19 December 2002, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
This is the last issue of "RFE/RL South Slavic Report" for 2002. The next issue will appear in January 2003.
IS ORGANIZED CRIME THREATENING THE FOUNDATIONS OF BALKAN STATES?
A telephone roundtable hosted by RFE/RL's Rade Radovanovic.
Mr. Pertunaj, it seems to me that you are not at all satisfied with the efforts the international community is making in the Balkan conflicts.
Whom do you consider responsible for what took place: the world, Europe -- or maybe us?
Please, let me read you an international law about the special status of the permanent members of the [United Nations] Security Council. It is written in Paragraph 60: "The basic intention of the present UN is based on the assumption that big states have the greatest armament potential and that world peace actually depends on their will and joint action. This is why big states have a special status within the Security Council, which has a broad authority for UN activities in maintaining international peace and security." There is a popular saying, "Give someone some power, and you will see what kind of man he is."
Am I wrong to think that you believe that the UN, the Security Council with its permanent members, and Europe are responsible for what happened to us?
Here are more examples. [Former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic was sent to prison, but his [political legacy] remains in the Balkans. Two states have been made out of one Bosnia, while efforts continue to make one state out of two: Montenegro and Serbia....
Mr. Pertunaj, thank you very much, but now we must return to our topic of organized crime....
First, I would like to say something about what Mr. Albanian has just told us. Milosevic was not properly punished. Since I am a Serb, he is primarily guilty for what he did to us, the Serbs, and then for what happened to other nations.
However, others are guilty, too, but they were not punished. Let us mention Albanian war criminals such as [former Kosovar guerrilla commanders] Hashim Thaci or Agim Ceku. Nor were other leaders of our former republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia punished.
The very same measures should have been applied to all of them, and all of them should have wound up in The Hague. That would have been the best possible solution.... And I think that there is more than enough evidence to show that they all deserve the same treatment....
Nobody is considered guilty until legally convicted.
The opposite rule should be applied here: They are all guilty until proven innocent. The same rule should be applied for serious fraud. It means that one-third of the Serbian population should be imprisoned in order to allow the other two-thirds to live normally. But they should not face a military-style court; their crimes should be proven with irrefutable evidence.
That is not in the spirit of democratic laws and democratic rules, but, of course, you do have the right to think the way you want. Bearing in mind that you are from Kosovo, have you had problems or personal experience with organized crime, with outlaws? I am talking about negative experience, of course.
No, I personally have had no such experience. I have never had trouble with the police....
I wanted to talk about crime in Serbia. First, some companies were swiftly privatized right after 5 October , but their management remained the same. Those directors had very broad authority, which allowed them to steal or to sign contracts to the detriment of public companies, thus redirecting public property into the hands of some individuals, i.e., into their own.
Most of them are criminals. During all those years, they learned well how to steal without leaving a trace of evidence that could incriminate them in court. However, the worst thing about it is the fact that politicians are behind them.
If politicians are behind them, do you mean the present government?
Yes. I cannot prove it, but I still think so. At the same time, ruined public companies are now being bought by people with very suspicious pasts. The same goes for the money they use to buy those companies; it was probably acquired illegally.
Experts from the Ministry of Privatization, and not only they, claim that the origins of the money are well monitored.
I wouldn't be so sure. I think that companies are being sold to members of their families or to members of their own parties....
I am dissatisfied with the situation because there are still so many wealthy people with illegally acquired property. The point is: Who was able to make so much money in Serbia? This is why I think the origins of their wealth should be looked into and property confiscated....
I absolutely agree with [former Serbian presidential candidate and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister] Miroljub Labus. I am a complete outsider in economics, but I am for nationalization and confiscation....
And our judiciary is absolutely incapable of solving a single case or problem. [It seems that someone has bought them off.] Maybe the police or even the army should be given powers to go after the criminals....
Little wonder that our diaspora refuses to invest money in Serbia. Who wants to have his house or car stolen, his daughter or son kidnapped? And the police either have no guts or are unable to solve those cases. This is why I would send helicopters and tanks against those people, and let the army arrest them.
(from Podgorica, now living in Paris): There are lots of criminal activities in our region, but certainly fewer than in Western countries....
But some less common forms of crime have appeared in our region, for instance, human trafficking, or the slave trade.... Since you live in Paris, would you even consider returning to Podgorica with your savings?
I can hardly wait to go back. I am waiting for the situation to get stabilized. If there were not so many problems, so much crime, and so much flouting of the law, many of us would have come home already....
(from Novi Sad): Good evening. Thank you for letting me talk with you again since I have already been your guest once. I thought you would never have me back because I did not agree with you then.
So you think we let only those who agree with us talk?
This way, you have really proven yourselves to be Free Europe.
So, Vlada, tell us, is there crime in Novi Sad, in Vojvodina, in Serbia? What problem could you not solve within the legal system?
Take your pick. For instance, I asked a taxi driver for a receipt, and he refused to give me not only a receipt but also the computer that I had in the car. So I called the police and said that I want to sue the driver. The policemen told me: "Don't sue him. You can't get anything that way."
Two guys were sawing something under my window, and I could not sue them, either. Citizens simply cannot fight for their rights through legal institutions. Once the state becomes based on the rule of law and we can sue, I will say, "Yes, these are our police, and I take my cap off to them." But, as long as the state is the way it is now, the police are our enemies, since the very same policemen beat us before 5 October.
Of course! They have beaten me ever since kindergarten. They called me an American, telling me, "You miserable wretch, go back where you belong!" Just because I was for Western values and against communism ever since kindergarten. This is why all the doors were closed to me, and I was beaten.
So, what you want now is another 5. October?
What is going on now simply shows that [Serbian Prime Minister Zoran] Djindjic is panicking, since he won't be in power much longer. And no amount of police will be able to save him.