On the 20th of July 2009 Court Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) with Patrick Robinson as a Presiding Judge, has sentenced Milan Lukic for a life term of imprisonment and his cousin Sredoje Lukic to a prison sentence of 30 years. Milan and Sredoje Lukic were sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Bosnian Muslims in the Eastern-Bosnian town of Višegrad during the period from June 7th, 1992 until October 10th, 1994.
Following a range of actions and pressure by NGOs on Serbian authorities for the adoption of a Declaration on Srebrenica in the People’s Assembly and to proclaim July 11 a Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica genocide, there has been no official response by the authorities.
After the July 2008 change in central government, the newly struck coalition between Boris Tadić’s Democratic Party (DS) and Milošević/Dačić’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) necessitated a “new edition” of local governments in two municipalities in Belgrade and a small town in Western Serbia. As a result, SPS councilors in these municipalities helped topple their hitherto coalition partners from the Serbian Radical Party (SRS – Šešelj) and provoked new elections.
Večernje novosti, a high-circulation daily which belongs to strategically important national media and serves as a mouthpiece of the Government, carried Sunday, May 31 a two-page (pp. 6 and 7) Topic of the Day file under the caption WHY ARE CERTAIN NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS ATTEMPTING TO INFLICT AS MUCH DAMAGE AS POSSIBLE TO THEIR COUNTRY AND PEOPLE, AND AGGRAVATE THEIR POSITION IN THE MOST BRUTAL WAY EVEN IN THE TIMES OF CRISIS consisting of four pogrom-like texts directed (mainly) against three human rights organizations and the three ladies at their helm: Humanitarian Law Center and Nataša Kandić; Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia and Sonja Biserko; and Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights and Biljana Kovačević-Vučo.
The New Income Tax Law – A New Strain on Civic Society in Serbia
As part of austerity measures to cope with the current economic crisis, a new Law on Citizens’ Income Taxation (passed on Apr. 29, 2009 by the People’s Assembly of the Republic of Serbia) is in force as of May 8, 2009. It stipulates that taxes payable on authors’ and/or experts’ fees (honoraria) be dramatically increased: if an author or an expert has a permanent job, the tax to be paid on his/her fee will jump from 33.7% to 50.6%, whereas the fees payable to those who are unemployed will now be burdened with 76.8% in taxes – up from 48.3% .
ICTY Appeals Chamber Sentence in the Šljivančanin Case and its Echo in Serbia
The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) passed May 5, 2009 the final judgement in the Šljivančanin case of war crimes on the „Ovčara” farm near Vukovar, where 194 prisoners of war, including sick and wounded patients of a hospital, were executed in November 1991 . The original sentence was increased from five to seventeen yaers.
Following an initiative moved by the municipal Commission on Renaming Streets and Squares to name Južni bulevar (Southern boulevard) — a blind alley on the outskirts of the southern Serbian city of Niš — after Šaban Bajramović, a world famous Roma singer who recently passed away in bitter misery, a group of dwellers signed a petition against the initiative. “Arguments” they used to support their step — such as the claim that renaming their street would necessitate changing personal documents — could not serve even as rationalization to camouflage the naked racism they are inspired by. The inhabitanst of that putrid little “street” that for incomprehensible reasons was called a “boulevard” openly insisted that they had nothing against that a street — but not their street — bears Šaban Bajramović’s name and suggested that another street be picked, preferrably in the slum area “where he used to live and where his people live today”. They thereby insisted that they were no nationalists and had nothing against Roma people.
The overthrow of Milošević brought about negligible changes in Politika: whereas only few top editors and managers were removed and replaced by more moderate „professionals“, the entire team of editors and journalists „inherited“ from Milošević remained in place and adapted to the new political and business climate. The extent to which these changes were cosmetic was to be recognized only after the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjić in March 2003 and the restoration of much of the Milošević value system under Prime Minister Koštunica (2004-2007 and 2007-2008), assisted by President Tadić’s Democratic Party (DS) : Koštunica gained control over key ministries and other pillars of the system – Politika included. After Koštunica’s departure from power, Serbian part of the Management, as well as Chief Editor Ljiljana Smajlović and some members of her team were replaced in October and a new team installed in November 2008. The „hard core“ of Politika-„professionals“ stayed on.
Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, paid an official visit to Serbia from Oct. 13 to 17, 2008. An extensive Report on that visit and a broad range of talks he has had with representatives of government authorities and nongovernmental organizations was published on March 11, 2008 on CoE’s website .
The Report abounds with facts, useful information, assessments and recommendations concerning the human and minority rights condition in Serbia today.
At a request of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), the Government of Serbia withdrew on Wednesday, Mar. 4, 2009 the Draft Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination (hereinafter: Anti-Discrimination Law) from the parliamentary procedure.
Apart from the fact that it belongs to the legislative package to enable Serbia’s inclusion into the “white Schengen list” and enable its citizens visa-free travel to EU and some other European countries, the Law represents one of the pieces of legislation most essential for the further development of democracy and respect, uphold and protection of human and minority rights, change in the value system and acceptance of equality as a condition for the functionality of the system. This Law contributes to the harmonization of Serbian legislation with the standards enshrined in numerous international instruments and the European Convention on Human Rights