The first preparatory hearing on charges brought by three activists of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights against the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) was held today before the Third Basic Court in Belgrade.

Last year, on April 4, the three injured YIHR activists filed a private lawsuit to the Third Basic Court in Belgrade for compensation of material and non-material damages against the Serbian Progressive Party for their responsibility for organising a public event in which the activists were attacked and beaten and their vehicle was demolished. 

At the preparatory hearing, YIHR activists’ attorney presented a lawsuit with a series of data showing that they had suffered violence and that the Serbian Progressive Party had organized, sent invitations for and promoted the panel where Veselin Šljivančanin had been a guest speaker. He also submitted a recording of the statement made by Vladimir Gak, president of the municipality of Indjija and SNS member on January 18, 2017, who was also present at the panel. Another submission made by the claimant is a judgment of the European Court for Human Rights, application no. 42461/2013 of May 17, 2016, the case of Karacsnoz et al. v. Hungary, as relevant for this case because it deals with the issue of freedom of expression by carrying a banner at the public event. 

For unknown reasons SNS counsel did not receive evidentiary annexes to the lawsuit, which the court sent to SNS; hence, another preparatory hearing was scheduled and the defendant was given one-month period to respond to the lawsuit and accompanying evidentiary annexes. The preparatory hearing was rescheduled for May 10, which will be 1.5 year after the incident in Beška. Representatives of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) attended the hearing in the capacity of public. 

YIHR is concerned that the trial will not be held within a reasonable time and calls on and reminds Serbian judicial authorities that they are responsible to examine and prosecute all the responsible for violence. Courts should show their independence in cases like this one, which require examination of the responsibility of the governing party for violence that occurred because of the expression of protest, response to which were not arguments, but fists.

Photo: TV N1