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Serbian Army Removed Public Information for the Purpose of Protecting General Diković

28.04.2016

One of the allegations in the lawsuit claiming violation of the right to reputation and honour filed by the Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Army (VS), Ljubiša Diković, against the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and its founder Nataša Kandić, before the First Basic Court in Belgrade, relates to the position he held in the Yugoslav Army during 1994 and 1995. In the challenged part of the “Ljubiša Diković Dossier” produced by the HLC, it is alleged that in the period in question, General Diković was the Commander of the 16th Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army (VJ), members of which arrested Bosniak refugees from Bosnia in July 1995 and handed them over to the Bosnian Serb Army, after which some of them were killed. Diković claimed[available in Serbian] before the court that he was discharged from the position of Commander of the 16th Border Battalion on July 28th, 1994, by order of the Chief of Personal Administration.

The HLC came into possession of an excerpt from the official web page of the Serbian Army from January 2012, in which it is stated that Ljubiša Diković was the Commander of the 16th Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army in the period 1992-1996. The contents of this page, on which the HLC founded its allegations, were modified on March 1st, 2012, which was a little over a month after the publication of the “Ljubiša Diković Dossier” by the HLC on January 23rd of the same year.

On April 14th, 2016, HLC researchers found the old version of the VS web page with the help of a web-page-enabling search of the Internet’s digital archive (WayBack Machine), that is to say, the content of the former VS web page, even though this content had been modified or removed in the meantime.

During the trial, the HLC and Nataša Kandić pointed to an article published in the “Politika” daily [available in Serbian] in December 2011, in which the biography of General Diković was published and in which it was stated that he held the position of Commander of the 16th Border Battalion of the Yugoslav Army “in the period 1992-1996”. In contradiction to this, the Court accepted a document produced by the Yugoslav Army on his alleged discharge from this position on July 28th, 1994.

The fact that the web page was modified on March 1st, 2012, and that this piece of information relating to the period in which he was the Commander of the 16th Border Battalion was left out from Diković’s biography, represents a striking indicator of the intention to hide his role as the Commander of the unit whose members arrested Bosniak refugees and sent them back to the place where they would be killed. We also point out that the Republic of Serbia Ministry of Defence has refused to respond to the request filed by the HLC [available in Serbian] in accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance about who the Commander of the 16th Border Battalion in 1994 and 1995 was. The explanation given stated that the “information on the posting”, including the names of the officers and information “about the duties given according to the formation”, are kept as “secret information with the classification level Confidential”, which the HLC has also interpreted as an attempt to hide the role of Diković as the Commander of the 16th Border Battalion.

The First Basic Court in Belgrade delivered a judgment [available in Serbian] upholding the lawsuit filed by Diković against the HLC and its founder Nataša Kandić, and ordered the defendants to pay the amount of 550,000 RSD in damages for the psychological pain the Plaintiff has suffered. The HLC has attached the evidence on the removal of information from the VS web page to the appeal filed against the first instance judgment.