The Serbian Bar Association and the Bar Association of Belgrade is on a week-long strike in response to the killing of prominent criminal defence lawyer Dragoslav Mise Ognjanovic. The associations said they ‘wanted to ‘send a message of the profession’s unity and its firm resolve not to stay silent in cases like this.’
Risks for lawyers
The associations said the strike was intended to ‘draw the public’s attention to the risk that lawyers in Serbia face each day in the performance of their professional work, which is aimed at protecting basic human rights and freedoms and ensuring the functioning of justice.’ They stated, ‘this protest demands that competent state authorities immediately put in place all available resources to solve this crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.’ The statement then explained, ‘this killing is only the latest in a series of attacks on lawyers, many of which have remained unsolved,’ and said they will offer a cash award to anyone with credible information leading to the indictment against the perpetrators of the murder. During the strike, lawyers will not attend court hearings or pre-trial meetings with prosecutors.
Mr Ognjanovic was part of the legal team that defended Slobodan Milosevic at the UN tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where he was tried for war crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Mr Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006 before the end of the court proceedings. Mr Ognjanovic, who has also defended well-known crime figures in Serbia, was shot near his Belgrade apartment on Saturday. Serbian media has speculated the killing might have been the latest in a series of Mafia-style executions in an ongoing criminal gang war in Serbia and neighboring Montenegro.