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April 11, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 340

A Year Without General Badza

by Milos Vasic & Uros Komlenovic

At half past midnight, on the night of April 11, 1997, in the “Mamma Mia” restaurant on General Zdanova Street in Belgrade, a masked gunman with an automatic Heckler und Koch MP-5SD had entered, and, with seven well aimed bullets and without hesitation, had killed the Acting Minister of Domestic Affairs of Serbia, Head of the Sector for Public Safety, Police General Radovan Stojicic Badza, who sat at a table with some customs official.  Stojicic’s son, Vojislav, sat at an opposite table.  No one reacted, everything happened in a split second: at the gunman’s command, the whole restaurant went on the floor, and he fled in an unknown direction away from the house of hospitality located about 400m away from the MUP building.  Police soon cordoned off the entire city; until morning it searched cars, buses and pedestrians, spoke to residents of neighboring buildings and streets and generally conducted investigative activities.  President Milosevic was awakened, exceptional night and morning meetings were held.  One patrolman on duty, having heard the news, bought a drink for the closest street cigarette vendor.  One eyewitness later described the atmosphere at the top of MUP of Serbia as “authentic panic”.  Gen. Stojicic was buried with all state, police and military ceremonies; President Milosevic let fall a tear, and Milorad Vucelic, several.  The following Monday the incident was adequately forgotten.  To the questions of inquisitive journalists — what has happened to the investigation — posed at the press conference at MUP of Serbia toward the end of last year, Gen. Rade Markovic explained that Kennedy and Palma had been killed way back when, and investigations are still continuing; in any case, a crime of this nature never loses importance.

AWARD: Then an annual police award was instituted at President Milosevic’s suggestion and is called among policemen “living Badza”.  One police officer stated that it had become clear to him at that moment that the murderer would never be found.  With this, what used to be called in the MUP of Serbia, “Badza’s days” ended.  Vlajko Stojiljkovic was appointed new minister; the position of vice-minister was discontinued, perhaps because of police superstitions.

In October of the same year, an equally inconspicuous attacker killed Zoran Todorovic Kundak, General Secretary of JUL, on the street.  An equally sorrowful funeral ensued, followed by equally adequate forgetting.  Within six months, unknown assailants killed two high officials of this government in very daring attacks; in both cases we only had sorrowful funerals; in both cases the deceased were forgotten by the public by the following Mondays.  This was the beginning of the “post-Badza days” of Serbian politics.
It is not as if Badza’s days were any better: from 1991 to 1997 there were tens of spectacular, unsolved murders; the murder rate in Belgrade had risen fourfold in less than ten years (from 28 in 1989 to over a hundred in 1997).  It is said that the war played a role in this; the war and the engagement of the Serbian police in it, we will add.

As experienced policemen say, cooperation with criminals, which culminated in the late eighties, has brought the Service into today’s position of partner to crime rather than controller and policeman.  One such individual even says that the police force is not even partner, but a total racketeer in jobs organized by criminals, which it plans out, organizes and carries through with the help of politicians and “businessmen”.  He quotes the words of a big operator: “Your badge has no meaning for me from the moment you abused it by working with me.  Neither the official, nor the moral one.  You would like me to plan, organize, carry out, give you a cut and then for you to order me around?  Those days are over.”  Corruption and the mixing of political and business dealings between government and crime began with the war in Croatia and the hiring of “cooperating links” of the Service in the “national historical moment” from 1988-1989.  Serbian authorities were well aware that the creation of opposition parties could not be “abandoned to chaos”, as the communist comrades put it.  Starting with the “Sava” Society from Nova Pazova, under whose skirt SNO, SCP-SRS, SPO and a host of other “patriotic” smaller parties and paramilitary formations took root, the Service had people, jobs and “positions” under control.

MILITARY LINE OF MUP: That would not be so bad; infiltration is a legitimate method of all security services in the world.  The problem arose when the war had to be fought.  Because no one was eager to fight, while fanatical patriots were few, the police turned to proven servicemen from the “hot pavements of Belgrade” — and not only of Belgrade.  Under party “patriotic” flags, criminals and losers of every ilk and hoodlums of all ranks were enlisted.  However, command, coordination and arming were never handed over to parties.  Parties merely boasted their “Chetniks”, “volunteers” and “guards”, which would cost them later.  Through those formations the former Gen. Stojicic — at the time the head of the “military line” of MUP — legalized police mobilization, which substituted for the unsuccessful mobilization of recruits.  Loot was promised, and promises were held.  The dropping of indictments was very generous: a new war elite was created from thieves and criminals, and was not held accountable even for the murder of a police inspector in the street; they were sorely needed, and indebtedness was high.

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the implementation of sanctions on May 31, 1991, made criminals even more needed, because the field of activity shifted from hawking appliances and “hot vehicles” to international trade with strategic and high-profit goods.  Hyperinflation in 1993 had finalized today’s balance of power: at the top is the Family; from them there are three lines of power — state administration, directors of big companies and banks, and the political establishment (from all parties).  The administration deals out profitable jobs and quotas to select companies on the basis of discretion; big systems, banks and companies ensure salaries for the government, the police and the army; politicians and ideologues carry the whole with “patriotic” explanations and slogans.  The job of the police in such a system of middlemen is to protect and control operations; in the most delicate jobs, the police are present from start to finish.  At the base of the pyramid of power — but high above the average citizen — there are cousins and aunts, but also classical criminals who all hold smaller companies with monopolies on the high profit jobs: profits are shared to prior agreements.  When rules are broken, or when someone gets to think too big, enforcement measures come into action, from the baseball bat to the Heckler und Koch.

Where is the police in all that?  What does all that have to do with the anniversary of a tragic death?  It does.  From the moment that policemen and criminals became partners, first during the war, and later in business dealings, only to finally unite in strategic jobs of “national importance”, and right up to the situation today when MUP heads are driving stolen BMW’s and Mercedes, a process of return has begun.  Now they cannot survive without each other, while together they also can’t live.

METTLESOME MEDDLING: Police corruption is a known thing which has been around ever since the existence of police.  The problem, as former Vladan Vasilijevic used to say, arises when the police loses command and control over its ties in the underground, starts working with them and becomes an equal partner, instead of playing the game in the interest of the state and society.  Because criminals as a rule do criminal activities better than the police — but do not have any moral or other obligations, while policemen are by definition moralists for as long as they can last — quite normally it happens that they lead the game, while the police appear as attendants.  The process of corruption, looked at functionally, begins at the moment when the patrolman takes a pack of Marlboro on the street without paying for it.  It that is permitted, everything else follows logically and predictably.  And when the patrolman, whose salary is three months late, takes a pack of cigarettes, thinking about his chief who takes a racket from cafes on his territory, of his OUP chief who drives a BMW, of his secretary who drives an even more questionable Mercedes, and the minister is not even worth mentioning — all the time thinking of war duties in Croatia and Bosnia where it was a free for all — well, then we really have a process or return.

What else happened in this one year?  All the generals in the Serbian Police have kept their posts, with the exception of Gen. Stojan Misic who discretely disappeared out of sight.  The Police meddled in a chain of incidents in Kosovo in a very mettlesome manner, which resulted in more civilian casualties than is permissible in such operations, and also resulted in the first denying of European visas to Serbian police officials.  Police tactics in Kosovo looked too much like the tactics of paramilitary units in Croatia and Bosnia.  Nothing has changed on the front of corruption and privileges for criminals.  The introduction of officers’ rankings in the police — supposedly former Gen. Stojicic’s idea — is coming up against ever greater resistance: the system of rank simply does not fit the functioning structure and needs of the police.  Namely, why should a police station commander have a higher rank (and education) than his higher inspector for crime?  A commander is an administrator, not a professional.  Not to mention inside police politics during the 1991-1995 wars, when advancement was strictly based on performance on the front and physical aptitude.  And so on and so forth.

Therefore, nothing has changed; least of all that which hurts the least.  That is why in the New Cemetery, in the Alley for Meritorious Citizens, on Monday, April 6, one year after the death of Gen. Stojicic, a commemoration was held.  Federal Minister Sokolovic, Minister of the Republic Stojiljkovic, war comrade Arkan, some police generals and the impassioned Milorad Vucelic, who again let fall a tear, were present.  The Family was not present, but did sent a wreath.

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