New dean and hate speech

srce nacrtano kredom na pločniku

Photo: Predrag Trokicic

On October 1st, the new generation of students of the Faculty of law in Novi Sad was greeted by the new dean, Branislav Ristivojevic, who had just taken over this duty on that same day. This routine ceremony wasn’t disrupted by the fact that, a couple of months ago, in first-degree proceedings before the High court in Novi Sad, Ristivojevic was found guilty of hate speech against LGBT+ citizens.

Although not a novelty, this inconsistency between two public institutions, judicial and educational, in the understanding of the prohibition against discrimination is particularly discouraging in the context of the academic community which shapes future lawyers. This was pointed out to the public by the association Da se zna! / For the record!, which monitors cases of violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people, and which initiated the process last year.

Namely, the association filed a complaint with the Office of the Commissioner for the protection of equality against Ristivojevic for the homophobic text published on the website Nova srpska politicka misao / New Serbian political thought, in which Ristivojevic accuses the Pride Parade and the so-called homosexual lobby for the increase in domestic violence.

Once the discrimination was confirmed, the Commissioner’s office, in accordance with its legal obligations, filed a lawsuit with the competent court in Novi Sad last November. The conviction was made in July this year and, since then, as unofficially reported by the media, the defendant has filed an appeal against the verdict.

The decision to appoint the new dean was passed by the Council of the Faculty of law at the recommendation of the teachers’ council, at the end of the previous academic year when the proceedings before the High court were already ongoing. He was already being presented in the media as the new dean in June. Ristivojevic took over his new post from his previous position as the Head of the department of criminal law at the same faculty. He is known to the general public for opposing compulsory vaccination and for his statements reminiscent of conspiracy theories about depleted uranium.

Branislav Ristivojevic (1972) was born in Novi Sad, graduated from Novi Sad Faculty of law in 1996, and, in the following year, was selected as an Assistant teacher in criminal law. He obtained his master’s degree at the same faculty and received his PhD at the Faculty of law in Belgrade. As quoted in his biography on Istinomer / Truthometer, he acted as an advisor to several defense teams at the International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague and as an advisor to the prime minister for legal issues in the second government of Vojislav Kostunica. At the beginning of this decade, he was the president of the provincial committee of the Democratic party of Serbia, and, as a member of that party in 2012, he was elected as an MP, which he remained until the next election in 2016. Being an MP, he was obliged to submit reports on total monthly income, savings, and property owned. There is no new data on his party affiliation.

By the way, due to discrimination against students whose first language isn’t Serbian, a lawsuit was filed against the Faculty of law in Novi Sad at the end of 2015. The lawsuit wasn’t resolved to the benefit of students, so this problem still remains the focus of student protests. Namely, the university introduced a new Serbian language test, in addition to the basic admission test, and the fact that having a high school diploma already confirms that the student is sufficiently versed in the Serbian language.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Peščanik.net, 08.10.2018.