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Two Bosnian fathers seek justice for their dead sons

April 14th, 2021
topic:Good Governance
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Bosnia and Herzegovina
tags:corruption, Justice for David, protest

It has been five years since Dženan Memić from Sarajevo died. He was 22. The police said it was a car accident. His father disagrees, saying it was a murder. It has been three years since David Dragičević from Banja Luka died. He was 21. The police said it was suicide. His father disagrees, saying it was a murder.

Both fathers are tired of seeking justice in a deeply corrupt country aspiring to join the European Union. It seems, however, that their persistence, supported by a good portion of the public through activism and street protests, is finally starting to pay off.

Trial marred by irregularities and controversy 

On 8 February, 2016, Dženan was taken to the hospital. He was severely injured while walking with his girlfriend, Alisa Mutap, through the Grand alley in the Ilidža neighbourhood of Sarajevo. He died a week later. Ever since his father, Muriz, struggles to discover what happened to his son. 

He is an ordinary man and seeking justice on behalf of his dead son. Against him, there is a vast and powerful police and judiciary system, heavily burdened with widespread corruption.

From its very beginning, the case had been riddled with numerous irregularities and various controversies, such as omissions in the investigation process, false information, changing of statements, disappearance of evidence and conflicting interpretations by forensic experts of the same material evidence. 

Dženan's family believes it was a homicide. His girlfriend, who is the one and only witness, claims she has experienced amnesia, and she remembers nothing. The doctor, who said there is no way the types of injuries could have occurred in a traffic accident, died before being investigated. The cantonal prosecutor’s office wavered and changed the qualification of the act three times: from car accident to murder and then back to car accident again.

A Roma family, Seferović, suddenly appeared. Allegedly, they received money for accepting the role of a scapegoat. A father and his son, Ljubo and Bekrija, admitted that they provoked a car accident that killed the young man. The broken glass also appeared suddenly as evidence. However, the court acquitted them, finding that no car accident happened at all. 

The supreme court said the same. After the cantonal prosecutor office's appellation, the supreme court announced a new trial, which remains ongoing.

A thief does not steal from another thief

Meanwhile, the state prosecutor's office took over the issue from lower instances and formed another case around organised crime and the obstruction of the investigation in the Memić trial.

That was two years ago, and seeing as nothing had happened since, many believe it is intended to be only a kind of show for the public.

Moreover, all internal investigations so far showed no human mistakes in leading this case. Ordinary people are convinced neither the prosecutor nor a police officer will blame a colleague - no matter how apparent their wrongdoings are. 

Suddenly, the State Investigation and Protection Agency arrested two persons last month: Hasan Dupovac, the former head of the Department for Traffic Investigations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Zijad Mutap, the father of Dženan's girlfriend.

"There is a reasonable suspicion that Dupovac and Mutap are part of an organised group headed by an unknown person," said the state prosecutor's office and announced the expansion of the investigation against several more people.

"This is only the beginning," Memić's attorney, Ifet Feraget, told the media.  

The unexplained death that affected Bosnia’s elections

Back in October 2018, on the eve of the parliamentary election, some 40,000 gathered in Banja Luka and staged long-lasting protests against the failure of authorities to resolve the death of student David Dragičević in March.

Nevertheless, the ruling party in the Serb dominated part of Bosnia won the polls. However, they lost the local election last November in the biggest city, partially because they have been systematically repressing the Justice for David movement for years. 

"The only progress that has happened is that the state prosecutor's office took over the case. That is the only visible result after three years and after the whole fight, which continues to this day,” activist Ozren Perduv told local media. 

”It is terrible; it is a shame for the society in which we live and the international institutions that observe all this, and the high representative who should take care of human rights,” he added. “The struggle led by the Dragičević family is not only for David, but it is also a struggle for a more normal and healthier society because this is not normal today.” 

David and Dženan's families feel their fight, which includes activism, broad media coverage, international support and street protests attended by hundreds and thousands of citizens, is getting some traction years after their losses. 

 

Image: Andres Arjona

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Author
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Protesters in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, demand justice for the unresolved deaths of Dženan Memić and David Dragičević on 30 December, 2018.
Protesters demanding justice for Memić and Dragičević in Sarajevo. “The struggle led by the Dragičević family is not only for David, but it is also a struggle for a more normal and healthier society because this is not normal today.”