Report of the Commission for Investigating the Killings of Journalists
The Commission was established two months ago with the aim of making additional efforts in investigating the reasons as to why the murderers and those who ordered the killings of the journalists Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic were not revealed so far.Source:
Subsequently, the mandate of the Commission was extended with the case of the murder of media workers of the Radio-television of Serbia during air raids in 1999.
The goal was to establish the body (consisting of the representatives of journalistic associations, journalists, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Information Agency, supported by the Serbian Government) which would be highly determined to shed light on the killings of the journalists. Prevailing role in the Commission belongs to the representatives of media profession determined to influence the renewal and strengthening of the investigations with their permanent activities, along with regaining trust in the institutions that deal with those investigations and showing to the professional and general public that disclosing and punishing the murderers is of utmost importance both for the profession and for the society on the whole.
For the first two months of the Commission’s work, documentation has been registered and collected that used to be scattered on different places: MUP (Ministry of Internal Affairs), BIA (Security Information Agency), the Prosecution’s offices. We have gathered information on every single case from the important participants of the investigations that were done so far. We can say that for the first time, overall findings on the murders owned by the state institutions have been gathered on the same place, and that all significant actors of the investigations have been introduced with this documentation.
When it comes to the individual cases:
In case of Dada Vujasinovic, on the proposal of the Commission representative and Prosecutor, police officials conducted interviews in the presence of the Prosecutor with several individuals that were supposed that they could contribute to resolving certain aspects of Dada Vujasinovic’s death by giving statements, among others with General Momcilo Perisic. Special attention was devoted to the analysis and investigation of the facts that the evidence taken on the murder scene were allegedly lost during the moving of documentation during air raids in 1999. On the Commission’s initiative and the proposal of the Prosecutor’s office, police officials of the Criminal Investigation Department were given warrant to make additional effort in finding the objects necessary for conducting new expertise that the Commission intends to convey in cooperation with the Prosecutor’s office. The engagement of the larger number of police officers resulted in the finding of the objects - proofs that will be, along with supporting photo-documentation and performed analyses, added to the existing case files, thus allowing credible super expertise. Namely, due to the contradictory estimates, Commission decided to engage foreign experts for ballistics and forensics, and currently we are in the process of establishing communication with the Security Institute in Wiesbaden regarding this issue, whose experts used to perform super expertise in the case of the murder of Prime Minister Djindjic, as well as with US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with the aim of hiring experienced expert for forensic science. Based on those data, super expertise will be conducted through the reconstruction of the murder and all other necessary actions from the field of criminal investigation, always with the possibility of engaging foreign experts. In the forthcoming period, we will work on getting credible data that should remove any doubt on the open issues pertaining to this case.
In case of the murder of Slavko Curuvija, the investigation was intensified, leading to connecting all known facts, in order to prepare qualitative indictment for those that are suspected of being participants or executioners of the murder, but also for those that ordered murders. This case is the most extensive when it comes to the gathered documents, testimonies, evidence and statements, while entire documentation consists of more than 2000 pages.
Apart from the analysis of the work done so far, Commission extensively analyzes all the options that would lead to connecting all data into one whole that would be credible for the court epilogue and conviction of the perpetrators and those who ordered murders in the first place. We have registered all those persons who could help with their testimonies, either as protected witnesses or witnesses that were not directly involved in the murders, but need protection as there are chances that they know facts that would be relevant for ascertaining the identities of the killers. Commission is ready to propose to the Prosecutor’s office for organized crime to launch the process in the course of which protection would be offered to all those persons if they agree to present key information that would lead to identifying the killers and those who ordered killings, that would in turn contribute to the successful court epilogue of this process. Determining truth and responsibility for this crime represents priority in the work of the Commission and it is necessary to use all legal instruments to secure final verdicts.
In case of the murder of Milan Pantic, new investigation is underway as a priority assignment of the investigative bodies from Jagodina, now with the strong support of the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department and the team consisting of investigators and analysts engaged on all the cases that the Commission is dealing with. The statements of the persons that approached the Commission on their own initiative with the aim to present their findings are being extensively checked.
By analyzing the measures and actions taken so far, Commission had identified certain possibilities for additional checks of the findings, which results can significantly improve the present level of the gathered facts.
The case of the killing of RTS media workers during the air raids was subsequently added to the mandate of the Commission on the proposal of the victims’ families, and in the forthcoming period, we will set goals and basic elements for the renewal of this investigation.
Journalistic profession is under permanent pressure, through direct threats with violence against journalists and the media, but also through financial exhaust, fines and high financial damages. The media are being threatened in many ways, in order to disrupt their investigative journalism, jeopardizing their safety to prevent them from comprehensive addressing of the most difficult social issues. Impoverishment of the society, along with its media, contributed to the media and journalists being more vulnerable than ever. Because of this, the standpoint of the initiator of the Commission is that this trend cannot be left to inertia, but that alternative solutions should be offered on every level, while leading joint battle for solving problems of the media profession and improving the position of journalists and the media on the whole. In a practical and symbolical sense, the process of revealing the perpetrators of the hardest crimes, journalists’ killers, had imposed as priority, and the determination of the Commission members is obvious, they should work on this assignment until they solve the murders, for which they would need more solidarity on the part of all journalists, media and associations, as well as society on the whole.
Members of the Commission expect from their colleague journalists, the media, journalistic associations, organizations for human rights, judiciary system…, to cooperate with them on this mission, as this is the mission for every professional and the media. This is a prerequisite to provide better position for journalistic profession, freedom of expression and information, respect for human rights and democratization of the country in general.
Members of the Commission are determined to continue with their work until all the murder cases of journalists in Serbia are resolved, or until all the reasons are disclosed that led to the conclusion that some of the cases cannot result in court epilogue, with all its necessary elements.
Additional important facts:
- Commission for investigating the murders of journalists holds meetings at least once a week, on which it works on consolidating data, analyzing most important results that were disclosed, as well as analyzing the oversights and failures in the course of investigations.
- Commission informs itself on the progress in the work on continuing investigations.
- On witnesses’ request, Chairman of the Commission often attends the procedure of their giving statements on the findings they dispose of, or they are being invited to give statement as there are findings that they might have important information.
- Taking statement is being done in some cases in the presence of the prosecutors.
- Last year, fighting against impunity of the journalists’ murders had become one of the priorities of the UN General Assembly. Commission for investigating murders of the journalists in Serbia is the first institution established as a possible model for overcoming the practice of impunity of the killers and those who order murders of the journalists.
Chairman of the Commission for Investigating the Killings of Journalists