Todays Date
June 20, 2019


By Aleksandar Krzhalovski


While the presidential campaign has not yet risen, and in Britain it is uncertain whether Brexit will really happen in ten days (topics I wrote about in the previous two columns), last week the world was upset by the massacre in New Zealand and in the region the main news was the protests in Serbia.


Regarding the first one, what else to say except shock and disbelief that there are people who can commit such a crime and take lives of 50 other people. With every new case of this kind, the question arises again – will it ever stop, and is there any way to prevent it. It also tackles the issue of crime and punishment. In New Zealand there is no death penalty (abolished in 1989), so there is no doubt that the offender will receive the next maximum sentence – life imprisonment. Although the abolition of death penalty in almost the entire world is considered a civilization benefit (142 countries have abolished it), in such cases one wonders if someone who killed 50 other people deserves to live or should have the same fate as those 50 people? And is the United States right, for example, that has not yet abolished it (in addition, for example, China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, where over 85% of executions are carried out annually)? On the other hand, the threat of capital punishment is not sufficient to prevent mass shootings (mainly in schools) and the killings, which, for example, last year accounted for almost 15,000 with double more injuries, including over 3,000 children!

Speaking of crimes and punishments, a few comparisons with the bigger cases in our country…just to reconsider:

– in the case Divo Naselje, in which 8 police officers were killed (and another 10, or according to some sources, 14 by the armed group or the terrorists according to the indictment), a total of 37 people were tried, 7 of which were sentenced to life imprisonment, 13 to 40 years and the remaining 13 between 12 and 20 years in prison (while 4 were released), that is, in addition to the life-long, average length of the sentences of the convicts is 28 years;

– in the case Monster (the killing of 4 youths and 1 adult near Smilkovo Lake), a verdict was issued for 6 people (of 7 tried) – all of life imprisonment, but then it was annulled and returned to a retrial that is still ongoing;

– in the 2001 conflict (75 members of the Macedonian security forces – ARM and MOI and 85 NLA members were killed or according to various sources between 700-800 people in total including civilians, as well as a total of 30 missing persons), there was general amnesty, and the detained 88 people were released within months after the conflict. And for 4 of the 5 so-called Hague cases amnesty was declared in 2008, and thus only one person ended with a prison sentence (10 years);

Finally, I made this comparison also because last week the verdict was pronounced of the storming in the Assembly on April 27, 2017 (according to the indictment – for a terrorist threat to the constitutional order…with elements of an attempt to kill MPs, but also without victims in terms of the deaths), where out of 33 originally charged, after the amnesty for 15 people in January, 16 of them were sentenced on Friday to a total of 211 years in prison (one was released, and one still tried) or average 12 years in prison by an accused.


I would not comment on the fairness of the judgments and the fining of the penalties, and even less about the amnesties (both in the last and the previous cases), but I think that this (and other) comparison/s deserves both professional debate and readership/civil comments, especially from the slogan’s advocates “There is no justice, no peace” – both for the last and the other cases mentioned!


But let’s turn a little bit toward the region and see if the situations are comparable with what was happening in Macedonia in recent years. Although there are protests (of the opposition) in Albania and Montenegro, the greatest attention is drawn to the events in Serbia and especially Belgrade, because of the similarity of the movement which is now called “1 of 5 million” with the Student (and then Professorial) Plenum and it started more than three months ago as a civil protest against the autocratic rule of President Aleksandar Vucic – or as they would say there (and they also said the same thing here): against the regime.


Although most commentators there rejected the “Macedonian scenario”, the very description itself above points out several similarities – a civil movement in the beginning, later joined by the opposition; occasional protests that slowly turn into regular (and it is expected that they will soon become permanent – like the two-month “camp in front of the Government” with us); similar motives for the protests (autocratic and absolutist rule, violated freedom of the media, partisation of the institutions and, thus, collapse of the rule of law), and polarization in the society has already been more evident.

The counts are already occurring with the very name of the campaign, and for each of the protests until now, it was speculated from the organizers and the authorities about the real number of protesters on the streets (like the famous “people’s events” in our rallies in 2015, SDSM on 17, and VMRO-DPMNE on May 18), with the show of cadres with many or fewer protesters, depending on which media it is about, and in any case, the “rounding off” of the characters in the photos will start of some of the participants in the protests.


First storming occurred in one of the buildings that symbolize the Vucic “regime”, it was the RTS building (Radio Television of Serbia) in this case. And here begin the first more serious differences in the description of the events (except for previous numerical nonsense), to the question of whether there was violence and who did it. While the government blames the violent incursion into the RTS (and cites a case of using a chainsaw (?!?) into the building) and the police’s peaceful action to protect the building, protestors accuse of beating by the police, which was yesterday followed by a statement of several influential civil society organizations for excessive use of force (every similarity to the peaceful protest in front of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia in June 2015, in which 38 police officers were injured…is accident).


All in all, too many similarities, so as not to think about whether things in Serbia are going in the same way (not to call it “scenario”) and whether a similar resolution follows. It looks pretty similar to me; I only think if they are in the phase before 2011 (when the domination of VMRO-DPMNE in the elections began to escalate into autocratic and corrupt tendencies); or just in 2011, when A1 TV was shut down (I somehow expected Vucic to appear unannounced live on some of the neutral or critical televisions this weekend, as Gruevski once appeared in the A1 newscasts in front of the government); or are they already in the advanced stage of the Plenary/Protest/ Colorful Revolution?

Or maybe those who say there are no similarities are right? And that the opposition there is dissociated, weak and incapable of leading or making any change or real challenge to Vucic’s SNA (to remember just what kind of qualifications were given to SDSM at the time)! Or that the characters from the opposition (Djilas, Jeremic and others) are worn out politicians who have already had the opportunity to lead the country and did not prove to be successful (and what were the stories in our country, until Zaev came to the head of SDSM?).

And in the end, let me ask: what do you think about the similarities? Or even more: what do you think will happen in Serbia?


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