Court decisions spark protests and debates in Serbia

Court decisions spark protests and debates in Serbia


By Milos Mitrovic – Belgrade

The abolition of the verdict to Darjian Music (26), who was sentenced to 35  years in prison for the brutal murder of the model Vladislava Cervenko, and Mihalj Kertes (66), former Customs Administration head release from prison prompted protests and debates in Serbia. Many verdicts have been abolished from “educative reasons”, the Supreme Court of Cassation president Dragomir Milojevic tried to explain.

However, the question about the responsibility of the judges for the controversial verdicts remains. In the case of Vladislava Cervenko murder, the verdict has been abolished from procedural reasons, the Court of Appeal explained. Namely, the murder has been described as “cruel and wanton” and Criminal Law stipulates that the first degree murder can be perpetrated only in one of this two ways, RTS reported.

In July 2013 Darijan Music was sentenced for Cervenko murder. During the pursuit following the murder, Music admitted the crime on his Facebook post and explained that Cervenko “cheated him” while he was in jail. Music posted that his intention was not to kill Cervenko and expressed condolences to her family. However, Vladislava`s father, Edmund Cervenko, describe the way the murder had been committed. “He has beat her to death… He broke her chest, arms, legs… He tattooed her just before she died… Dastard tattooed his birth date on her body”, Cervenko said.

At the protest (photo) organized after the verdict has been abolished, Vladislava Cervenko`s family demanded the capital punishment to be reintroduced.

“If the criminal offense is defined by the law, we cannot attribute it different names… This names may be used by media, newspapers and private conversations, but are inappropriate in the verdict”, judge Dragomir Milojevic said.

In the court’s decision it was also stated that the trial verdict has been “incomprehensible, contradictory and unclear”. The statements of the witnesses and experts were incomplete, and the reasons for the confiscation of some items were not explained, the court has justified. The Court of Appeal demanded all omissions to be corrected in the new trial. “If we are striving towards the quality, the abolition of the verdicts are inevitable in order to prevent the new omissions”, Milojevic explained.

Serbian Constitution and laws unequivocally protect the independence of the judges in making their decisions, RTS recalled. Mirjana Ilic, the High Judicial Council disciplinary prosecutor, said that the judge is free and independent in his obligation to find the facts, to apply the law, etc. Nevertheless, anyone may file a complaint if find that judge is biased or intentionally temporizes the trial.

The recent release of Mihalj Kertes from prison – due to limitation of the legal proceeding – also sparkled debates.  Kertes, Customs Administration head during the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic, was indicted for abuse of authority and for transferring 120 million German marks to Cyprus banks, where the trace is lost.

From 1992 to 2000, when Milosevic regime collapsed, former FR Yugoslavia was under United Nations embargo; at a time Kertes controlled tobacco and petrol traffic which was illegal and highly lucrative. The state sponsored smuggling was the privilege of the people that were close to the regime. Milosevic`s son Marko – who now enjoys political asylum in Russia – enormously profited with monopoly he had over the “Philip Morris” products import in Yugoslavia. Delta Holding owner Miroslav Miskovic, who has been indicted in 2013 for wrongdoing with road construction companies, also took advantage of the Kertes position in 1990s.

In February 2007, Mihalj Kertes was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for providing the truck to executioners of opposition politicians in 1999.

Democratic Party (DS), the main opposition group in Serbia, accused Dragomir Milojevic that he was directly involved in the release of Kertes; DS official Vladimir Todoric said that “Milojevic is an expert for the statute of limitations”.

However, Milojevic said that he was not the member of the panel of judges in Kertes case. “I am not aware whether he was convicted or released”.

Supreme Court of Cassation judge, Vida Petrovic Skero, commented that politicians cannot use the judiciary in their campaigns ahead of elections, alluding to early general elections, which were scheduled for March 16.