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November 10, 1996
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 266
Human Rights: Criminal Procedure

The Law and the Club

by Aleksandar Ciric

The natural state of human rights in a police state of the kind that the readers of Vreme are honored and obliged to live in is easy to describe. It is that in which an accidental policeman starts beating you with a club or a baseball bat, you lift your arms to protect your head, and from the legal papers it comes out the reason that the beaten (i.e., you, personally) "has prevented the officer in performing his duty".

In his interview with Vreme, Momcilo Grubac, the professor of criminal and procedural law at the University of Novi Sad, points out that among the experts there are none that consider the present situation as being good or that it should be improved by expending the repressive authorization of the police. "The explosion of criminal acts occurred some ten years ago with the enactment of the current law on criminal procedure, although in an incomparably milder form than this which we witness today. Meanwhile, former SFRY has fallen apart, the Constitution from 1992 was brought and with it the obligation of the Federal Assembly to harmonize the laws with the new constitution. At the end of this year all deadlines will expire, and the job is still waiting to be done: Meanwhile, more time was spent on weddings and feasts than on the job."

The work group of the Federal Assembly whose member is professor Grubac, has prepared the draft of the new law on criminal procedure for the session scheduled for several weeks ago, but it has been undergraded by the unauthorized and informal body of court and state officials held in Milocer: it was said that the draft badly smells of rotten liberalism. Not wishing to elaborate on the story, Momcilo Grubac says that the problem can be brought down to the question of the allocation of power, set by the Constitution of SRY from 1992 and the "uniform power" set by the Constitution from 1974 which is the basis of not only the current law on criminal procedure but also of police practice whose black side he illustrated by the report of the Fund for Humanitarian Rights.

"From 'unity' evolved some court authorizations of the police which it now not only retains but - taking the advantage of accidental or deliberate omissions of the republic's legislature -expands through the law about the organization and operation of the service of internal affairs whose key stipulations are conflicting with the current federal Constitution. Or, more accurately," adds Grubac, "with the Constitution which was practically put out of force a month after it was promulgated in April of 1992 by the constitutional law on application of the existing laws until their harmonization with the new constitution." The consequence is, all the participants at the round table agreed, the total disintegration of the legal system and the confusion that -premeditated or accidental, it does not matter from the point of view of the present consequences and their impact on the future -lasts for already five years, and whose solution depends on the question of the ratio of political forces in the federal Assembly, the intensity of love among the federal states of Serbia and Montenegro, i.e., the ratio in the "parliamentary" bargaining on for how long they will extend the deadlines long past.

For this reason it is not strange that the practical implication of the talks concerned the uttermost (miss)use and expansion of the police authorization. The lawyer Borivoje Borovic excused himself for being late for the meeting due to the fact that at a central hearing which he had attended as a defense attorney the same individual impersonated the MUP employee, the private lawyer and, to top it all, the court expert. The authorizations that the police assigns, arrogates or extends to itself, are evident also from the "operationalization" of the regulation which says that the control of the private communication of citizens (in short: tapping, mail violation and the like) is the procedure that can be ordered only by the court. In practice, the constitutional regulation is bypassed by the Serbian law, assigning the privilege of bringing such decisions to the president of the Supreme Court (and, for some reason, not also to the president of the Constitutional court), upon the proposal of the public attorney of the republic or - the republic's Minister of the Police. In short, the Minister Sokolovic is authorized to approve to himself that his service (the police) taps the citizens at its own free estimation and as long as he wishes to. And not only the citizens of Serbia, stressed Ph.D. Vojin Dimitrijevic: in Serbia live also several hundred thousand foreign citizens, refugees that have been deprived of all civil rights in their "home" land. That is why we have to speak about human rights instead of civil rights, especially since Yugoslavia is one of the signers of the UN's Convention against torture, while its official or volunteer policeman considerably contributed to the versatility of devices and methods of physical and psychological torture over the last five years, as was noticed by the lawyer Ranko Vukotic.

His colleague Borovic, referring to the already mentioned case of one person who was a lawyer, a policeman and a court expert, noticed that the high time for banning the ex-policeman to register as lawyers is elapsing. Most of the participants have the undivided opinion that the "acceptable" symbiosis of the prosecutor's office as the executive power and the police as the criminal service must be won from their "spontaneous" symbiosis with the court, and through this with the legislative power. In the opposite, however, for how long are we going to be living in this party and political jail, indeed depends on that which the speaker of SPS Ivica Dacic calls, inspired by the words of his state and party chief pronounced referring to the previous elections, "stabile assembly".

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