Dramaturgy of post-Milosevic violence

Less than three months after the death of lawyer Srdja Popovic, and only three days after the “historical moment” of the opening of EU accession negotiations, Serbian political elites faced Popovic’s legacy, which this time came as a request from Brussels, and pertained to the political background of the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. It must have been amusing for the authorities and their media cronies to follow the Quixotian perseverance of Popovic where this question of all questions was concerned. And just when it appeared that, with Srdja’s passing, the burden was lifted, at the end of January of this jubilee year, the European Parliament conveyed a message from the Director General of the European Commission, Christian Danielson – that he received a letter from four members of the European Parliament, asking that during accession negotiations Serbia fulfills the very same request Srdja Popovic insisted on for years. Namely, four members of the European Parliament – Arnaud Danjean (European People’s Party), Maria Eleni Koppa (Social Democrats), Marije Cornelissen (Green Party) and Jelko Kacin (Liberals) – signed a letter with this request, an dated it on the day of accession negotiations opening. It reached the public a few days later, when Dacic’s and Vucic’s euphoria over the historical task they have accomplished for Serbia had already abated. This request, however, suggested that, regardless of how “thrilled” the world was over those two Europeans, there was serious skepticism about the manner in which the “in-depth reforms” are being implemented in Serbia.

Immediately after the letter which cast a shadow on historical happiness was opened, the media polled some domestic politicians whether they think this may become an obstacle on the road towards the European Union. Branko Ruzic, the minister in charge of European integrations of Serbia was the first to voice his opinion on this matter. Namely, he concurred that it “is a legitimate political standpoint of European MPs”, but he also said that this “cannot be one of the conditions for closing chapters 23 and 24, unless it is determined, in an objective and studious manner, that one such background existed”. Or, in layman’s terms, his answer should mean that the EU can demand whatever it wants, but if our judiciary determines that a political background did not exist – because the assassination of the prime minister was just a “mafia hit”- then there is no problem: our road is clear. The other politicians who were interviewed did not say anything clever either. The SNS official Marko Djuric agreed that introducing the rule of law is very important, Slavica Djukic Dejanovic said it was our obligation, and Borko Stefanovic from the DS that is regretful that “the assassination of prime minister has not been solved for ten years”. Finally, the Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic promised he will solve this matter once and for all. In his latest interview, published in Dnevnik, Jelko Kacin welcomed this decision, unaware of the fact that, on the 10th anniversary of the assassination, a Ministry of Justice employee, Nikola Savic, posted on his Facebook profile a picture of the rifle which killed Prime Minister Djindjic. A lot of hustle and bustle ensued, but it all ended with the decision of Minister Selakovic to penalize his employee by deducting 11.000 dinars from his paycheck. This is how much this transgression costs according to the pricelist of the domestic judiciary. Furthermore, the political views of Minister Selakovic are not too different from those expressed by Savic. The issue Kacin speaks about, pointing out the importance of the Copenhagen criteria, must seem surreal to him. However, Kacin is very clear about this. He points out that “open issues regarding the actions taken by security services and their links to organized crime and political structures must be clarified”, and that “all of these elements are present in the assassination of Djindjic”.

The assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic truly is a paradigm of the work of the criminal system which remains alive and well in Serbia even today; as a union of politics, tycoon money, parts of the police and army, security services, represented in the public by certain intellectuals, parts of the Church, the judiciary, and over 90 percent of the media. After the fall of Milosevic, and the formation of dual power – on the federal level (Kostunica) and the level of the republic (Djindjic), and after lustration was abandoned, a long-term plan of rehabilitation of old structures was initiated, coupled with the payback for October 5. The first act of this tragedy was the very assassination of the prime minister, followed by the rapid destruction of the Democratic Party and its politics that Djindjic himself embodied. After Boris Tadic became the leader of DS, a part of the old elite followed in line after him, as depicted in an old cartoon by Corax, back to the Serbian parliament. Dobrica Cosic once again gained importance, Kosovo once against became a priceless Serbian word, and the war in Bosnia – the holy war for Serbian territories. The next act of this tragedy followed in the form of cohabitation between Tadic and Kostunica, the adoption of the 2006 Constitution, and the rehabilitation of Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia. Tadic then opened a new playfield for the right-wing and nationalism to gain in strength, enabling the growth of organizations such as Dveri and Obraz, as well as limiting the rights of LGBT population under the pretext of a security threat. Finally, he indirectly participated in the ultimate rehabilitation of those who were most responsible for war crimes and genocide in Srebrenica – through the transformation of the Serbian Radical Party. To make the tragedy even greater, with the appearance of the “converted” Aleksandar Vucic, who wonders around the world leaning on parables about mousetraps and free cheese, cancer and the aspirin of reform, a media spin was launched of “the new Djindjic”, who was at the same time proclaimed to be “the most powerful man in Serbia”.

The main problem of this drama without a catharsis was something Djindjic himself noted, after the attempt at his life near the Hala Limes (now Kombank Arena). Criticizing the court decision to release the man who tried to assassinate him, Djinjdic said that “the court should decide whether something is true or untrue, and that if the court finally releases Al Capone, that means that Al Capone is a respectable citizen, and the fact that everyone knows he is a criminal is only literature”. Thus, the political background of the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic is still only a part of literature in Serbia. The same goes for the crimes committed by the Milosevic regime. Thus, the request of European parliamentarians becomes far more complicated and serious than Minister Selakovic thought at first. What will happen if the court determines the same thing that we heard the other day in the verdict issued by the Higher Court in Belgrade War Crimes Special Department in the case of The Jackals (Sakali)? Namely, the court ruled that the truth is that the Jackals were not a paramilitary formation, but a unit of the Yugoslav Army. What will happen if it turns out that the same applies to The Scorpions (Skorpioni), who were portrayed by Prime Minister Dacic at the opening of the exhibition Bogujevci/A visual history as renegades who did what they did “not in the name of Serbia, nor were they authorized by anyone to take such action”? What if that same Serbia “did not authorize” The Red Berets (Crvene beretke) to block the highway. Srdja Popovic has determined that a strong link exists between the “Serbia who did not authorize anyone” to commit crimes during the wars and the assassination of its first democratic prime minister. Between the banking apparatchik and the smiling man in a white shirt, holding a Kalashnikov, photographed in the village of Svinjare in Kosovo. The signature of the same author is visible in the deconstruction of the Democratic Party after the assassination of Zoran Djindjic. This is why the March elections facing us are only the final act of this lengthy process.

Translated by Bojana Obradović

Peščanik.net, 27.02.2014.

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Saša Ilić, rođen 1972. u Jagodini, diplomirao na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu. Objavio 3 knjige priča: Predosećanje građanskog rata (2000), Dušanovac. Pošta (2015), Lov na ježeve (2015) i 3 romana: Berlinsko okno (2005), Pad Kolumbije (2010) i Pas i kontrabas (2019) za koji je dobio NIN-ovu nagradu. Jedan je od pokretača i urednik književnog podlistka Beton u dnevnom listu Danas od osnivanja 2006. do oktobra 2013. U decembru iste godine osnovao je sa Alidom Bremer list Beton International, koji periodično izlazi na nemačkom jeziku kao podlistak Tageszeitunga i Frankfurtera Rundschaua. Jedan je od urednika Međunarodnog književnog festivala POLIP u Prištini. Njegova proza dostupna je u prevodu na albanski, francuski, makedonski i nemački jezik.

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