Three Months Since The Killing of Oliver Ivanovic: Who Did It and Who Gave The Order?

It’s been exactly three months since the murder of Oliver Ivanovic. He was shot six times in the back on January 16 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. The other court procedure – against Oliver Ivanovic himself – has been suspended. He spent three and a half years in custody, then he 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 the 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 fiasco. Oliver Ivanovic was buried in the Citizens of Merits Alley in Belgrade, while there were no commemoration sessions held in North Mitrovica or other northern municipalities. He was the most prominent Serb politician from Kosovo since 1999.

„You will see, we will find the murderer”

Months before the killing

Private vehicles of Oliver Ivanović and Dragiša Milović, who were at  the time running for mayoral elections in North Mitrovica and Zvecan respectively, were set on fire last summer. The Municipal Assembly candidates from Ivanovic’s electioral list had withdrawn from it even before the CEC officially confirmed the lists with almost identical press releases, emphasizing that they were “misled” and convinced that only Srpska List was the right one.

In his own words, there was no room for Oliver Ivanovic in the course of the election campaign and after the elections in the media that Belgrade and local authorities had influence over editorial policy. Local TV MOST published an article titled “Is Ivanovic Negotiating Occupation of Northern Kosovo With KFOR and Pristina?“, as well as video clips clearly marking Oliver Ivanovic as an enemy of the Serbian people and its state. The same clips were also aired in primetime on TV PINK.

Portraying Oliver Ivanovic as a negative person, with the use of harsh words, was led by the ruling  Srpska List, while on the eve of the Kosovo local elections the Office for KiM Head, Marko Djuric conveyed to Serb voters that “a vote in favor of Ivanovic is a vote against Serbian people’s interests”.

„Therefore Oliver can lie and ‘throw dust’ into the eyes of the people and media in Belgrade, presenting himself as some sort of a victim, an intellectual, a patriot… He is very well aware he cannot do it here in Mitrovica. His fellow citizens know him all too well and they will send him to political history on October 22. Here in Kosovo and Metohija at least. So he might find his political luck in Belgrade maybe, where most of his family lives. At least his formal one”, the Srpska List stated in one of the press releases issued before the local elections in Kosovo, which was signed “to be continued…”

Oliver Ivanović is a „marginalized person“ and „unimportant“, as well as those who “keep asking him his opinion”. But Ivanović is „fantasizing“ of his own greatness and is “begging for allowance and support” from those that northern Kosovo and Metohija “poked the eyes”. Ivanović is „slandering his own state“. A „pathological self-affection” of Oliver Ivanović. „Anxiously attempting to draw public attention“. He is building his program on „paranoid beliefs that he has been threatened and that Srpska List has conspired against him and his ambitions“ – used to claim at the time the Srpska List Chief and North Mitrovica Mayor, Goran Rakić.

Nonetheless, North Mitrovica Mayor, after Oliver Ivanović was killed, conveyed to the public that a shot against Oliver Ivanović was „a shot against all of us fighting for Kosovska Mitrovica”.

„We will not tolerate empty promises of how institutions are doing everything in their power,“ Rakić stated decisively:

„This was a shot in every Serb who did not want to leave their home. A cowardly assault that ended his life has deeply shaken all Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija and it demands a most urgent reaction from all security services. Only a couple of days after the U.S. Department of State announced possible terrorist attacks in northern Kosovo and Metohija, such a crime happened, so I wonder how come that no one took seriously such announcements and acted towards preventing this from occurring? I demand that Kosovo Police together with EULEX and KFOR uncover the perpetrators of this criminal act as soon as possible, and to grant security to citizens as bound by their mission goals. I do not want to prejudge anything, but I deeply believe that responsibility for such an event lies with those who were accusing Oliver Ivanovic for crimes without any proof in the past few years. I use this opportunity to express my deepest condolences to Ivanovic’s family over their tragic loss.“

On number of occasions the Serbian President had announced information on the murder and those with deadlines. On the day of the killing he said: „You’ll see, we will find the killer, in case those who have to find them fail to do so”.

I hope the killers will be apprehended too

„We want for the investigation to move faster and we want to get results at the soonest opportunity. We already have a picture of what might have happened, but I will refrain from speaking officially, let’s wait. But I am hopeful and express my hope that the killers will be apprehended”, spoke later the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić.

Serbian security services in fifteen days to address on Ivanovic’s murder

And mid-March:

„Our services will address you in fifteen days regarding the issue of Oliver Ivanović. I didn’t want to speak of it today, so someone would not say I misuse a two-month-long tragedy and so on. The services will speak of it in two weeks time, of what they have learned, and what they cannot find out and so on. I don’t think many will be much surprised, but those who knew whom to blame up front will”.

Interesting to compare data

And again on March 31:

„…I will not accept that you know who killed Oliver Ivanović, since it is written in the newspapers you like to read. If you know that, then go and report it to the authorities in charge, and not ‘toss’ it around just like that so if it works, it works, since it will be interesting to see closure in this case, based on evidence. Since our bodies conduct an investigation, it will be interesting to compare the data and it will be very interesting to see which course both will take.”

All the announced deadlines have expired.

And the Serbian Minister of Interior, Nebojša Stefanović claims that “nothing serious is happening with the investigation in the killing of Oliver Ivanović“ as well as that he has “serious doubts” that this case will be solved by the Kosovo investigation bodies.

„The truth will come out although it will be painful for someone”

Similar silence regarding concrete information is in Pristina too, except for statements from the top officials, the same as in Belgrade.

„The investigation of the murder of Oliver Ivanović continues. For the time being, there are no indications that could allude to an ethnically motivated case, but the first information point towards criminal, mafia-style motives. We will cooperate with Serbian authorities in order to obtain appropriate information. The truth will come out, no matter how painful it could be for someone”, stated Hashim Thaci in February.

„Before the court has its final word, everything gets sentenced”

„Something strange is happening around here, that even before the court says someone is guilty, the sentence is already made. Everywhere in Balkans. We have to leave it to the professionals. Of course they are working on it”, Ramush Haradinaj was convincing recently in an interview for the Belgrade-based O2 TV channel.

North Mitrovica, Pristina, Gracanica, Nis, Krusevac… Graffiti with the image of Oliver Ivanovic appeared

Not time to talk about investigation

“The only thing I can say at the moment is that the case file on the murder of Oliver Ivanović is with us, but the time is not right to talk on the course of investigation”, stated in March for Belgrade-based daily DANAS the Special Prosecution Office Chief Prosecutor, Reshat Milaku.

Two investigations, mutual finger pointing – current public results. Ivanovic’s murder was topped by other topics ‘of national interest’ on both sides.

Ivanović kept warning, escorted from North Mitrovica with mourning and citizens standing by the road 

Ivanović’s associates and some Serb politicians from KiM claimed repeatedly in public that Oliver Ivanović had informed the authorities and institutions in charge in Belgrade, as well as the international administration in KiM, and Embassies that his safety was in jeopardy.

In spite the fact that for over six months Oliver Ivanović was demonized politically and publicly through the media, a river of people in rows on both sides of the road, in silence and mourning, 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 Ivanović was the most prominent Serb leader in KiM 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 was advocating for dialogue, cooperation and democratic values.

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