R. Pocuca acquitted – court ruling will inspire even more violence against human rights defenders

December 12th 2016, Belgrade

As a reminder: the PR of the Counter Terrorist Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Radomir Pocuca, on March 25th 2014 using his Facebook profile, called on football hooligans to fight Women in Black, shortly after we commemorated 15 years of war crimes of Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanians. His call resulted in continued verbal and physical assaults against Women in Black. Legal proceedings against Pocuca lasted three years and have now been completed with his acquittal.

The acquittal of Radomir Pocuca opens up the possibility for new unhindered attacks by any violent group on civil society organizations defending human rights, organizations that remind society of the crimes committed in our name, and that fight against discrimination of marginalized groups. This ruling confirms that the deep breakdown of social values is reflected in the work of institutions, including independent bodies.

Furthermore, this ruling shows that some citizens have protected status – especially so in emergency procedures – from any type of statement that may cause “mental anguish”, while citizens who are actually under threat must prove that they are in danger in endlessly long legal proceedings, even when it is plainly evident that the heart of the matter is that someone’s inciting violence against them.

This ruling confirms that in Serbia freedom of speech exists only for those who promote hate, violence, discrimination, nationalism and militarism.

It also encourages all who are violent to act out against anyone who is different – be it due to ethnicity, sexual orientation, political opinion, and especially those who are vulnerable, who are mostly women. The ruling represents an affront to all free thinking citizens, human rights activists who advocate peace, respect of human rights and civil liberties.

Freedom of speech, as well as voicing one’s opinion, must not cover incitement to violence.

Because we reject that violence should be an everyday occurrence, we sharply protest the impunity of Pocuca’s open call for violence, discrimination, violation of other’s liberty and rights.

We will turn to all relevant international human rights organizations, and as responsible activists we will continue pressuring institutions so that they respect human rights and fulfill international commitments which Serbia has taken on – mostly as part of the EU accession process.

With political responsibility and in solidarity with Women in Black

  1. Women’s Roma Network of Banat
  2. Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Belgrade
  3. Association of Women – Sandglass, Krusevac
  4. Children’s Roma Center, Belgrade
  5. Independent Women’s Center, Dimitrovgrad
  6. SOS Line for Women and Children Victims of Violence, Vlasotince
  7. Center for Support of Women, Kikinda
  8. Roma Center for Women and Children – Daje, Belgrade
  9. Femina, Smederevska Palanka
  10. ASTRA, Belgrade
  11. SOS Women’s Center, Novi Sad
  12. Alternative Center for Girls, Krusevac
  13. Zrenjanin Educational Center, Zrenjanin
  14. Impuls, Tutin
  15. ...Out of Circle – Vojvodina, Novi Sad
  16. NGO Women’s Alternative, Sombor
  17. Autonomous Women’s Center, Belgrade