Suspicious character, photo: Pescanik
Suspicious character, photo: Pescanik

Not so long ago we noticed, right here on Peščanik, that chief public prosecutor Zagorka Dolovac reappeared recently among the prosecutors. She did this by staging, as it turned out, a baseless attack against her closest co-workers and critics of the state of affairs at the prosecutorial office. Back then we still believed that this sudden reappearance took place in a procedural sense only, and that Dolovac had remained physically unavailable for questions about her prosecutorial function.

Former lawmaker and vice president of one of the opposition parties Marinika Tepic succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible. Under as of yet unknown circumstances, Tepic found Dolovac in a café. There is footage of the event to prove that this was no urban legend, but a genuine encounter, and we can clearly see, apart from the two women engaged in conversation, several extraordinary moments.

First, we see the head of the public prosecutor’s office actively evading any conversation. She was also deeply disturbed by being recorded or, as she said, photographed. The published recording has poor sound quality, but is subtitled, and we can see Dolovac saying that she could call someone “to take away the device and the recordings.” If she indeed said that, we don’t know who exactly Dolovac would have called, or why she would do so, unless it was because she thought her behaviour was inadequate and therefore not something the public should have observed. That would indicate an unexpected flicker of conscience.

The video also shows a failed attempt to hand Dolovac a copy of the contract between Telecom Serbia and a company called Wireless Media, something Tepic has been claiming for days to be against the law, fictitious and used for purchasing a tabloid media outlet. That is, there is suspicion that this contract served as an instrument to boost the control of public information, paid for by the citizens of Serbia.

She was not successful in giving Dolovac the contract during the recording, and in her press statement Tepic would later claim that it didn’t happen because Dolovac assumed the position that it would mean she was “meddling in politics.”

Is there a single person leading any public prosecutorial office in the 21st century willing to claim that examining the suspicious dealings of state companies and public officials would mean meddling in politics, and not literally doing their primary job?

If we were to accept Ms. Dolovac’s interpretation that questioning politicians, political affairs, and the legality of public offices constitutes “meddling in politics,” that would mean publicly conceding that literally any official can commit criminal acts with impunity in performing their duty, and never fear criminal prosecution. Not even an investigation. We have always sort of sensed that this was the unofficial position, but now we finally have it in black and white.

Such a position is not only a negation of the law and criminal justice at this moment, but a medieval ideological belief in the unaccountability of the power, usually that of a monarch. We are talking about systems where the power was deemed god-given, infallible, and therefore unaccountable for any action. We are talking about the times when personal power was glorified.

In the centuries that followed, citizens fought and died to establish an opposing principle, the principle of accountability of government. We believe that Dolovac learned about that in school, just like the rest of us. It is up to the readers to decide to what extent this ideological position played a role in recommending her for the office of chief public prosecutor.

It is true that the public prosecutor of the republic cannot meddle into politics. But that does not mean what she clumsily tried to relate to us. Exclusion of prosecutors from political life is very clearly defined by the constitution and the law on public prosecution. A public prosecutor and deputy public prosecutor may not be members of political parties, or engage in any political activities.

When we put it that way, our response to Dolovac’s assertion can only be in the form of a question – did Dolovac, by claiming she wouldn’t meddle into politics when the affairs of public authorities should be examined, in fact engage in a political activity? Something that, as we have established, is forbidden?

The video recording that was made available to the public is not crucial in showing the refusal to physically take the document in question. It was already publicly available for days, which was enough for the prosecution to examine the concerns and allegations about the arrangement between Telecom Serbia and Wireless Media. The refusal to physically take the document reveals something much more important: physical distancing from information, and even from criminal prosecution as such. When you are the chief public prosecutor, that kind of distancing is unacceptable and disastrous to the general population.

All attempts to hold Ms. Dolovac to account, including calls for her resignation, have proven pointless. They bear more of a symbolic value, than any actual hope for success. After the previous article on Dolovac reappearing among the prosecutors was published, a person from the prosecutor’s office told me that the calls for her resignation were not unfounded but that they feared “someone worse” would replace her.

But could it really be any worse than what we have endured so far? Then what we have now seen with our own eyes?

Therefore, in the aftermath of this recording, instead of calls for her dismissal or resignation, we can resort to something more clever and practical. Dolovac said much more than the poor sound of the video and its partial subtitles revealed. If there are people that could process this video so that we could listen to the dialogue between Tepic and Dolovac in its entirety, it would be of great significance for history, particularly the history of law. We should know, in the future, where we had once lived, and how those most responsible for the protection of everyone had treated us. We should be able to remember well what they said in those rare moments that they said anything at all, so that such a disgrace can never happen again.

Translated by Milica Jovanovic

Pešč, 15.09.2020.

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Sofija Mandić je rođena 1986. u Novom Sadu. Diplomirana je pravnica, posrednica u mirnom rešavanju sporova i aktivistkinja za ljudska prava. Radi u Centru za pravosudna istraživanja (CEPRIS), a prethodno je bila angažovana u Beogradskom centru za bezbednosnu politiku i Nacionalnom demokratskom institutu. Generalna je sekretarka Peščanika, sa kojim sarađuje od 2007, kao učesnica u radijskim emisijama, a zatim i kao autorka tekstova. Autorka, koautorka i urednica je brojnih analiza o vladavini prava, stanju ljudskih prava u Srbiji i njihovoj perspektivi. Neke od skorašnjih su: Izbori pred Upravnim sudom 2022 – pregled postupanja i odluka (ur. CEPRIS, 2022), Izveštaj o javnosti rada Visokog saveta sudstva i Državnog veća tužilaca (CEPRIS, 2022), Sloboda izražavanja pred sudom (ur. SĆF, 2021-2022), Rad sudova tokom epidemije zarazne bolesti COVID-19 (OEBS, 2021), Ljudska prava u Srbiji (BCLJP, 2018-2023), Naša urušena prava (FES, 2019), Uslovi za izbor i napredovanje sudija i tužilaca u pravnom obrazovanju (CEPRIS, 2018), Skorašnji Ustav Srbije – rodna perspektiva (ŽPRS, 2017). Kao predstavnica civilnog društva učestvovala je u procesu izrade komentara i mišljenja na izmene Ustava iz 2022, kao i zakona koji proizlaze iz ovih promena. Autorka je knjige „U krugu negacije, godine parlamentarnog (ne)suočavanja sa lošom prošlošću u Srbiji“ (2023).

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