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South Slavic: June 12, 2003

12 June 2003, Volume 5, Number 16


Part III.

An interview on RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) with prominent defense lawyer Rajko Danilovic by Branka Mihajlovic.

RFE/RL: Why did it take the new authorities three years to clean house after the ouster of [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic? Two political rivals, the government and [former Yugoslav President Vojislav] Kostunica's circle, each accuse the other of plotting with criminals. Another explanation is that the government wanted a smooth transfer of power, and this was the price for a bloodless 5 October 2000.

Rajko Danilovic: The answer is not so simple. The regime of Slobodan Milosevic lasted for more than a decade, and during that time the regime established itself, developed its institutions, and became powerful and strong. It was a dictatorship that imposed its power by force and other means. To topple that regime was not an easy job.

Milosevic was defeated in the elections. The coalition was heterogeneous in terms of its parties' political orientations as well as the characters of their leaders. This is why it was not possible for crucial issues to be addressed on 6 October.

There were some chances later, especially after the elections in Serbia when some parties left the coalition government. The fight against the organized crime could have started then.

Unfortunately, the [Democratic Opposition of Serbia] DOS became divided into two political groups, one that wanted the job to be done slowly but surely, and the other that dragged its feet in the name of the rule of law. Meanwhile, Milosevic's men were still on the scene.

RFE/RL: Wasn't the real reason for the delay the fact that some people had made their peace with the former regime?

Danilovic: There were some forms of collaboration with parts of Slobodan Milosevic's repressive apparatus. I think that the DOS politicians were a bit naive in allowing some of those people to switch sides on 5 October. It seems to me that there was a plan organized by Slobodan Milosevic: cross over to their side, and we will destroy them from within.

Let me remind you that Milosevic did not leave politics after he was ousted. On 24 October, he was re-elected president of the [Socialist Party of Serbia] SPS and announced that he would take a rest first and then resume his political work.

I think that there was a backup plan to return to power. The DOS politicians were disunited, inexperienced, and careless enough to accept the offer of some parts of Milosevic's repressive apparatus to cross over to the winning side, the side of DOS.

RFE/RL: What about calls for a broad-based coalition government in the aftermath of [Serbian Prime Minister Zoran] Djindjic's murder?

Danilovic: ...It was very embarrassing to mention a coalition government only three hours after the assassination.... My reaction was cynical: what kind of government can it be with the [pro-Milosevic] Socialists, Radicals, and the Party of Serbian Unity?

RFE/RL: But was it a legitimate political option?

Danilovic: ...We are talking about the crime of assassinating the prime minister, which is a horrible thing but had already happened previously in Serbian history. The police were finally ready for a showdown with organized crime. In view of all this, I consider such a statement very careless, hasty, and very, very dangerous.

RFE/RL: During the 42 days of the state of emergency in Serbia, did you ever feel uncomfortable, fearing that it might be abused for political purposes?

Danilovic: Those who were concerned about the state of emergency were right. There was certainly an opportunity for those in power to abuse it for political ends. I'm referring specifically to charges from within DOS that Kostunica had somehow been in on the plot, which I don't believe at all.

But his national security adviser and the former head of military security were arrested. This has never been explained or brought to any sort of conclusion.

RFE/RL: What about the idea of making an analysis of reporting by the media and whether they were involved in the preparations for the assassination? Could Djindjic's critics be linked to the murder as somehow providing the intellectual justification for it?

Danilovic: That is dangerous because it is impossible to link criticism to a specific act with any certainty, even though plots and conspiracies are no strangers to Serbian politics.

RFE/RL: The name of Aleksandar Tijanic, a former Kostunica advisor, is often mentioned in that context. He wrote an open letter in protest. Is someone trying to frame him?

Danilovic: The media have published all manner of unsubstantiated accounts and alleged letters by key figures.... The freedom of the press includes accountability, too.

The media must be held responsible for their claims. One cannot write that Svetlana Raznatovic ["Ceca"] was beaten up and underwent surgery on her jaw if it is not true....

To my knowledge, violence was not used against any of those arrested. It would have been very stupid of the police to have behaved as clumsily as did their counterparts during the Broz, Rankovic, and Milosevic eras, when those detained were beaten up and forced to tell the "truth."

RFE/RL: Is Svetlana Raznatovic just a singer, or did she play an important role in the affair?

Danilovic: She is in prison and I am her attorney. We will determine what legal or criminal responsibility she has, and that is the essence of the matter for us....

As for some other people, the issue is that she personifies something of which they do not approve. But that is a matter for the sociologists and beyond my sphere of competence....