Srebrenica 2021, photo: Konstantin Novakovic
Srebrenica 2021, photo: Konstantin Novakovic

The Priboj police is having fun, celebrating the New Year and the birth of one police officer’s son with a song which seems very familiar and dear to them.

And the song goes like this:

Srebrenica, you are so dear to me,
I wish you happened three more times…

Oh Pazar, new Vukovar
Oh Sjenica, new Srebrenica

Fatima, where is your salvar,
‘Round a Chetnik in Ledenik…

It was sung here, in Serbia, where it’s considered a dangerous disgrace to state an obvious truth: that what happened in Srebrenica was genocide. This fact was already determined by the United Nations International Court of Justice long ago. It also ruled that the Army of Republika Srpska is responsible for this crime and that Serbia, as a signatory to the Convention on prevention of genocide, failed to act in accordance to it. Several individuals, including the one whose mural currently graces Njegoseva street in the middle of Belgrade, were also convicted of this crime.

Almost all Serbian lawyers remain silent to these well-known facts. And all the while, article 370 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Serbia defines the crime of genocide similarly to the Statute of the Hague Tribunal:

“Whoever, with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such, orders killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, or deliberately inflicts on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, or imposes measures intended to prevent births within the group or forcibly transfers children of the group to another group, or who with same intent commits one of the aforementioned acts, shall be punished by imprisonment for a minimum of five years or a life sentence.”

Since media giants like TV Pink and TV Happy often treat us to ludicrous theories about genocide being only the complete annihilation of a nation, it would be wise to read this formulation in the Criminal code. It is written in laymans’ words; the use of legal jargon is reduced to a minimum. In judicial practice, the trickiest aspect of this crime is determination of intent to completely or partially annihilate a certain group of people. Evidence of this is rare. Acts of commitment of this crime are giving and fulfilling orders directed at killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, placement in conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within said group or forcible transfer of children of the group to another group. The group can refer to national, ethnic, racial or religious groups. Understanding this is not difficult, but it is not taught in secondary schools in Serbia, which means the guys guarding the wall do so in the firm belief that they are guardians of a symbol of heroism, and not a symbol of evil.

So, genocide is forbidden and punishable in Serbia. However, this doesn’t prevent some from celebrating it and wishing for it to repeat.

And who are those some? None other than police officers, members of the same profession as the men who arrested Aida Corovic for throwing an egg at a wall. Because that wall is not merely a wall, but a celebration of an icon of genocide.

What do these police officers want? Apart from three Srebrenicas, one more Vukovar, but a bit closer this time, in Novi Pazar. Even though articles 317-373 of the Criminal code forbid the same crimes that were committed in Vukovar – against humanity, civilians, prisoners and wounded persons.

And what else do these merry police officers want? A bit of poetic rape, judging by the part of the song concerning the proverbial Fatima. This is also mentioned in article 178 of the Criminal code of the Republic of Serbia. And surely these gentlemen, being police officers after all, know that rape is forbidden and a punishable criminal act. But who cares! Everything is relative. We saw an expert on Happy TV, joined by Kristijan Golubovic, with extensive experience in penology, blaming Igor Juric, the father of a murdered girl, for her alleged behavior, which, according to this arrogantly primitive, misogynist, and ignorant opinion, led to the rape and cruel murder of a child.

Who are police officers from Priboj? They are people who celebrate crimes through song, while being employed and paid to investigate them. I suppose this is why their colleagues from Belgrade don’t mind repeated attacks aimed at humiliating and intimidating Aida.

And then came an apology which sounds more like an excuse. I can’t decide if it seems honest or forced. But it is certainly stupid. It says, for example, that the song was played unintentionally. I may accept that there is such a thing as music that plays itself, but if so, I don’t understand why they didn’t just turn it off. And the president seemed hyper-ambivalent. He told Bosniaks that Serbia is their country as well, but, just like the police officer who “apologized” by claiming lack of intent, immediately added: “As soon as I sit down somewhere for cevapi or spinach pie, BIA and VBA start telling me that I shouldn’t eat there, because that place plays Naser Oric’s songs… I’ve had enough of it.” This addition, however, didn’t come out of stupidity. It looks a lot more like perfidy, which seeks excuse in blaming others. And so on and so forth, indefinitely, until hate swallows the entire region and no one believes in anything anymore.

To sing this song, which someone composed, and its words, which someone wrote, is not genocide or a war crime in itself. But, since the recording of the singing was published on social media, it makes it forbidden and punishable according to article 387, point 4 of the Criminal code, which says: “Whoever spreads or by other means makes publicly available texts, images or any other presentation of ideas or theories which incite or advocate for hate, discrimination or violence against any person or group of persons based on race, skin color, religious affiliation, nationality, ethnic origin or some other personal trait, shall be punished by imprisonment ranging from three months to three years.”

This is a crime that always goes unpunished in Serbia, whoever the perpetrator, including police officers. Its role is to provide the minister for dialogue and human rights an answer to all questions from journalists: “This is a matter of article 387 of the Criminal code.” And that appears to be the full extent of her core beliefs on the rule of law and human rights.

More important for this persistent impunity is the unforgettable “lesson” once spoken by our current autocrat on the floor of the National Assembly: “Kill one Serb, we will kill a hundred Muslims!” – more important than the constitutional and legal order of Serbia. Until we are willing to look this in the eye, all the evil that is spreading through Serbia by force of autocratic might will keep spreading. Including Rio Tinto. Because if a society tolerates the glorification of crimes, trampling on the legal order and denying the rule of law, it will also tolerate the Rio Tinto mine. Both, each in their own way – mentally or physically – insidiously undermine and consume the human substance of this country.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 10.01.2022.

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Vesna Rakić Vodinelić, beogradska pravnica, 1975-1998. predaje na državnom pravnom fakultetu u Beogradu, gde kao vanredna profesorka dobija otkaz posle donošenja restriktivnog Zakona o univerzitetu i dolaska Olivera Antića za dekana. Od 1987. članica Svetskog udruženja za procesno pravo. 1998-1999. pravna savetnica Alternativne akademske obrazovne mreže (AAOM). 1999-2001. rukovodi ekspertskom grupom za reformu pravosuđa Crne Gore. Od 2001. direktorka Instituta za uporedno pravo. Od 2002. redovna profesorka Pravnog fakulteta UNION, koji osniva sa nekoliko profesora izbačenih sa državnog fakulteta. Od 2007. članica Komisije Saveta Evrope za borbu protiv rasne diskriminacije i netolerancije. Aktivizam: ljudska prava, nezavisnost pravosuđa. Politički angažman: 1992-2004. Građanski savez Srbije (GSS), 2004-2007. frakcija GSS-a ’11 decembar’, od 2013. bila je predsednica Saveta Nove stranke, a ostavku na taj položaj podnela je u aprilu 2018, zbog neuspeha na beogradskim izborima. Dobitnica nagrade „Osvajanje slobode“ za 2020. godinu.

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