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Study on Policing in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia


A consultative document covering a wide range of policing issues in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, written by Richard Monk, Police Consultant of the OSCE Mission to FRY.


Although the majority of the Study deals with policing in general, two major conditions should be born in mind throughout. First, we speak about three structures dealing with police, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Serbia, and the Republic of Montenegro.

The second is that although the Milosevic regime has come to an end, his pursuit of personal and political ends by criminal means provided considerable opportunities for organised crime in Yugoslavia and elsewhere in the Region. Hence, organised crime and deep-rooted corruption remain a challenge to democratic institution building.

Both Republic States, during the last decade, have had to face up to economic sanctions, isolation and a gradual worsening of living standards. Both governments have chosen to turn blind eyes to or even facilitate the steady growth in the grey economy in order that its citizens survive. In both cases and to differing degrees, corruption has become endemic. Worse however, is that Statesponsored crime has flourished and the criminal entrepreneurs have become ruthless and powerful. Ruthless and wealthy criminals, that is to say members of criminal networks able to sustain and re-generate themselves, have burrowed deep into the fabric of society. In both Republics the identity of most of the major criminals is known. What is required is the evidence gathering capabilities and credible systems to convict them.

One of the greatest obstacles to regaining public trust and confidence in the civil police (Javna Bezbednost) of the Republic of Serbia, is its close proximity within the Ministry of Internal Affairs to a discredited state security force and the previous manipulation of both for the pursuit of personal private power. Members of the State Security force (Drzhavna Bezbednost) have allegedly been responsible for appalling violations of human rights and the international condemnation of their lawlessness frequently and undeservedly extend to the civil police force. The recent discovery of mass graves close to Belgrade has been accompanied by hard irrefutable evidence that large numbers of bodies were cleared from the killing fields of Kosovo and transported in refrigerated lorries to areas near the Yugoslav capital.

The fact that the respective Ministers of the Internal Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republics of Serbia and Montenegro are all committed to reform and openness is not by any means a guarantee that this will happen. Within Serbia, a corrupt residue of the previous regime is presently insinuating itself into the new institutions whilst representing themselves to be champions of democracy. These same individuals are strongly suspected of removing or destroying evidence against them – by any means. Their skilful use of the media to denounce the warnings and accusations levelled against them by the Minister of Internal Affairs, as politically motivated, is clearly intended to confuse public opinion and weaken action against them. Journalists who pursue organised criminals publicly are beginning to receive threats. One has been murdered.

The situation is no longer an issue for the Serbian Minister of Internal Affairs alone but for the entire Republican government and should be a principal focus of international engagement in the region. This imperative must be supported by strong co-ordinated programmes with international agencies including the international media. A pre-condition of any donor co-operation might therefore be to question why new laws have not been implemented and why so many high profile cases are still outstanding.

The current situation in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with regard to organised crime, the threat to the rule of law and the fragility of the major institutions of democracy means that strong commitment is necessary now, not later, to prevent Yugoslavia yielding again to major criminality rather than to the rule of law.

Because of elections and delay in the appointment of a government in Montenegro – there was no government for two months – it was only possible to conduct a formal assessment towards the end of the period of study. Nevertheless, meetings were held with the outgoing and incoming Ministers of the Internal Affairs, the Foreign Affairs Adviser to the President and with the heads of the principal police directorates. Many of the issues relating to human rights, organised crime, de-politicisation, and de-centralisation are the same.