04.09.2014 Belgrade

Over a Decade After the PM Assassination: Political Background Still Unknown

Over a Decade After the PM Assassination: Political Background Still Unknown Foto: Zoran Raš
The executors and organisers have been convicted but despite often repeated promises the Serbian PM assassination's political background has remained unsolved for 11 years

Eleven years ago, in August 2003, an indictment for the assassination of the then Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was brought up. The executors and organisers have been convicted but despite often repeated promises and several changes in ruling leadership,  the political background of the assassination remains unsolved. There has not been result so far, and it seems it will never be one, since the political trade always comes before justice. In fact, the key question is whether anything has been done on the issue?

“Eleven years ago the indictment was brought up in order to determine the way the PM was murdered, and the trial of executors and organisers was a pre-condition for launching an investigation into the political background, i.e. into who ordered and inspired the assassination. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened and all the governments that followed did not tackle. I have asked whether there is a working group within the police or Prosecution that is dealing with it but was told there is none, i.e. that nothing is going on in that respect”, Zoran Zivkovic, the New Party leader  and one of the Djindjic's closest allies said.

Our question to the Prosecution Office for Organised Crime on how far the investigation on the political background of the assassination has gone remained unanswered. They simply  did not want to talk about the issue. 

POSTPONED DUE TO FLOODS: Earlier this year, four MPs from the largest parties in the European Parliament sent a letter to the  EU Directorate-General for Enlargement demanding that solving the political background of  Djindjic's assassination become a part of the Chapter 23 (Judiciary and general rights)in Serbia's negotiating process with the EU.

Serbia's Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic said that the issue must be solved and then appointed his chief-of-staff - the man who put a photo of the very snipper riffle Djindjic was killed with on his Facebook profile on the day of the assassination anniversary.

“Nothing has been done so far. The floods happened, bulk of work, and nothing further has been done, apart from a promise before the floods that it must be solved. I expect a change by autumn, since that was a promise,” Rajko Danilovic, one of Djindjic's family lawyers said.

Those who participated in the assassination and provided logistics have been sentenced to the longest jail time and it is uncertain whether any of them would be ready to say what they know about the political background. From their point of view, there is probably no point in testifying. Many believe that the question regarding the political background could have been answered during the night when Milorad Ulemek Legija (sentenced to 40 years in prison for organising the assassination) gave himself up. However,  instead of being taken into jail, Ulemek was brought into the then Interior Minister cabinet. Legija said he trusted the new leaders who, in turn, show no interest for where he had been hiding or who his accessories were. Though in prison, Legija is still the trusted man and based on his information an indictment for  the murder of Slavko Curuvija (well.known journalist and publisher, gunned down outside his home in 1999, during NATO bombing of the then Yugoslavia). Could it then be expected that Legija  opens his soul and says who was behind the PM's assassination, who he made  a deal with, who promised what?

“Don't ask me that, ask those who are making deals with him. I don't know if he even has a soul and what would come out of it if opened”, Danilovic said.

CHARGES AGAINST KOSTUNICA: Criminal charges brought up by Srdja Popovic, Djindjic's mother and sister lawyer, dealt with the political background of the assassination and pointed out Vojislav Kostunica (the Yugoslav President at the time of the assassination and then Serbia's PM) and his cabinet. Apart from Kostunica, charges were brought up against Aco Tomic, former chief of Military Intelligence, Ulemek, Zvezdan Jovanovic and five other members of the Special Operations Unit, JSO (notorious armed group under the Secret Service command). Kostunica was charged with violating the then Yugoslav Constitution for failing to  put down the JSO armed mutiny, while Tomic was accused for incitement  by promising that the army would not intervene. The trial is  going on, but the procedure will not tackle the political background.

Marko Kljajevic, the first presiding judge at the assassination  trial,  stood down in 2006, claiming he did it under the pressure from Kostunica's government.

The PM's murder is a political act since its aim is to eliminate a politician and his program, development vision and change the country's political path. During their mutiny, the JSO clearly stated political demands – the replacement of the then Interior Minister, the Secret Service chief and his deputy, the adoption of a law on cooperation with The Hague War Crimes Tribunal... It is hard to believe that some “clerk” from the Unit independently formulated such demands. 

“My conclusion is that the most interest, the strongest motive and possibilities for the murder of Zoran Djindjic had the Milosevic clan (Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's ex President and the toughest Djindjic's adversary). Saying that, I don't have in mind only the family, but their associates as well. Zoran Djindjic had dispelled their dream of ruling as they did in the 90s, Milosevic ended up in jail, charges were brought up against his wife and son, his associates were deprived from very profitable businesses. On top, they knew the executors, were connected to them and had enough money to finance it,” Zivkovic said.

THEY KNEW, BUT DID NOT REACT:  Those who knew something was brewing but failed to react should not be forgotten either. According to the testimony of Velimir Ilic, ex minister, Nebojsa Covic, the then Deputy PM, knew of the letter Legija wrote about ousting the government some 20 days before the assassination and did not react.

Milos Simovic, a member of the Zemun Clan (the notorious criminal group some of whose members were sentenced for participation in the Djindjic's assassination), claimed that Coki ordered the assassination. Lawyer Srdja Popovic confirmed that Coki is Nebojsa Covic's nickname. 

As in every big conspiracy some international factors could have their role here as well. It is possible that the conspirators had support from some of foreign intelligence services, while it is certain that some intelligence groups had knowledge about the preparations for the assassination. Even The Hague Tribunal knew something and the then Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte warned Djindjic about it.

“I warned Djindjic to be careful. I gave him an internal Tribunal report – two pages – that spoke about plans for his murder. The document was made by people  who were 'my ears and eyes' in Belgrade. The document also contained a list of people working on his assassination”, del Ponte wrote in her book “The Hunt: Me and the War Criminals”.

Failing to resolve such cases is extremely dangerous since it passes on the message that the crime inspirers could go unpunished and that  “puppeteers” who pull the strings from the darkness could be protected. And if that happened once, why couldn't it happen again? A serious state must not allow it.

 

The PM's murder is a political act since its aim is to eliminate a politician and his program

 

What Seselj knows?

The voluntary surrender to The Hague Tribunal by Vojislav Seselj, only two weeks before Djindjic's murder, has raised many eyebrows over a suspicion that the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (the diehard nationalists) knew what was coming, to say the least.

The Belgrade Prosecutor's Office accused Seselj in late 2002 of joining the Zemun Clan conspiracy to assassinate the then Serbia's PM.

Within the investigation into the Djindjic's murder, at his hearing at The Hague Tribunal in August 2003, Seselj said he “was aware” and knew that “some very bloody showdown was approaching”, but that he did not know that Zoran Djindjic would be killed. He rejected the Prosecution's accusations that he had promised help to the conspirators in bringing down the treacherous regime and that he demanded the killing of “Djindjic, the traitor” on several occasions. Allegedly, ahead of his trip to The Hague, Seselj messaged his friends: “Kill Djindjic for me.”

author: Ratko Femić / trslt: Jelena Mojsilović source: Novi magazin
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