The ministry of police considers the newspaper Informer a more credible source than the Human Rights Watch organization. The ministry didn’t think it necessary to check HRW’s findings that Serbian police is taking money from migrants, but they checked Informer’s story about ombudsman Sasa Jankovic’s friend who killed himself with his gun, for which he didn’t have a license. It’s obvious that MoP has double standards when it comes to different findings.
The ministry reacted surprisingly quickly to both HRW’s and Informer’s story. The minister, however, reacted differently to them. The minister remained silent about HRW’s findings, but said that he would consult the public prosecutor’s office about Informer’s findings. This revealed a systemic problem in the police work: it is possible for the minister to influence a police investigation before it is handed over to the prosecutor. This endangers the operational independency of the police and politicizes its work.
This minister’s action is in accordance with the law. According to article 8 of the Law on police, the minister can order the police to investigate a case and report to him. It seems that the allegations in the media and the fact that these are “interesting” question are enough for the minister to take such action. The fact that a migrant called Anmar was ordered and forced to give over 450 euros to a police officer apparently isn’t interesting enough, although the media reported about it. The problem is the fact that Anmar didn’t say what was written in the ombudsman’s report: during 2014 the level of respect for the rights of Serbian citizens for decent life wasn’t achieved. Political consequences of the second one are much bigger.
Public debate on the new Law on police is ongoing and the time is right to fix the weaknesses of the legal framework. The drafted law’s biggest flaw is the fact that it doesn’t fulfill the necessary assumptions for de-politization of police management and democratic control of police work. The possibility that the minister of police can give directions and instructions, with alleged respect for operational independence, before the prosecutors takes over the case is the most troubling (article 16 of the drafted law).
In democratic countries, ministers of police aren’t allowed to give police instructions with specific cases. If the reform of the police is to continue, it is necessary to understand that it’s not an instrument to politics and assure its operational independence – first legal, and then practical.
The author is a researcher of the Belgrade center for security policy (BCSP).
Translated by Marijana Simic