No final verdict even 21 years after the murder of journalist and publisher Slavko Ćuruvija

April 15, 2020

The ban on movements as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that the anniversary of the murder of journalist and publisher Slavko Ćuruvija was this year marked in the presence of just a few representatives of the Association of Journalists of Serbia and the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia.

Representatives of these journalists’ associations, who laid wreaths on the spot where Ćuruvija was murdered on 11th April 1999, stressed that the case of his murder must still be fully investigated, as it is still lacking a genuine epilogue.

It was only 20 years after the murder of this journalist and publisher of newspapers Dnevni Telegraf and Evropjanin (Daily Telegraph and The European) that first instance verdicts convicted – to a total of 100 years imprisonment – former members of the State Security Service Radomir Marković, Milan Radonjić, Ratko Romić and Miroslav Kurak.

However, the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold or reject this first-instance verdict has been pending for more than a year, while a question that has yet to be answered is who ordered the assassination and who were the direct perpetrators of the murder.

The state of emergency imposed in Serbia resulted in the postponing until further notice of a public hearing of this appellate court scheduled for the end of March, at which appeals against the first instance verdict were to be considered.

Alongside the defendants’ defence counsel, also appealing against the verdict was the Deputy Prosecutor for Organised Crime, Milenko Mandić. The defence counsel and deputy prosecutor are both seeking a repeal of the verdict and a retrial to be held before the Special Department for Organised Crime of the High Court in Belgrade.

Ivana Stevanović, executive director of the Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, said that she was appalled by the decision of the deputy prosecutor and fears that the prosecution’s move “paves the way for the Court of Appeal to overturn the first-instance verdict”.

On the occasion of the 21st anniversary of Ćuruvija’s murder, the foundation named after him announced that this anniversary is this year being marked under the conditions of a state of emergency and limited freedoms for citizens and the media. “Unfortunately, we are also experiencing a frighteningly similar matrix of the authorities’ ruthless handling of independent journalists and media outlets. A campaign similar to the one that ended with Ćuruvija’s murder during the 1999 NATO bombardment is today being led by the most senior state officials, who accuse journalists that pose uncomfortable questions of hating their country. Accusations and intimidation from the top of the government are accompanied by the arrests of journalists, which we believed could never again happen in Serbia.”