"Stop repression", photo: Slavica Miletić
“Stop repression”, photo: Slavica Miletić

Even those among us who follow the state of human rights and the pattern of impunity in which we have been living for more than a decade, were shocked by the recent monstrous violence committed by members of the police against two young people in whose apartment they recognized signs of queer culture. If we shut off our emotions, we can clearly see that this is the culmination of the long-term disregard for laws, of the very leadership of MUP ignoring and secretly encouraging police violence towards all who are recognized as enemies of this regime. And you are an enemy in all situations in which the regime recognizes you as a threat to the ruling ideology, emptied of all politics and reduced to looting the people of this country.

Speaking of looting, I would like to draw your attention to the speech of Sandra Benčić, a Croatian politician and civil rights activist, who addressed the HDZ members with the following words: “Corruption in your party is not incidental, it is deeply rooted. One of the reasons is the concept of the ‘foundational party’ – your belief that you, and not the people, are the founders of Croatia, and therefore you can share it amongst yourselves like booty.”

Behind the impunity of violence in Serbia is not “the fight against all those who threaten Serbdom and our glorious history”, but only the maintenance of the wheel of corruption, without which the SNS would be destroyed immediately. In order for this wheel to keep turning, it is necessary to strengthen the illusory idea that only one party has an exclusive right to the tradition and history of this nation and that only that party is the rightful descendant of the heroic Nemanjić lineage, and other nationalist myths that are used to maintain rule.

In such a society, divided into loyalists and traitors, as a member of the LGBTIQ community you must try to organize your life and live (and survive) in a paradoxical situation – one in which, on the one hand, you have a lesbian in the position with the greatest power, but, on the other, no one has ever been held accountable for threatening the safety and/or life of members of the LGBTIQ community. It is a good example of the reality in which we are trying to stay alive.

Organizations dealing with LGBTIQ rights have been exposed to attacks for years. The Pride Info Center in Belgrade is the most frequent target of these attacks, even though it is located in the immediate vicinity of buildings that house the highest state institutions and which have twenty-four-hour security and surveillance. The premises of the Pride Info Center were attacked 15 times: the last attack happened in January, on Christmas Day. None of these attacks were prosecuted, and there was no reaction from the official institutions. No attacker was ever prosecuted.

Although Serbian legislation recognizes the concept of a hate crime, this aggravating circumstance is rarely or never applied, and the perpetrators remain at large in almost all reported cases of violence. And not only do they remain free, but they are often rewarded for their acts of violence with positions as guardians of tradition, while, in reality, they are the guardians of the corruption which keeps this regime in power.

However, we should not fall into the trap of thinking that this violence is targeted against the LGBTIQ community. It is actually targeted against the public interest and all those who work honestly and, dare I say, patriotically in Serbia. Patriotism is not what the pro-regime media is trying to sell us. This propaganda war is clearly no longer effective enough. That is why police violence keeps happening more often, which is the ultimate indicator of an authoritarian regime. The Civil Initiatives (Građanske Inicijative) indicated this in our last report on the narrowing space for civic action.

All cases of excessive use of force by the police were recorded in this report. This kind of demonstration of force mostly happens in the pre-election period, when all forces are engaged in order to intimidate citizens who resist in any way. In addition to representatives of civil society, local journalists are most often exposed to pressure and intimidation directly related to the election campaign.

For example, Danijel Radić, the owner of KTV in Zrenjanin, was exposed to pressure and attacks for a long time by local criminals connected to the authorities in that city. The latest incident happened on November 15 last year, when Radić noticed that the screws on the wheels of his car were unscrewed. He believes that the incidents are politically motivated due to, as he states, “reporting by KTV that is not in favour of the Serbian Progressive Party.” Radić reported all these attacks, but was also subjected to pressure from the police, who, on one occasion, stopped him for no reason and tested him for alcohol and drugs, after which one of the police officers told him that they were acting “under orders” and that he should “be careful until the election because this is a private state and a private police force”.

Targeting primarily comes from the highest government officials, therefore these examples of physical and verbal attacks, as well as pressures to which the citizens of Serbia are exposed, are not surprising. These cases never end up in court, and the perpetrators remain unpunished. These institutions are directly responsible for creating a climate of systemic impunity for officials, which is best illustrated by the fact that, for years now, no official has been convicted or fired for committing an act of violence and abuse of power.

The author is a writer and an activist

Translated by Marijana Simić

Peščanik.net, 11.03.2024.