React Before the Crime, Not After It!

The Basic Court in Pirot issued a public announcement in which, at the end, it stated that the murder of Sanja M. could not have been prevented, despite the fact that she repeatedly reported her ex violent partner for stalking her. This public announcement of the Basic Court in Pirot sends a defeating message to all women who are surviving similar forms of family or partner related violence – that despite reporting the abuser their lives will not be saved.

In accordance to all information published thus far in media, the Autonomous Women’s Center acknowledges that the institutions in Pirot had indeed taken measures, but it is also clear that those measures were lenient and inadequate in relation to the homicide risk faced by Sanja M.

What is clearly evident from the public announcement of the Basic Court in Pirot is that the murderer, Miroslav M. was convicted in 2022 for stalking Sanja M., and fined with 100 000 dinars. The conviction was based on an Agreement of Admission of Guilt that Miroslav M. made with the Basic Public Prosecutorial Office in Pirot on May 9th 2022, and the court accepted on July 20th 2022.

If media reports are correct and Miroslav M. had in fact had a criminal record, the Autonomous Women’s Center is left wondering how well did the Basic Public Prosecutorial Office in Pirot – which manages the Group for Coordination and Cooperation which must have conducted a risk assessment of future violence – assess the victim’s safety and did it inform the now deceased Sanja M. about the agreement made with Miroslav M.? There is also the question of why the Basic Public Prosecutorial Office in Pirot didn’t require Miroslav M. in this agreement to be issued a restraining order in accordance to Article 89a of the Criminal Code.

Even thought the Law on Criminal Procedures does not contain a provision stipulating that victims have to be informed if agreements on admission of guilt are made and provided to the court, and are therefore not called to come to court when it decides whether or not to accept said agreement, it remains unknown whether the Group for Coordination and Cooperation informed the now deceased Sanja M. about the intention to make this agreement and asked her whether she believed this will protect her?

After Miroslav M. continued conducting the same criminal offence, stalking her, according to the Basic Court in Pirot the Basic Prosecutorial Office in Pirot on June 14th 2022 suggested that Miroslav M. be arrested, but the judge in charge of the previous case rejected this suggestion and instead issued a restraining order (no communication, no approaching, no meeting) in relation to the victim in accordance to Article 197 of the Criminal Proceedings Code, and instructed the Police Administration of Pirot to monitor the case inasmuch that Miroslav M. would be required to report to the Police Administration once a week.

We are left to wonder whether the judge’s decision was a consequence of a badly written prosecutorial office’s request for arrest or a personal conviction on part of the judge in relation to Miroslav M. that a more lenient measure will achieve the desired effect, despite the fact that he had this measure issued against him before and had a criminal record, as the media reported.

What is a defeating fact for the Basic Public Prosecutorial Office and the Basic Court in Pirot is the fact that even though on June 14th 2022 they requested he be arrested that request in itself didn’t annul the Admission of Guilt agreement signed on May 9th 2022, and that the judge who had decided on accepting the agreement on July 7th 2022 didn’t decide on not accepting it because the accused had continued doing the same criminal offence against the same victim.

The murder of Sanja M. could have been prevented had the court and prosecutorial office in Pirot had a real intention of protecting her, and not just to conduct themselves so as to be seen as doing something, and then issue statements about how they had taken measures and actions even though those measures were to Miroslav M.’s benefit and enabled him to murder Sanja M. in a monstrous manner.

Even thought he National Parliament didn’t adopt the Autonomous Women’s Center’s suggestion to make amendments to the Law on Judges and Law on Public Prosecutorial Offices which would classify actions, or inactions, of judges/prosecutors that lead to fatal consequences or grievous injuries, as serious disciplinary violations, the Autonomous Women’s Center still expects that the High Court Council and High Prosecutorial Council will commence disciplinary proceedings against the judges and public prosecutors in Pirot who had made it possible for Miroslav M. to murder Sanja M. through the wrong courses of action they took.

We are once again requesting that the Government of Serbia establish a National Mechanism for Monitoring and Analysis of Femicide Cases, which would be composed of an MP, one representative of each of the relevant ministries, the Ombudsman, and representatives of women’s organizations who monitor femicide cases, as well as permanent members, and heads of state institutions and bodies in regions where the femicide happened, and additionally ad hoc members so as to ensure that there are no omissions and that omissions that were made never happen again on the territory of that self-government.

In the meantime, we demand that the relevant ministries and the Republic Public Prosecutorial Office immediately conduct an internal review of measures and determine whether any omissions were made, inform the public about it and sanction those responsible. React before the crime, not after it!

For the Autonomous Women’s Center
Vanja Macanovic