BELGRADE — If found guilty, the suspect in the murder of a 15-year-old girl could be sent to prison for 30 to 40 years, as Serbia has abolished the death penalty.
This is what Justice Minister Nikola Selaković told reporters on Thursday, after the police announced that they had a suspect in custody for the murder of Tijana Jurić, who was abducted and murdered last month.
“In the past, the death penalty was handed down for this kind of criminal offense, but like all other European countries, we had to erase it from our criminal code. We, as a member of the Council in Europe, have to respect the European Charter that prohibits the death penalty,” he explained.
The further course of the proceedings in connection with the case is now “in the hands of the prosecution and the court,” he explained.
“I do not want to comment, but I am sure that anyone who will be deciding will be aware of the circumstances of this case and the distress it has caused to the public,” said Selaković.
Asked whether “the reintroduction of the death penalty was being considered,” Selaković said he was unaware that anyone had raised this issues so far, reiterating that the European Charter prohibits this form of punishment.
Selaković said that recently the Venice Commission – a body of the Council of Europe – discussed the possibility of accepting the United States as a member, but that “a small European country reminded them that the United States still has the death penalty – and further consideration of the issue was dropped.”
Selaković’s comments came on the same day that his cabinet colleague, Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović, revealed the details about the murder case, and referring to the suspect as “a monster,” said he “sometimes regretted the fact Serbia had abolished the death penalty.”
Director of the Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights Milan Antonijević spoke for the Beta news agency today to say the campaign to reintroduce the death penalty was impermissible.
Antonijević said it was “entirely understandable that the public reacts strongly in such cases – but we should be very careful and not create a lynch mob atmosphere.”
Groups calling for “the death penalty for the killer of Tijana Jurić” cropped up on Facebook today, the largest having more than 50,000 members.
Antonijević warned that “the time is not right for campaigns that will follow the line of a desire for revenge,” and added this was “not politically opportune, either.”
According to him, what is now most important is that the court proceedings are swift and the punishment appropriate.