Prominent lawyer, human rights activist dies

BELGRADE -- Lawyer and human rights activist Srđa Popović died in Belgrade on Tuesday aged 76, after a short and serious illness.

(File)
(File)

Popović was born in Belgrade where he graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1961, to quickly became a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate in the former Yugoslavia.

In recent years he was most commonly mentioned as a lawyer for the family of late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić,who insisted on clarifying the political background of the assassination, which he considered to have been "a coup."

On behalf of the family he filed a criminal complaint against the JSO unit ("Red Berets") for mutiny - a protest they staged in 2001.

In the former Yugoslavia, he represented numerous artists and political dissidents, but also "controversial persons."

He defended the young Zoran Đinđić, Dobrica Ćosić, Vuk Drašković, Mića Popović, Gojko Đogo, Leonid Šejka, Vojislav Šešelj, Mihailo Marković, Dragoljub Mićunović, Nebojša Popov, Costa Čavoški, Dušan Makavejev, Željko Ražnatović Arkan, Franjo Tuđman, Vladimir Šeks, Dobroslava Paraga, the "Belgrade Six" - a group of professors expelled from the Faculty of Philosophy - and many others.

In the 1990s, Popović was one of the most prominent fighters against the regime of Slobodan Milošević and one of the first intellectuals who pointed to it as an "extraordinary threat."

Together with journalists fired from state media due to their disagreements with the Milošević regime, he in 1990 launched the first private media in the former Yugoslavia - the weekly Vreme.

Speaking about Yugoslavia, said that he was "always a Yugoslav," adding however that he "had problems with this kind of identification, but the problem of Yugoslavia was that it could not become a democratic state."

Popović was one of a few who has publicly spoken about the October 5, 2000, as Milošević "not being removed by the street (demonstrators), but by the international community with the help of certain circles in the country," noting that this was "some kind of agreement."

He openly spoke about the Kosovo problem, asserting that it was "lost in 1990," for which was called "a traitor." Popović also faced criticism because of his position on the foreign intervention against Serbia.

He was a founding member of the World Association of Lawyers, president of the European Movement in Serbia, a member of the Advisory Board of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in New York, and has won the Rule of Law Award, given by New York section of the American Bar Association.