Physical violence in times of the election campaigns

Unsolved cases of beaten political activists and officials, which occurred mostly at the municipal level, show that all means of fight are allowed during the election campaigns in Serbia.

Izbori, ilustracija / Foto: Srđan Ilic
Izbori, ilustracija / Foto: Srđan Ilic

Since no one has been sanctioned for physical attacks on political opponents and activists so far, it is not surprising that during the election campaigns this kind of “political means” are used repeatedly, mainly by the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

During the early local elections in Mionica in 2014, Milan Gavrilovic, the first candidate on the election list of the Democratic Party, was beaten up, and the investigation has not yet been launched.

Gavrilovic claims that he recognized the attacker and informed the authorities on his identity. He claims that the attacker is a member of the Army’s special unit “Cobras,” which is responsible for the security of the top government officials. According to Gavrilovic’s claims, his attacker was also seen in the company of the current Prime Minister and presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic.

“They will not do anything about this, neither the Police nor the Prosecution,” Gavrilovic told Insajder.

Citizens of Mionica are being intimidated even in the ongoing presidential campaign, claims Gavrilovic, adding that the citizens are frightened. He says that even those who vote for the opposition are afraid and reluctant to participate in the election process as observers who watch over the ballot boxes.

However, when Insajder’s journalists asked the Basic Public Prosecution in Mionica about the progress of the investigation, their reply was that they did not know Gavrilovic recognized his attacker. They also said that that, immediately after the incident was reported, they ordered the police to identify the perpetrator and gather necessary information.

After that, the police in Mionica reported to the Prosecution that they acted as ordered, but that the perpetrator was not identified,” reads the Prosecution’s statement to Insajder.

The Prosecution in Mionica also said that, on two more occasions, they ordered the police to identify the attacker. The Police reported to them that even after talking to the witnesses, they could not identify the attacker.

Kidnappings, serious injuries, and the elections

At the local elections held in the municipality of Vrbas in 2014, a Democratic Party (DS) member Danilo Bobic was beaten and kidnapped. Also, during the elections in Odzaci in 2013, Danko Pavlovic was beaten. He was the Serbian Democratic Party’s candidate for the local parliament.

In both cases, the main suspect is Zoran Milojevic from Belgrade, but the trial has not started yet, even though Milojevic was identified by both activists who were beaten up.

Bobic, the activist of DS, told Insajder that he waited for three years to be called by the Prosecution to give a statement. Then, he was unofficially informed that Milojevic cannot be found at the registered address.

“Regarding this case, things have launched only after the reportage on TV N1, which showed that the person who attacked me was a member of the Government’s delegation in Brussels during the talks with Kosovo. After that, I was summoned for the main hearing scheduled for 10th April,” said Bobic. He added he is convinced that the trial will be prolonged until the case becomes legally obsolete.

Bobic testified that Milojevic started beating him in the street, then kidnapped him and took him to the local Progressive Party’s headquarters where he continued beating and strangling him.

After three years, the case of beating Pavlovic made it to the court. According to the Basic Court in Sombor, however, the first hearing that was supposed to be held on 2nd February was postponed to 4th May.

According to media reports, Pavlovic suffered a fracture of right cheekbone and contusions on the neck, forehead, and right knee. Moreover, he lost more than 60 per cent of vision on the right eye from blows in the face.

The Basic Public Prosecution in Sombor told Insajder that in mid 2016, an indictment was raised over Pavlovic’s beating against Marko Mihajlovic for the criminal act of violent behavior, and against Zoran Milojevic for imposing serious injuries.

Connection with the ruling Progressive Party

In 2016, the high ranking official of the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Novica Toncev, labeled Milojevic as “the head of the Progressive Party’s special beating troops.”

Besides that, shortly before the local elections in Mionica, Lucan, and Majdanpek, Milojevic was accompanying the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. Milojevic was also an adviser in the Government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, while the Head of the Office was the current Minister of Labour Aleksandar Vulin. In 2016, Milojevic was also seen in the company of Marko Djuric, the current Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, during official talks with Pristina in Brussels. Milojevic is the owner of a petrol station in Leposavic, Kosovo.

J. J.

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