Jasmina Tešanović: Hope for Serbia

It's a historic day for the nation that currently
calls itself Serbia.
Today the special court for war crimes in Belgrade
declared the
assassins of Zoran Djindjic guilty.

The killers of our late prime minister Zoran Djindjic
(1952 – 2003)
are guilty of first case murder, guilty of attempting
to kill
democracy and
destroy the dignity of a country. All of the notorious
Zemun Gang —
those accused in the courtroom, anyway — got
between 30 and 40
years of prison
from tough-minded judge Nata Masarevic. This means a
life sentence
for them,
practically speaking. The guilty parties abandoned
court room in anger and defiance, together with their
numerous relatives and political supporters.

In front of the court the Zemun gangsters made violent
and created incidents with the press while waiting for
the jury and
other VIPs to clear the area. There was also a
street presence from various local political parties
and NGOs, some
with banners
saying IT IS NOT YET OVER… Because they are looking
for the
unknown parties
who gave the orders to Zemun group, who are the
organized crime wing
of the
local secret police.

In the gallery of the court, the current president of
Serbia, Boris
sat together with some other members of the late prime
famous government.
The Djindjic government lasted only two years, but
those were the
first, last and
only days of a true break with the criminal past of

The crowd kept me from reaching the gallery of the
I was supposed to sit there as a member of the NGO
Women in Black,
but the usual police officer there grimly recognized
me and my gay
He forbade us to join the VIPs and shuffled us off to
sit with the
family and
friends of the accused. So the two of us settled in
right behind the backs of the murderers.

When the sentence was announced, anguished shrieks
from their party, some mothers of the accused started
and despairing… My friend said calmly: finally today
feel human again.

These pop-stars of the local criminal scene were let
down by
whomever guaranteed them political protection in a
future where they could continue to live above and
beyond the law. It
the secret police used the underworld and sold them
down the river —
a tactic almost identical to the one they used to take

This heavy sentence is in stark contrast to the
relatively light
received two months ago by the Scorpion
paramilitaries, who were
responsible for genocide in Bosnia.
One might cynically conclude that the Scorpions were
let off the hook
because they were killing Muslim civilians in Bosnia
instead of
Serbian politicians
in Belgrade.

There is satisfaction in this for the much-beleaguered
forces of Serbian democracy, who were further
traumatized recently
by the spectacle of a Radical in power in Parliament,
burningly eager
to launch a
State of Emergency. While the judge was uttering the
first sentence
among many for a host of crimes — the first sentence
gave only a
couple of years to the accused — I felt near panic.
I thought:
that's it, they are setting the assassins free among
us … And after
she finally summed the grim total of the sentences,
for a dizzying
host of
Zemun crimes against the very basis of Serbian law and
order, I
panicked again.
How could such things actually happen? This
has become the common reaction among citizens in
we've been bully trained to expect the worst-case
The entire polity has become a traumatized survivor of

The Zemun killers gave a host of swaggering patriotic
speeches, all about ridding Serbia of a traitor who
was selling
his country to the West while expatriating the true
Serbian heros to the Hague international war crime
tribunal. The Zemun gang were definitely Djindjic's
but it's hard to believe that these tattooed louts had
initiative to boldly eliminate a head of state.

death of
Djindjic was the
Serbian equivalent of a Kennedy assassination, and we
just about as likely to get to the full truth about

The lawyer of the widow of Djindjic is satisfied,
though not
entirely. He wants more of the background, a record
of the
painful political pressures that the court went
through during
the present government.

The woman judge who brought this trial to its
conclusion today,
after four epic years, received death threats, just
like the
first judge, who was badgered into quitting the case.

With the trial over and prison doors clanging shut, we
both bewildered and relieved. It is the crossroads
for Serbia today,
the first and only
solemn act of public justice in the new Serbia. Nobody
knows if other
such acts will follow.

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Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

Stelarc in Ritopek
Sarajevo Mon Amour

Killing Journalists

Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide

Carnival of Ruritania
"Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
Faking Bombings
Dispatch from Amsterdam
Where are your Americans now?

Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
Slaughter in the Monastery

Mermaid's Trail

A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague

Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties

Floods and Bombs

Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women 
– Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral