When Svecla finally remembered the presumption of innocence

Đeljalj Svećlja
FOTO: Printscreen/Fejsbuk

With the latest arrest of Kosovo Serbs come new developments in the terminology used by the Kosovo Minister of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Svecla, who often reacts on Facebook. Svecla is also the first to report and comment on the arrest of Serbs since the outbreak of the new crisis in the north of Kosovo. Regularly describing the apprehended Serbs as „criminals“, he thus „passes sentences“ on social networks although at that moment proceedings against these persons had not even been initiated. This minister also reacted after yesterday’s arrest of ethnic Serb D. M. near Gracanica. Unlike previous announcements, he employed a new term – „suspect“.

The presumption of innocence is a legal principle that dictates that any person accused of any crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

This principle is applied in legislation around the world. Even in Kosovo.

„Any person suspected or charged with a criminal offence shall be deemed innocent until his or her guilt has been established by a final judgment of the court. Doubts regarding the existence of facts relevant to the case or doubts regarding the implementation of a certain criminal law provision shall be interpreted in favor of the defendant and his or her rights under the present Code and the Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo“ – state the second and third paragraphs of Article 3 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Although it is an integral part of Kosovo legislation, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Xhelal Svecla, has repeatedly refused to adhere to this principle.

A new crisis broke out in the north of Kosovo on May 26th, after special units of the Kosovo Police forcibly entered municipal buildings in Zvecan, Leposavic and Zubin Potok.

In the days that followed, several incidents were recorded in which journalists were attacked, while on May 29th, local Serbs and members of KFOR clashed in Zvecan, resulting in dozens of injuries on both sides, while two Serbs were arrested.

Since the start of this crisis, many Pristina officials, including the Kosovo Minister of Internal Affairs, have been active on social networks, placing the blame on Serbs and official Belgrade for the escalation of the situation in the North.

„Criminal groups“, „criminals“, „fascist militia“, „gangs“, „criminal mobs“ – are some of the catchphrases used by Pristina officials on a daily basis, which are then picked up by many media outlets reporting in Albanian.

One of the latest such examples is the recent interview of Miroslav Lajcak and Gabriel Escobar for the Atlantic Council, when journalist Ilva Tara used the term „fascist militia“ on two occasions, as a phenomenon that worries the Kosovo prime minister.

The envoys, however, objected to the use of the term. Soon, new arrests took place. Ethnic Serb M.M. was arrested last Tuesday in North Mitrovica.

He was immediately identified by Svecla as „one of the leaders of the criminal group ‘Civil Protection'“.

Svecla also shared the arrested Serb’s full name in his announcement.

He also alleged that this person „is the main organizer of the attack on KFOR forces and the Kosovo Police in Zvecan“.

In the following days, three more people were arrested in the north of Kosovo for allegedly attacking journalists.

One of the most famous such examples was recorded when Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti read out 33 names of Serbs who he described as the primary organizers behind the events and criminals, four days after Serbs clashed with KFOR.

And while some citizens in the north of Kosovo, including the official Belgrade, rejected the accusations of the Pristina authorities, Svecla immediately sentenced them – all while sharing their full names.

„In the last three days, three people were arrested for brutal and criminal attacks on journalists reporting from the north of the country. These criminals, who receive orders from Belgrade for these attacks, will now face justice. We will not stop, everyone who is responsible for violence and criminal acts against journalists will be arrested,“ said Svecla.

In none of these posts, starting from June 13, until the last arrest of Serbs in the north, on June 19, Svecla did not apply the principle of presumption of innocence, that is, he failed to use the term „suspect“.

The minister, however, changed his tune yesterday, when a Serb (D.M.) was arrested in the vicinity of Gracanica, whom the Pristina authorities accuse of war crimes.

„Participants in terrible crimes during the war in Kosovo must be held accountable,“

Svecla announced yesterday afternoon, but in the very next sentence, he claimed that this person was arrested because of „suspicion“ that he committed crimes during the war.

„In his capacity as the warden of the prison in Pristina and in parallel separated from Pristina specifically in the prison in Lipljan, it is suspected that during that period, in a systematic manner, he carried out torture and inhumane violence against Albanian prisoners, in cooperation with other persons,“ once again Svecla used the word „suspicion“.

He even identified the arrested Serb as a „suspect“.

„During checks and searches today, illegal weapons were found and seized in the suspect’s apartment.“

At the end of his post, he congratulated the police for „the extraordinary work done during the investigations, as well as the arrest.“

„No matter how many years have passed, the abuse and torture committed during those years cannot go unpunished. Those responsible must be brought to justice,“ said Svecla.

Apart from the incidents and arrests, the new crisis in the north of Kosovo continues with increased inflammatory rhetoric.

The international community, on the other hand, has been calling on the parties to refrain from making unilateral moves and statements, urging them to de-escalate the situation and turn to dialogue and normalization of relations.

By Ivan Mitic

Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.