News 19 Dec 17

Serbia Charges Youth Activists for War Criminal Protest

The prosecution brought misdemeanour charges against nine Youth Initiative for Human Rights activists who disrupted a speech by Serbian war crimes convict Veselin Sljivancanin.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
The protest against Veselin Sljivancanin's speech in Beska in January. Photo: Screenshot of YIHR video.

The prosecution on Tuesday charged the youth activists with "rude, impudent or reckless behaviour" as well as "insulting, exercising violence, threatening or fighting" for disrupting a speech by Veselin Sljivancanin in the northern town of Beska in January.

They face between 30 and 60 days in prison if convicted.

YIHR activists blew whistles and unfurled a banner with the message "Criminals should shut up so we can talk about victims" at the event at which Sljivancanin spoke, which was organised by the ruling Progressive Party.

Former Yugoslav People’s Army colonel Sljivancanin served a jail sentence for war crimes after being convicted of aiding and abetting the torture of non-Serb prisoners from Vukovar in Croatia in 1991.

The YIHR did not want to comment on the charges ahead of the first hearing before the court next Monday.

But the group’s director, Anita Mitic, accused the prosecutors of backing Sljivancanin.

"The state clearly took the side of war criminals," Mitic wrote on Twitter.

The activists claim they were the ones who were attacked in Beska, then kicked out of the public venue and had one of their cars damaged.

The Progressive Party insisted in a statement at the time however that the activists caused the clash by disrupting the meeting.

"A group of hooligans interrupted the event… and brutally disturbed the citizens present who were listening to the speakers calmly and in dignity," the party said in a statement.

The prosecution threw out the criminal charges brought by YIHR activists against unknown perpetrators for the alleged attack on them in Beska.

Sljivancanin also spoke at another Progressive Party meeting in Vrsac on Monday.

He was released in 2011, after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

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