Unconscionable investigation of journalists’ abductions – A new punishment of victims

Source/Author: UNS, Jelena L. Petković
Source/Photo: Photo: Pixabay

BELGRADE, 20.12.2017. – By investigating the kidnapping of Djuro Slavuj, a journalist of Radio Pristina who was kidnapped on August 21, 1998 with his colleague Ranko Perenić, the Journalists’ Association of Serbia found that in the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) database that keeps DNA the material of missing family members, samples the relatives of Djuro Slavuj are under the wrong surname. 

In the ICMP they say that “the family has been registered under the surname of Slavulj,” but the family denied that to the UNS Dossiers claiming they provided blood samples at three different locations, following a call, with the exact surname: first brother, then sister, and then the mother, who received the call in Croatia, and whose health was permanently damaged when she faced the fact DNA samples were determined by the identity of those killed.

* All families gave their DNA

During this research, and in conversations with many international officials in Kosovo, including EULEX Chief Alexandra Papadopoulou, we were told many times that the reason why the fate of our four abducted colleagues is unknown is because the families did not give their DNA samples. The UNS confirmed in its research that the families of all of the abducted colleagues (Slavuj, Perenić, as well as the families of Marjan Melonasi and Ljubomir Knežević) gave blood samples, which can be checked even with the International Commission on Missing Persons.

The Slavuj family, who was expelled from their native Dvor na Uni in the action “Storm – Oluja,” and their youngest son Djuro went to Pristina to save his life, for 19 years did not get any official information about how he disappeared.

Instead of an answer they experienced unpleasantness. And now, when the Perenić family received a notice from EULEX that the investigation was closed in 2013, there is still no information about the fate of Djuro Slavuj. If there was an investigation of this abduction, then there is a question for the EU mission in Kosovo why the prosecution or the police never contacted Perenić and Slavuj families.

The stresses, traumas and humiliations that they have suffered due to the failure to enforce the rule of law are evidence of violations of the fundamental articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. No one is responsible for that.

Humiliations in search for the truth

– On that day, Djuro was on the task to which he went to with Ranko, with a single voice recorder, a diary, and a pen. They were people without weapons and with no intention of committing any evil. They went to follow the information about the return of the monks to the monastery of Zociste, and they did not have any connection with the army or politics. It was a primarily human mission, ending in a man going to work and his disappearance. A step forward could be made even today, only a good will is needed. A step forward can be made by UNMIK, other international and other institutions in Kosovo, because it is easy to determine which unit was present on that the day in Orahovac – Velika Hoca, and who were their superiors, says in his testimony for the UNS Dossiers Pero Slavuj, brother of Djuro Slavuj.

After the news of the disappearance, the first organization to which the Slavuj family referred to in 1998 was the Commissariat for Refugees, which was headed by Bratislava Buba Morina at the time.

– I was not enthusiastic about the effort they invested, nor did I mind that, maybe it was no longer possible. I am annoyed with other organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and UNHCR. Once, when I came to them in Belgrade from Jagodina to see if they found out anything, I experienced unpleasantry. The official welcomed me with – “Oh, it is good that you came, do you have any new information?” It is just killing common sense, Pero Slavuj points out.

 The refugees’ Golghota 

About his brother’s life and his choice of journalism as a profession, Pero says that since his childhood, he was eager to learn.

– He wanted to go to school, although still too young for that. Since I was two years older, we agreed that I would leave at home a notebook or a book, so that he could come to school and bring it to me. So he could then stay to follow the lessons. He was an excellent student, and he had a preference for art. He studied history and geography in Zagreb, and began to work with journalism.

After unfortunate events of 1991, he returned to the village of Gvozdansko, and in this tense situation he was trying to be rational, to calm people when they are driven by war. In Dvor na Uni, a local “Radio Banija” was established, and Djuro has progressed rapidly there. With the arrival of the “Storm,” I went to Jagodina, my sister to Beska, and Djuro and his wife Sofia to Pristina. The politics of the then government was to get as many refugees as possible to Kosovo, says Pero Slavuj.

“Do not be afraid, everything is fine”

Very soon Djuro Slavuj got a job in Radio Pristina.

– Like all refugees, it was important for them to preserve their mere life. He did not think about the danger, he was not a nationalist. He lived in the hotel Bozur, full of refugees. At that time, I still did not exercise my rights as an invalid of war, so Djuro helped my family. He did not think about leaving Pristina. He quickly progressed to the job, and gained the trust of the collective, recalls Pero Slavuj.

In a conversation with the UNS Dossier, he underlines that two days before the kidnapping, he invited his brother to come to Jagodina.

– When we heard each other on the 19th, I urged them to come. He confidently answered, “Do not be afraid, everything is fine.” And then, on August 23, I accidentally switched my TV to 15:00 o’clock news, and the first thing I heard on RTS is that he is missing. I was crazy. They helped me in the local self-government in Jagodina, they let me use the phone for free. I called everyone who I thought could help. Djuro’s colleague, Andjelko Markovic and I went to Kosovo. We did not have contact with the Albanian side, but it is clear to everyone that the international factors had.

The mother died, and father would like to know, even if he could tell her in the afterlife what happened to Djuro.  No dilemma that he is no longer among the living.  But the truth could be found out, to find his remains and to give him a dignified burial. The responsibility lies with direct and indirect perpetrators, and those who are not trying to solve this and similar cases further inflict the pain.

Walker knew

– A drowning person will grab for the straw. In our search we even attempted to hire private detective agencies. And William Walker, then Head of the OSCE Observer Mission in Kosovo, was familiar with this case. Djuro did not harm anyone in Kosovo or anywhere were he lived with his 30 and something years, says Pero Slavuj.

A thank to the UNS

– I want to thank the Association of Journalists of Serbia, both here and in Kosovo, as you did not forget about Djuro, and because you put a memorial plate every year on the place where he disappeared. You are the only one that remembers. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to come to the anniversary of the abduction because I am in a poor state of health and cannot travel, says Pero Slavuj. The memorial plate, which the members of the Association re-renew and post, was broken for already five times.