The upcoming December could bring the long-awaited decision of the Court of Appeal and the end of the drama that has lasted almost a quarter of a century.
Last December brought us the first-instance verdict and instilled hope that justice in the case of the murder of journalist, editor and media owner Slavko Ćuruvija is slow but achievable.
Exactly 12 months later – from December 5 to 9, a public hearing will be held regarding the appeals against the first-instance verdict for the murder of Slavko Ćuruvija, which sentenced the instigators and perpetrators of this crime to a total of 100 years in prison.
It is possible that before the final verdict is passed, and after the public session is over, the five-member panel will make a decision to open the trial. Passing a final verdict would mean the end of the court process that lasts eight years, that is, 23 years after the murder.
The members of the panel are Nada Hadži Perić, president, Vesna Petrović, judge reporter and members of judges Dragan Ćesarević, Marko Jocić and Dušanka Đorđević.
The non-final verdict was passed to the convicted head of the Department of State Security, Radomir Marković, who’s serving a prison sentence for other crimes, while State Security officers Milan Radonjić and Ratko Romić are under house arrest with electronic surveillance, while Miroslav Kurak is on the run.
There is great interest in this trial from the domestic and international public, and observers and experts from numerous international journalistic associations and organizations dealing with the punishment of crimes against journalists are expected, as well as representatives of the OSCE, the European Commission, the United Nations, the Council of Europe and other reputable and influential international institutions and non-governmental organizations, precisely because it is a unique case of solving a murder after fifteen years. (Statistics show that it is common for 90 percent of journalist murder cases to remain unresolved).
In 2013, the Government of the Republic of Serbia established the Commission for investigating murders of journalists at the suggestion of journalist associations with the aim of elucidating all the facts that led to the unsuccessful investigations into the death of journalist Dada Vujasinović and the murders of journalists and editors Slavko Ćuruvija and Milan Pantić. In the course of 2014, an indictment was brought for the murder of Slavko Ćuruvija, for which there are realistic expectations that it will receive a final judicial conclusion by the end of this year. The super-expertise of the forensic institute in the Netherlands showed that there is not enough preserved evidence to help progress in the investigation into the cause of Dada Vujasinović’s death. The case of the murder of journalist Milan Pantić is still open.
The authorities of Serbia have been under strong criticism for many years due to inaction and impunity, so the Commission for investigating murders of journalists was praised when it was founded as unique in the world. After the first important developments in this area, there were numerous serious obstructions by those who wanted to protect the accused at all costs, which would be especially pronounced in cases of cover-up of illegal actions by former state security officials.
There are realistic expectations that the end of this year will bring confirmation of the criminal responsibility of non-finally convicted persons who have already been judged twice. Any other outcome would cause incalculable damage to journalism, the safety of journalists, but also to the state of Serbia, which has shown its determination to finally resolve these cases and to have the sentences handed down in accordance with the prosecution’s proposal.