundred years there was a lot of plunder and appropriation of private property. The rights related to possession of real estate were rarely exercised. Judicial authorities who could do more in this area, are themselves beset with difficulties. Judiciary still lacks adequate human resources, and it is cash-strapped. The new authorities seem to be reluctant to embark upon the process of introduction of legal state. Re-ordering of all areas of life shall hinges on efficient implementation of all elements of judicial protection and uncontested respect of judicial decisions. But that moment does not seem to be near.

Darko Hohnjec and Dušanka Ciritovic, owners of a Karlovac

bookstore, Mayor of Sremski Karlovci Dorde Gacic and director of Karlovac secondary school Zoran Micunovic handed us the following report on the building built in 1772 in their town: since 1879 it housed the famous Karlovac secondary school. The post-WW2 authorities appropriated this building and converted it into patisseries and cafes. Owners of the said stores changed continually.

The first floor of the building was leased to Darko Honjec and his wife by the tourist company "Varadin" in 1990. It took the couple eight months to completely re-vamp the building. DM 100,000 were invested in that renovation. On the ground-floor level they opened a bookstore. But problems cropped up in 1999, when company "Varadin," not the owner, but only the user of the building, sold it to Stevan Avramovic, a very rich man and self-styled patriot. The whole transaction was duly registered in the deeds book.

This is obviously the case of controversial selling by the company considered only the user of building. In a similar way 15 old buildings (considered national heritage) were sold in this townlet. Ankica Kurjacki, judge of the Municipal Court in Novi Sad, in 2001 ordered evictions of legitimate owners, couple Honjec. It bears mentioning that the new 'owner' bought the building for DM 50,000, although its market price was over DM 500,000. Judicial clerk escorted by the police tried to forcibly enter the building in March 2001. But an angry crowd stopped them in their intent.

There are many legal violations in this case: national discrimination, illegal acquisition of big property, miscarriage of justice, corruption, abuse of will of a testator, and disrespect for the national heritage. This case requires proper handling by the republican Ministry of Culture, government of Serbia, courts and prosecutors.

Absence of the rule of law and legal state facilitates abuses even of the national heritage institutions.

V.C. from Kragujevac moved illegally into a national heritage building and submitted an application for temporary use. Subsequent order for eviction was disregarded by V.C., who in the meantime became a voluntary solider in the 1993 wars. V.C. was finally evicted in 2001.

The aforementioned example speaks of the fact that the general level of knowledge about and respect of rights is still very low. Moreover there is a palpable lack of faith in the state authorities and lack of awareness that the legal state rules must be complied with. The aforementioned mistrust of citizens is partly justified for the abuse of the right to property helps 'solve' many other issues. In other words appropriating property of members of national minorities, was one of the mechanisms of the ethnic-cleansing campaign carried out since the start of the SFRY disintegration.

Spahija Isljam from Belgrade, citizen of the FRY. He faces three judicial proceedings. The Helsinki Committee lawyers have been entrusted with his legal protection. Municipal authorities of the central Belgrade municipality Stari Grad moved into his business premises, which he had previously leased from the very municipality, refugees. At the same time he was evicted from the flat he had got from this company as "temporary accommodation".

It bears stressing that this man works and lives in Belgrade since 1968.

One has every right to assume that the aforementioned person is being persecuted on national grounds, notably in view of the Serb-Albanian crisis. This is an evident act of retaliation for maltreatment of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.

The new authorities have not lived up to expectations regarding undoing of wrongs committed in the post-1945 period. New, democratic authorities seem to have turned a deaf ear to big problems of citizens. Their stance on the post-WW2 usurped property can be justified only by lack of money. Otherwise it is just a matter of good-will. Current proposals on denationalisation are not very promising. Namely "limited" de-nationalisation, observing the rights of new owners, and guaranteeing compensatory damage to the old ones, are mentioned. Those who drafted the bill, shortly to be debated by the republican parliament, did not consult any legal experts or NGOs about this matter. Those whose property was nationalised can only hope and wait.

Andrija Gojkovic from Belgrade hopes that the Helsinki Committee could influence the legislative bodies by suggesting the following: the original owners must the be primary, the most protected category. They must be restituted their property in full, without any delay or limitations.

As the aforementioned bill shall not be subject of a public debate, one can only hope that the appropriated property shall be restituted in full to their original owners.

b) Social cases

According to all indicators poverty is on the rise. In fact the real dimensions of across-the-board poverty have emerged now. Jobs are scarce, price hikes (electricity, foodstuffs) are frequent, new taxes are introduced, social benefits are not paid out, new housing blocks are not being built.. Much-needed social reforms shall produce new social cases, as many individuals stand to lose their (already fictitious) jobs in the general economic overhaul and privatisation of many companies. Government is cash-strapped. A decade-long rule of Miloševic exhausted all reserves, wars were waged, some individuals closely associated with the regime got very rich. There are attempts to effect re-distribution of the remaining 'wealth', but there are downsides to such efforts.namely much-talked about introduction of hefty, short-term taxation of very rich people, can solve only minor problems while enabling in turn the nouveau rich to 'launder' their property and legalise all their illegal acquisitions.

Since 1991 Zoran Pantic from Belgrade has been living with his wife and eight children, the youngest being just two and a half months old and the eldest 13 years old, in a 14 square metre flat. He was given that flat by the Housing Commission of the Stari Grad Municipality. Hygienic conditions in that flat are very poor. Toilet is in the adjoining building. The family lives without electricity, as tenants of the adjoining building to do not allow the Belgrade Power-Distribution Company to access that small flat.

But as the municipality consented that the family might use that flat only for "a five-year period" the family has to move out now. A municipal body, on judicial orders, in total disregard for the social status of the family, ruled that the flat was "not fit for living" and decided to convert it into a business premise in line with the request of the owner of the building. Minimum of solidarity and will to protect the socially vulnerable was not manifested.

There are many similar case. Pertinent legal provisions or grounds usually don't favour the poor. There are no legal obstacles to eviction, but humane and social reasons should be also taken into account, as an expression of social care and solidarity.

The current situation in Kosovo and Metohija placed an ethnic group in a very difficult situation. We are referring to Goranci, local population, an ethnic minority not to be confused with Albanians. Goranci live in parts of Kosovo bordering with Albanian. Humanitarian assistance in kind does not reach them.

Sulatn Aslani from Vraništa Gora managed to reach Belgrade and ask for assistance for all his fellow-nationals who have been left without any assistance for over a year. We are talking about 7,000 people on the brink of survival, including 300 babies and a large number of under 15 children. Elderly and sick make up half of Goranci population. Albanians sell them medicines at exorbitant prices. They need basic foodstuffs. The International Red Cross officials have not visited them for a long time. Goranci live in an area which is not easily accessible. Albanians are in charge of the only assistance they receive. NGO and international intervention is urgently needed.

It is obvious that a humanitarian catastrophe threatens a number of persons from Kosovo and Metohija. Those problems should be solved by the KFOR and Civilian mission.

c) Serbs displaced from Kosovo and Albanians in Yugoslav prisons

There are different problems of internally displaced Serbs from Kosovo. Some seem insoluble. Institutions are still not functioning properly, therefore it is very difficult to establish responsibility for envisaged acts which were not taken and to determine competences. The judiciary is in a particularly difficult situation, but personal security is also threatened.

There are no legal regulations relating to property of displaced persons. Property restitution is not in sight. It is expected that the UN Civilian Missions shall shortly deal with this matter.

Blagoje Simic from Orahovac (Kosovo), currently living in the Belgrade suburb of Jajinci, reported that his two houses were torched in Orahovac and his store was appropriated.

He now lives in penury with his son and uncles.

Many refugees would rent or sell their property. But such moves must be backed by the Serbian authorities or foreign factors. The Serbian authorities are against such sales for it lessens the possibility of re-integration of Kosovo into Serbia. On the other hand foreign factors still don't have the authority or the will to decide on such Kosovo-related matters. They have delegated such matters to local authorities, who are in turn interested in ethnically-cleansing the Kosovo territory from all non-Albanians.

Two families, Galic and Levic, from Orahovac have the same problem. They were forced to leave their part of town after the NATO strikes on 16 June 1999, and moved to the Serbian part of town. On 1 February 2000 through an UNHCR-sponsored arrangement they left for Belgrade. Their houses in Orahovac were looted and torched. Both families however have ownership documents and photographs of torched houses.

The Civil Mission shall obviously have to start marking the Serb private property left behind and put them under the regime of "temporary use", in order to avoid the practice from the past wars, namely destruction or unlawful appropriation of such property.

Some refugee families met even worse fate. Alta and Ajdin Muševic from Kosovo lost their son. He was killed at the threshold of their home by their Albanian acquaintances. Only one killer is in prison, while his two sons are at large.

The competent Kosovo bodies are dealing with this case.

As regards prisoners of Albanian nationality kept in the FRY prisons, most of them were released under the recently adopted Amnesty Act. The fate of those convicted of terrorism remains to be solved. It is thought that 150 persons were released so far. Our client Aferdita Zekaj was also released in line with the newly adopted act.

d) work of the state bodies; judicial and executive authorities

Complaints about abuses by judges are frequent. It seems that in the area of judiciary there were only minor improvements. There are no new judges, pays are small, and complaints usually do not provide sufficient grounds for firing of abusive judges. There is will to dismiss many judges who were stooges of former regime, but there isn't enough evidence about their malpractice. Lawyers should engage more in reporting abuses committed by judges and prosecutors.

Ivana and Blagoje Cakic from Belgrade openly accuse Maja Kovacevic-Tomoc, judge of the Belgrade District Court of grave violations of law and judicial proceedings. It is reasonably believed that for large sums of money she was ready to abuse the institute of "free judicial conviction" to acquit a person who ought to have been convicted.

The couple has informed of the judge's s malpractice the highest state bodies and the competent Ministry. We shall find out in due course which measures have been taken against that state official. Recovery of the judiciary shall be the first sign of establishment of the rule of law and legal state. Problems are salient, and the negative legacy of the past regime is onerous, so it shall take perhaps years to effect the much-needed transformation of the judiciary.

Changes are hardly visible in the second important Ministry, the one of the Interior. The established practice of harassment and torture of detainees continues, contrary to the European practice. Some personnel changes and a large-scale overhaul have been attempted, but results thereof are not so conspicuous.

B.B. from Subotica, citizen of the FRY, an NGO member, was taken to the police station, handcuffed and harassed. He was interrogated and compelled to sign some lies about himself. On that occasion he was beaten and intimidated. Several diskettes with information on projects in which his NGO was involved were seized from him. After 24 hours he was released, diskettes were not returned to him, and the signed statement was not destroyed.

We are used to such police abuses, but it seems that the fear felt by the damaged party was stronger than his sense of civic duty.

Police bodies who control border passes frequently seize foreign currency from foreign citizens transiting the FRY. To make the things worse that money was not deposited to be reimbursed to their owners upon their return.

A Muslim from the B&H Federation, a passenger to a West European country, encountered that problem at the Belgrade airport. All the legal paperwork relating to the return of her money was done, but there are no results.

The state bodies should work more efficiently to avoid further maltreating of people.

e) foreigners

Research Directorate from Ottawa, Canada, requested us to provide it with information on the Amnesty Act and its implementation. We have informed them that many Albanian political prisoners, brought to Serbia in the wake of the NATO campaign, have been released. HC office has the English translation of the text of the Amnesty Act and it is now available for all the interested parties.


Prepared by:
Biljana Stanojevic, jurist




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