Friday, July 19, 2019

Third Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade
Bulevar Mihajla Pupina 16
11000 Belgrade

Open letter to the Third Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade

Since Monday, media have been reporting on the attempted murder of a woman in New Belgrade. In a parking lot in front of a building, D.J. (age 25) fired several shots from a gun at his wife T.J. (age 25), in front of their baby and passers-by. The victim had left him some time before and reported him for violence. He was, at that time, issued an urgent restraining order, which he respected until its expiration in April. The victim’s fear for her life is confirmed to media by her friend, who said she had been exposed to violence before, but was afraid to report it. Media also reported that the couple had lived in a house with high fences, under constant video surveillance, that the perpetrator’s father was already known to the police due to illegal weapons possession, extortion and connections with criminal circles. An announcement about this case was made by the Third Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office, stating that everything was done to protect this woman.  

Bearing this in mind, we ask the Prosecutor’s Office to provide answers (publicly) to the following questions:

  • Was the case considered at a meeting of the Coordination and Cooperation Group (CCG), and if yes, how did the Group assess the risk? Why and how during risk assessment was it disregarded that the perpetrator’s father was known to the police from before because of criminal acts and that he had access to illegal weapons?

  • Did the CCG of Surcin inform the CCG of New Belgrade about the case, as the victim moved to her parents’ in New Belgrade?

  • Did the CCG make a protection and support plan for the victim?

  • Why does the deputy public prosecutor say the perpetrator could not be apprehended, as there were no prior reports of (the criminal act of ) domestic violence, and therefore no prospects of its repetition? What other indicators (except the possibility of the repetition of the criminal act) were taken into consideration during the assessment of risks and steps to be taken based on the submitted report?

  • The deputy public prosecutor blames the victim, claiming that she had chosen the perpetrator for her partner, and that she (bearing in mind that they have been friends since childhood) had to have known what he was like and could have reported him. How did the deputy public prosecutor and other professionals involved assess the victim’s possibility to report the violence bearing in mind she lived in isolation (in a house surrounded by tall walls and cameras), and that her father-in-law had been involved with criminal circles? Why wasn’t the victim provided adequate protection, now that she was brave enough to report the violence?

  • The victim initiated divorce proceedings and “in the meantime”, according to the deputy public prosecutor, asked the court to issue protection measures. What cannot be determined based on his statement is whether criminal charges were brought against the perpetrator? He states that such a procedure takes times as it is necessary to collect “serious” evidence, but he forgets that the safety of the victim has to be a priority and it must be guaranteed regardless of the length of procedures.

  • We wonder whether the responsible deputy public prosecutor is familiar enough with the law according to which he acts or whether this is a case of an unintended mistake, bearing in mind he states in several appearances in the “Belgrade Chronicle” television show that after the expiration of 30 days, urgent measures can be prolonged to another 30 days[1]?

The third basic prosecutor’s office has made efforts to convince us that it was impossible to prevent this attempt of murder and that everything was done according to legal procedures. Still, we would like to express our deep concern and distrust, bearing in mind that certain indicators of high risk (such as possession of and access to firearms, connections of the perpetrator’s father with criminal groups, separation of the perpetrator and victim) have clearly been disregarded. We also wonder how the responsible professionals of the Third basic public prosecutor’s office will provide support to other victims who turn to them, having in mind the visible lack of knowledge about relevant laws and procedures based on which they need to act (e.g. the principle of the priority of the victims safety and Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence), as well as the tendency to blame the victim. Institutions increasingly make mistakes, but perpetrators do not waste time, they always hit their target. It is possible that not all murders of women can be prevented, but this cannot be said in cases when calls for help were left without an appropriate response of institutions. React until it is too late!

For the Autonomous Women’s Center
Aleksandra Nestorov and Vedrana Lacmanovic

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[1] Urgent measures, according to the effective Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence  ("Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia”, no. 94/2016) are issued for 48 hours, with the possibility of extension to 30 days. In case of breach of measures, the sanction of 60 days in prison is envisaged. The television show is accessible via: http://www.rts.rs/page/tv/sr/story/22/rts-svet/3553654/beogradska-hronika.html (viewed on June 14, 2019.)