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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



AI: Croatian police tortured asylum-seekers, pushed them back to Bosnia

June 11, 2020

According to an Amnesty International (AI) report published on Thursday, Croatian police “tortured” a group of migrants seeking asylum on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

AI spoke with six of the 16 Pakistani and Afghan asylum-seekers who said that Croatian police caught them in the night between May 26 and May 27 near Lake Plitvice.

The migrants said they were “bound, brutally beaten and tortured by officers who mocked their injuries and smeared food on their bleeding heads to humiliate them.”

The organisation said it spoke to doctors who treated the migrants and to NGOs that witnessed the injuries.

“Ten men suffered serious injuries that night. Thirty-year-old Tariq now has both of his arms and a leg in a cast, visible cuts and bruises on his head and face and is suffering from severe chest pain,” AI said.

Croatia’s Interior Ministry dismissed the allegations, but according to AI, “the testimonies of violence and intimidation fit the trend of unlawful pushbacks taking place not only on the Croatian but also on other external borders of the European Union.”

“The European Union can no longer remain silent and wilfully ignore the violence and abuses by Croatian police on its external borders. Their silence is allowing, and even encouraging, the perpetrators of this abuse to continue without consequences,” said the Deputy Director AI’s Europe Office, Massimo Moratti.

He urged the European Commission to “investigate the latest reports of horrifying police violence against migrants and asylum-seekers.”

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a440285/AI-Croatian-police-abuses-and-tortured-asylum-seekers.html

Vucic: Serbia maintains ties with West, China and Russia

June 11, 2020

Belgrade wants to keep balancing its ties with the West, China and Russia as it seeks to join the European Union and reach a settlement with Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told the Reuters news agency on Thursday.

Vucic said Serbia was ready to talk to Pristina “without a timeline” and “in good faith”, but added that mutual recognition was not on the agenda. “We are ready for talks but ... no white flag,” he said. “The dialogue is welcome if it is a dialogue ... in which it can be seen what is possible, what is a compromise,” the president added.

“We believe it is in the best interest of (Kosovo) Albanians and the international community ... to talk about a free flow of capital, people and services,” Vucic said

The Serbian President said Belgrade did not plan to choose between Russia, a natural Slavic and Orthodox Christian ally; the EU, Serbia’s main trading partner; and China. “We have ... our own agenda ... one chair, not two ... How could we say ‘Long live Hong Kong and long live Taiwan’ and then expect Chinese support for our territorial integrity (with Kosovo) ... not to mention that they are our friends who have helped us,” Vucic said.

Vucic described himself as a “Euro-realist,” adding that EU membership remains Serbia’s stratregic goal: “Apart from joint values ... 67% of our trade exchange is with the EU.”

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a609060/Vucic-Serbia-maintains-ties-with-West-China-and-Russia.html

European Commission says Serbia needs to step up reforms in key areas

June 11, 2020

Serbia needs to accelerate reforms in the key areas of judicial independence, the fight against corruption, media freedom, the domestic handling of war crimes and the fight against organised crime, The European Commission said in a non-paper that N1 had access to.

It warned that there has been no progress in the constitutional reform process which is on hold until after the June 21 parliamentary elections. “The constitutional reform process needs to be continued in a transparent and inclusive manner as soon as possible, including by preparing the required implementing legislation,” the document said.  

It said that the Law on the financing of political activities needs to be further amended to fully comply with all recommendations of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).  

The document added that the introduction of special anti-corruption sections in the Higher Prosecutors Office is starting to yield results but has not had a tangible impact on high-level corruption cases.  

The adoption of legislation on the Ombudsman, anti-discrimination, gender equality, and juvenile offenders is seriously delayed, the document said.  

It expressed concern over threats and violence against journalists as well as for the overall environment for the exercise of freedom of expression without hindrance which, it added, needs to be further strengthened, including in practice. “Transparency of media ownership and of allocation of public funds, especially at local level, also needs to improve,” it said.  

Serbia has taken some steps to combat terrorism and money laundering but the fight against organized crime needs to show better results and a more pro-active approach in financial investigations and asset confiscation, the document said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608980/European-Commission-says-Serbia-needs-to-step-up-reforms-in-key-areas.html

Kosovo PM says EU, US have complementary roles in dialogue

June 11, 2020

Kosovo Prime Minister Avdulah Hoti told Radio Free Europe that the European Union and United States have complementary roles in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

He said that Kosovo needs full EU support and a strong US commitment to reach and implement an agreement with Serbia. “Key EU member states are paying great attention to the dialogue and it’s important that Washington is focused on closing the open questions between Kosovo and Serbia,” he said.  

Former Prime Minister and Vetevendosje (self-determination) Movement leader Albin Kurti refused Hoti’s invitation to a meeting to discuss the dialogue with Serbia, party spokesman Arlind Manjuka said.

Hoti recalled that his government revoked the reciprocal trade measures imposed by Albin Kurti’s cabinet. We are entering into the dialogue process with a clear idea of its principles and goals. “I do not have a mandate to discuss Kosovo’s territorial integrity, he said and added that Kosovo’s compromise is agreeing to sit at the table to normalize relations. According to Hoti, Serbia’s interest is to normalize relations with Kosovo as soon as possible and to sign an agreement which includes mutual recognition.    

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608958/Kosovo-PM-says-EU-US-have-complementary-roles-in-dialogue.html

Croatia reports no new Covid-19 cases since Wednesday

June 11, 2020

Over the past 24 hours there have been no new Covid-19 cases in Croatia, the national civil protection authority said on Thursday, adding that the number of cases since the start of the epidemic total 2,249.

To date, 69,606 people have been tested, including 257 in the last 24 hours. Seven patients are hospitalized and none are on a ventilator.

The number of patients who have recovered totals 2,132, including two in the last 24 hours. Of that figure, 828 have recovered in hospital and 1,311 at home.

The death toll stands at 106.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608966/Croatia-reports-no-new-Covid-19-cases-since-Wednesday.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: One death, 71 new cases

June 11, 2020

The Serbian Health Care Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin on Thursday that one person had died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total to 252.

It said that 4,932 people had been tested in that period, including 71 who tested positive, bringing the total number of registered cases to 12,102. The total number of people tested to date stands at 291,996.  

The bulletin said that there are 488 active cases, including 14 on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608906/Coronavirus-UPDATE-One-death-71-new-cases.html

US State Department notes religion-related incidents in annual report

June 11, 2020

The US State Department 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, which was presented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, noted several incidents of violence and intolerance in Serbia.

It said that some religious groups, which are not required to register with the government, reported difficulties with property, bank accounts and other business while the Jehovah’s Witnesses reported verbal threats, physical assaults and inadequate response by the police and prosecutors as well as death threats by an off-duty Gendarmerie officer in Belgrade and obstruction by local authorities.  

“Smaller groups, mainly Protestant churches, said they encountered public distrust and misunderstanding and said members of the public frequently branded their religious groups as “sects,” which has a very strong negative connotation in the Serbian language,” it said and added that anti-Semitic literature was available in some bookstores.  

“The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) did not act to resolve contested religious registration claims by different Jewish groups, which Jewish leaders said contributed to an ongoing rift in the community,” the report said.  

The section of the report on Kosovo said that the Kosovo Protestant Evangelical Church (KPEC) complained that local authorities did not treat religious organizations equally on property issues, including in the granting of building permits and allocation of burial space in public cemeteries. “KPEC and others also stated the Kosovo Islamic Community (BIK) held contracts to run many municipal cemeteries and discriminated against minority religious groups in the allocation of burial plots and provision of services and discrimination against practicing Muslims,” it added.  

It said that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) reported violations of its property rights by the government, including refusal to implement a three-year-old court decision to recognize its ownership of land around the Visoki Decani Monastery and.  

The Kosovo police reported 61 religiously motivated incidents, most targeting religious sites, including cemeteries, in the first nine months of the year, many of them linked to ethnicity as well as religion.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608797/US-State-Department-releases-Religious-Freedom-report.html

KRIK reporter harassed for taking picture of president’s son

June 11, 2020

A reporter with the KRIK investigative journalism portal had her mobile phone taken away when she took a picture of the Serbian President’s son Danilo Vucic in the company of an alleged criminal figure.

The KRIK portal said that reporter Bojana Pavlovic’s phone was grabbed from her hands by an unidentified man when she took the picture of the younger Vucic and Aleksandar Vidojevic, a member of the FC Partizan supporter group Janjicari and alleged member of the Kavacki clan organized crime group. The phone was returned to her after a short verbal exchange with the unidentified man Vidojevic ordered him to return the phone.  

Both of Serbia’s main journalist organizations (the NUNS and UNS) demanded an investigation into who grabbed the KRIK reporter’s phone from her and called the Internal Affairs Ministry to protect her from any further harm.

The portal said that there were police present but did not react and called the Internal Affairs Ministry to determine who the man was.

Pavlovic was told by a KRIK reader that Danilo Vucic and Vidojevic were in a central Belgrade café watching the Red Star – Partizan football match. She took the picture standing on the street outside the café and was stopped as she left by three men who said they were there in an official capacity. Pavlovic produced her press card and was told that a police patrol would arrive to arrest her. The men demanded that she delete the pictures before the phone was grabbed from her hands. Vidojevic walked up and told them to give back the phone. He told Pavlovic that the KRIK stories about him were putting him in danger for his life.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608777/KRIK-reporter-harassed-for-taking-picture-of-president-s-son.html

Sarajevo Canton MP explains how "assembly votes are being sold"

June 10, 2020

An independent lawmaker in the assembly of the Sarajevo Canton, Damir Niksic, told N1 on Wednesday that votes in the assembly are being sold and that he has figured out how - it is done slowly, not at once.

"It’s not done explicitly,” he said, adding that he wondered for a long time how the alleged trade with votes was being done.

“Nobody has ever approached me with a suitcase with half a million, a million or a million and a half in it. What’s a million if you will gain power thanks to it,” he said.

The procedure is completely different, he said.

“You sacrifice yourself for a politician, you do something for him, maybe you sit in jail for a while, but they do not pay you right away,” Niksic said.

“They find you a job, there are various options, and then for years you earn 15,000 (Bosnian Marks) a month and once you have earned a million, they say, we gave it to you,” he said.

“I thought you get a million and a half and then you get a vacation in Hawaii…” he said jokingly, adding that “time will tell who will be taken care of and how.”

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a440022/Sarajevo-Canton-MP-explains-how-assembly-votes-are-being-sold.html

Dodik to attend Moscow Victory Day Parade at Putin's invitation

June 10, 2020

Bosnian Serb leader and member of the State tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, will travel to Moscow on June 24 to attend the Victory Day Parade at an invitation of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Srna news agency reported on Wednesday.

Traditionally, the event was taking place on May 9, but this year it has been rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia's Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Petr Ivantsov, who was informed about the Presidency member's attendance by Dodik himself in their recent meeting, explained that June 24 was chosen as another date because Moscow's Red Square hosted the historic victory parade in 1945 on that date, led by Soviet Union Marshals Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky.

More than 64,000 soldiers will take part in the parade.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439836/Dodik-to-attend-Moscow-Victory-Day-Parade-at-Putin-s-invitation.html

Ex Defence Minister: We used to have a complete consensus on NATO in Bosnia

June 10, 2020

Obstructions of Bosnia’s efforts to join NATO that are coming from Bosnia’s Serb-majority region are the result of various forms of foreign influences, former Defence Minister and university professor, Selmo Cikotic, told N1 on Wednesday.

Cikotic said that before 2010 there was a consensus in Bosnia over the country’s future in NATO but that the same Bosnian Serb party that advocated it then is now opposing membership.  

NATO has given Bosnia three conditions for eventual membership: to destroy its surplus ammunition and arms, to increase its participation in peace operations and to register all military property as ownership of the state.  

The latter has been obstructed by the Bosnian Serb representatives for years.  

Bosnia’s Constitutional Court has ruled in favour of the state's appeal against decisions of the Supreme Court of the country’s semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) region which rejected an attempt to register a military warehouse in Trebinje under the state. Nevertheless, top RS officials have been saying the registration will not happen.  

But registering all military facilities within Bosnia to the state is one of the conditions NATO has put forward for the country to activate its Membership Action Plan (MAP) - something Bosnian Serb representatives, especially those from the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), have been trying to prevent.  

Cikotic said that has not always been the case and the SNSD and their leader, who is now one of the members of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, were on board with Bosnia’s NATO accession.  

“We had a complete consensus on all of these issues. Back then, Dodik vocally advocated for NATO as an important security framework needed for overall internal democratic development, especially for economic development,” Cikotic said.  

Then, the Bosnian Serb leader changed course.

“We must understand that obstructions of this goal started in the years after that,” Cikotic said, stressing that a consensus on the matter was present at a time when there was an SNSD representative in the Presidency and when they were part of the majority in Bosnia’s Parliament and “dominated in representing Republika Srpska in state institutions.”  

“Problems emerged later, as they did for many other internal issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have a presence of various international actors who encouraged representatives of Republika Srpska to stop Bosnia’s progress by obstructing this activity,” he said.  

Cikotic stressed that such foreign influence is present in many forms.  

“There is presence and influence coming from Russia and Serbia in a more or less direct way and we could argue that there were different forms of activities before the 1990s, during the decade and after it,” he said. 

“You could look at it from the perspective of geopolitics and use of force to resolve certain questions,” he explained, but argued that it would be a lot better if those issues would be resolved in a civilised manner and if agreements reached earlier would be respected as the alternative is “very problematic and hardly foreseeable.”  

“The Rule of Law is the substance of the legal and constitutional order of a state. So, decisions of constitutional courts in all states where there is rule of law represent a basis. Not all the decisions of Bosnia’s Constitutional Court have been implemented,” he said.  

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439990/Ex-Defence-Minister-We-used-to-have-a-complete-consensus-on-NATO-in-Bosnia.html

Croatia reports two new Covid-19 cases

June 10, 2020

The national civil protection authority on Wednesday reported two new COVID-19 cases in Croatia, bringing the total to date to 2,249.

Over the past 24 hours, 234 persons have been tested. Seven patients are currently hospitalised, none of them on a ventilator.

The number of people who have recovered to date is 2,130 and the death toll is 106.        

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a439966/Croatia-reports-two-new-Covid-19-cases.html

Coronavirus cases spike in Bosnia with 53 positive tests in one day

June 10, 2020

Bosnia's both regions, the Federation (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS) region have recorded a new surge in coronavirus infections with both parts of the country reporting more than 20 new cases each over the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total to 2,775. The country has also seen one more fatality and the country's death toll now stands at 161.

According to Bosnia's Civil Affairs Ministry, of 2,775 confirmed patients 2,063 have recovered to date – 1,082 in RS and 965 in the FBiH.

Brcko District, a separate administrative unit in the north of the country has seen 20 confirmed Covid-19 patients, of which 16 recovered and four died.

Of 229 lab test performed over the last 24 hours, the RS healthcare authorities recorded 27 new patients.

The total of 1,082 patients has recovered in the region (69.05%), while 117 have died as a result of Covid-19.

FBiH healthcare authorities have reported 26 new Covid-19 patients. So far 965 patients have recovered and 40 died.

According to official data provided by the Civil Affairs Ministry on a daily basis, the total of 73,379 coronavirus tests has been performed since the epidemic outbreak.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608573/Coronavirus-cases-spike-in-Bosnia-with-53-positive-tests-in-one-day.html

Seven more coronavirus deaths in North Macedonia

June 10, 2020

North Macedonia Health Care Minister Venko Filipce said on Wednesday that seven more people had died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours.

The minister said in a Facebook post that 125 new cases had been reported, adding that there are 1,536 new cases including 203 patients in hospital eight of who are on ventilators.

He wrote that the number of COVID-19 deaths stands at 164 with the number of diagnosed cases at 3,364 and the number of patients who recovered at 1,664.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608555/Seven-more-coronavirus-deaths-in-North-Macedonia.html

Coronavirus UPDATE: One death, 66 new cases

June 10, 2020

The Serbian Health Care Ministry said in its daily 3:00 pm bulletin that one more person had died of coronavirus-related ailments over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 251.

The bulletin said that 5,015 people had been tested since the previous bulletin, including 66 who tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. A total of 12,031 number of cases have been confirmed to date and 287,064 people have been tested.

There are 432 active cases, including 14 patients on ventilators.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a608567/Coronavirus-UPDATE-One-death-66-new-cases.html

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