„We are speechless at what happened to Oliver, perhaps even more so with some of the other matters that have come out afterwards. We are not the ones to judge, however. It is God, as the only one who will judge,“ were the sole, loudly spoken words of the murdered Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic’s sister Natasa Ivanovic-Ilic at his six-month memorial tribute gathering in Belgrade.
Silence fell on the Alley of Meritorious Citizens at the New Cemetery on Saturday, as well as the world outside which has remained silent for the past six months. What the two investigations being conducted in both Pristina and Belgrade have reached so far remains untold.
„We have no information. Nobody talks to us about the issue. Although I regularly emphasize – I do not expect the details of the investigation to be given to us, but at least to be given a hint or to be made familiar with the current course of the ongoing investigations. It seems to me that there are results though. However, these results for some reason are not finalized. The investigation is not coming to an end. I am afraid that the pre-trial procedure will never be completed,“ said Oliver’s brother Miroslav Ivanovic, a judge with the Kosovo court now.
It hurts him that the family has found itself in a political and media crossfire between the two sides, he said.
While commenting on Kosovo President Hashim Thaci’s statement that the outcome of the investigation will „hurt someone“, Ivanovic said:
„I understood it that the one who had said it knew perfectly well who the perpetrators were and where everything had been planned. It only bothers me because I would expect that the first regular step would be for someone to report it to the authorities who should act in that regard.“
Although being a judge, Ivanovic’s brother is not an optimist about the truth been revealed:
„I do not think it will come to that either. It will simply remain as such and it will serve for a continuing political back-and-forth fight to create some political points but hurt us as a family also.“
Oliver’s son, Zarko Ivanovic, says the family is still in disbelief, even six months later.
„It is difficult for us to accept reality. He had supported us entirely. He was the embodiment of energy, our pillar. Regardless of everything, he’s still with us, his words and thoughts are here. That’s how it will stay. I know that us, the children, were the most important to my father, „said Zarko Ivanovic, in a separate conversation after the ceremony.
Kosovo Serbian writer and journalist Zivojin Rakocevic, said that justice has died every single day in the past six months but not Oliver Ivanovic.
„It does not die inside just us but inside the community – whether it is Belgrade, Kosovska Mitrovica, or some Gorani village. And the community says – If such a man could be killed with no trace left of those who ordered and did it – what would then be for us?“ he said, adding:
„This silence in the cemetery is actually just a sign of how far we are away from justice.“
Rakocević believes that an international investigative team should be launched as soon as possible.
Not known whether the day of murder is worse or this thunderous silence
The Serbian Minister of Trade and Telecommunications, Rasim Ljajic used to be close friend of Oliver Ivanovic. He attended yesterday’s ceremony as well.
„I do not know if he was a better man or a politician, a man who devoted his entire life to the ideas he believed in and for which he fought for the rest of his life. And as his sister said, it is not known whether it was worse the day when everything happened, or what is happening now – this thunderous silence about the murder and the entirely unexplained circumstances,“ he said.
The Minister is also skeptical about the current investigations:
„Not only that the investigation has no epilogue, but absolutely no information is available, on even a millimeter of the investigation that is been conducted – if it is been conducted at all. But everybody is mistaken that all of us gathered here – his friends, will ever quit asking for answers to questions that we shall constantly pose on why this case has no epilogue and what actually happened on January 16th.“
„When the living ones envied the dead“
The Kosovo Serbian female politician and university professor Rada Trajkovic, who raised questions about the role of „centers of power in the North,“ and the role of Milan Radoicic, the Srpska Lista Vice President at present, through a series of public addresses, also attended the ceremony in Belgrade.
She said that she had only one thought while on her way to Oliver’s grave: „There are the times when the living ones envy the dead.“
„Oliver is, unfortunately, at the cemetery, while those whom I believe participated, they have entered officially the cabinets as negotiators, they are legalized. The one who was loved the most slowly remains lonely, and this is something that has entirely defeated me.“
Oliver Ivanovic was shot six times in the back on January 16th early in the morning on his way to work, in front of his party premises in North Mitrovica. Almost two months later, the investigation was transferred to the Special Prosecution Office of Kosovo due to the complexity of the case. Still, to this date, those who gave the order and those who did it have not been discovered. There are no suspects, or a court procedure.
On a number of occasions both the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci have announced information on the murder and committed to deadlines but to date this has not taken place. The two sides, however, often accuse each other.
The other court procedure – against Oliver Ivanovic himself – has been suspended. He spent three and a half years in custody, and was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment for war crimes. He managed to get out on a bail and defend himself before the Kosovo and EULEX judges and prosecutors, repeatedly claiming together with his defense lawyers that it was “a staged political procedure”.
The Serbian public shared his opinion, as well as international representatives who knew him personally and whom he had cooperated with for nearly 20 years. The prosecution witnesses, Kosovo Albanians, did not incriminate him and shook hands with him during the trial. At the retrial, the defense lawyers and Ivanovic announced the indictment as a fiasco.
Ivanović’s associates and some Kosovo Serb politicians claimed repeatedly in public that Oliver Ivanović had informed the authorities and institutions in charge in Belgrade, Pristina, as well as international administrations and Embassies that his safety was in jeopardy.
In spite of the fact that for over six months Oliver Ivanović was demonized politically and publicly through the Serb media, believed to be controlled by chief Kosovo Serb political party, Srpska Lista, upon his decision to run Kosovo elections, a river of people in rows on both sides of the road, stood in silence and mourning, and escorted the casket to Belgrade. Oliver Ivanović’s assassination sparked a chain of reactions and condemnations in Belgrade, Pristina, the region and the world.
Oliver Ivanovic was buried in the Alley of Citizens of Merits in Belgrade, while there were no commemoration sessions held in North Mitrovica or any other northern municipalities.
Oliver Ivanović was the most prominent Kosovo Serb leader since 1999. He played a key role in 1999 and the first half of 2000’s in, as the Serbian public sees it, the defense of the city from violent attempts from Albanian extremists from the south. He was known to be courageous, but a moderate and pragmatic politician. He advocated for dialogue, cooperation and democratic values.
He is survived by his children, sons – Nikola, Zarko, Janko and Bogdan, and a daughter Kiara.
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