8. September. 2022. | 08:50


PRESS RELEASE Regarding the verdict against Nikola Nedeljković from Belgrade



On behalf of the undersigned civil society organizations, we take this opportunity to express great concern and protest over the verdict of the Basic Court in Pristina, handed down to a student from Belgrade, Nikola Nedeljković, on September 6, 2022, for the alleged crime of "provoking ethnic hatred and intolerance". Namely, as organizations that, among other things, deal with the rule of law, we are concerned about the unequal application of law to members of different communities in Kosovo.

At the same time, respecting the independence of the judiciary, we would like to highlight several facts regarding the first-instance verdict against Nikola Nedeljković.

 

On behalf of the undersigned civil society organizations, we take this opportunity to express great concern and protest over the verdict of the Basic Court in Pristina, handed down to a student from Belgrade, Nikola Nedeljković, on September 6, 2022, for the alleged crime of "provoking ethnic hatred and intolerance". Namely, as organizations that, among other things, deal with the rule of law, we are concerned about the unequal application of law to members of different communities in Kosovo. At the same time, respecting the independence of the judiciary, we would like to highlight several facts regarding the first-instance verdict against Nikola Nedeljković.

First, the criminalization of the expression of political views, by singing or by concrete actions, is rather alarming. In this regard, singing "Kosovo is Serbia" or taking pictures with a flag showing Kosovo in Serbian colors and the message "No surrender" cannot be a criminal offense in any way, but the expression of political views, which is a universal human right guaranteed by international conventions, as well as the constitution and laws of Kosovo. Otherwise, anyone who, for instance, highlights the symbols of the Republic of Albania, writes or sings about the unification of Kosovo and Albania should be prosecuted and convicted. We are witnesses that this is a frequent occurrence in Kosovo and that no one was held accountable for such actions, not even for acts that contain an open invitation for violence against non-majority communities, primarily the Serbian one.

Second, the different judicial practice, that is discrimination on the grounds of the ethnicity or citizenship of the suspect, is concerning. In this sense, we witnessed that last year a Montenegro citizen was convicted to six months of prison for the same crime, which was replaced by a fine, while Nikola Nedeljković was sentenced to an effective prison penalty of eight months. It is also disturbing that during the testimony, at the request of the defense attorney, the judge did not allow the police officers, whose statements are the only evidence in the case, to quote in Serbian the words allegedly spoken by Nikola Nedeljković.

Finally, the fact that the trial of Nikola Nedeljković was postponed and that it took two and a half months to render a verdict, even though the indictment was filed within a few days, speaks of the discrimination of a certain part of the judicial system in Kosovo when criminal proceedings are conducted against Serbian people. In this regard, we also have to express our protest because of the inappropriately high sentence against the student, who was staying in Kosovo for the first time and has never committed any criminal offense or violation, as well as the fact that it was not taken as a mitigating circumstance.

Regarding the unreasonably high sentence and taking into account the circumstances under which the disputed case happened, we want to recall that Hadji Hoti, a candidate for NISMA deputy, after announcing on Facebook in December 2019 that the current Prime Minister of Kosovo "Albin Kurti has two options, either to leave Kosovo or to be killed”, for the same crime was sentenced to six months of probation, even though this statement was accessible to a much wider audience.[1]

Additionally, we want to recall that in the past years, members of the Assembly of Kosovo have sent numerous messages that are evident examples of inciting intolerance towards the Serbian community.

For example; "If they want an ethnic Kosovo without Serbs, then they should be kidding themselves," Daut Haradinaj said in a TV show in 2017, in which he commented on the possibility of handing over his brother, Ramush Haradinaj, to the authorities in Serbia. Despite the call of the UN to investigate threats of ethnic cleansing, these, as well as numerous other problematic statements and actions of public figures, have not yet received a judicial epilogue.

On this occasion, we call on the relevant institutions in Kosovo, as well as international organizations and missions, to do everything in their power so that the law in Kosovo is applied equally to everyone. We expect all of the above-mentioned to conduct impartial monitoring in this and similar cases, in order to ensure the rule of law in Kosovo.

Signatories:

  • Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)
  • Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
  • New Social Initiative (NSI)
  • Humanitarian Center Mitrovica
  • NGO Communication for Social development (CSD)
  • NGO Aktiv
  • NGO Gracanica Online
  • NGO Inter
  • NGO FDCM
  • Association of Business Women “Avenija”

 


[1] https://www.koha.net/kronike-e-zeze/292116/haxhi-hoti-denohet-me-6-muaj-burg-me-kusht-pasi-shkroi-se-kryeministri-kurti-mund-te-vritet/