Three months since the mass murders: Shameful reactions and shameless words

By Branislav Grković

Nothing has been the same in Serbia since that fateful day on May 3rd in Serbia, except for one thing – the government continued to deny that it was responsible, even morally, for anything bad that happened in the country.

In less than 24 hours, two unforgettable tragedies happened. Two mass murders – one in the Vladislav Ribnikar Elementary School, the other in the village near Mladenovac. A total of nineteen victims lost their lives.

A lot has been said in the past three months. Even in the first few hours after the first tragedy, it was clear that it might have been better if everyone had kept quiet.

The tabloids were flooded with information about the number of children killed in the school until the police finally announced the official number of victims a few hours late.

At the first press conference after the murder in Vladislav Ribnikar school, Branko Ružić, now the former Minister of Education, blamed “Western values” for the tragedy.

At the same conference, Belgrade Police Chief Veselin Milić showed a photo of the hit list compiled by the juvenile killer, with the names of children he intended to kill. The Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade announced only yesterday that it informed the police’s Internal Control Service that Milić’s actions did not contain elements of any criminal offence under the Prosecutor’s Office jurisdiction, but did instruct the police to contact the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office and check with them.

Ružić, who is now an adviser to the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ivica Dačić, with a significantly higher salary, resigned under public pressure and was seen lighting a candle in front of Vladislav Ribnikar school, unlike his government peers.

And while people lit candles and laid flowers in front of Vladislav Ribnikar school, Mayor Aleksandar Šapić, nowhere to be seen a few days after the tragedy, organized a counter-commemoration in front of the City Assembly. What the citizens of Belgrade thought of this was shown by very poor attendance.

System “didn’t fail”

On the day of the first mass murder, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić addressed the nation in the afternoon. He had, as he explained, intended to speak about Kosovo and Metohija. Still, here, a massive, incomprehensible murder took place, all the more incomprehensible for him because the Vladislav Ribinikar school is attended by “children of wealthy parents” and the killer himself is from a well-to-do family. However, he quickly saw that such rhetoric was wrong, so he gave up on highlighting the wealth of children’s parents.

The very next day, after the second mass murder, he appeared in front of the media with the thesis that “that was an act of terrorism” as if what happened in itself was not terrible enough. And he quickly backpedalled on that too.

As it turns out, the murderer from Mladenovac had several criminal and misdemeanour charges, which were later mentioned by Interior Minister Bratislav Gašić.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić declared that the system “did not fail” and she will remain consistent with that statement, repeating it countless times during the extraordinary session of the Serbian Parliament scheduled at the request of the opposition parties.

The prime minister is also among those politician who did not light a candle and lay flowers in memory of the victims. As she explained, “unlike some other political actors”, she did not want to “politicize” the situation.

Vučić’s incognito visit to Vladislav Ribnikar School

Three weeks after the mass murder at the school and after public criticism that it was disrespectful that the President of the Republic did not go to the scene of the crime to at least light a candle, Aleksandar Vučić had a guest appearance at an RTS news programme, informing the public that he made an incognito visit to the school, signed in the book of mourning, but that the public was not informed about it. He did not reveal when exactly did he do this and nobody knows the exact day of his visit to date.

As a politician who basks in media light, strangely enough, there was no media record of his visit to  Vladislav Ribnikar School.

“I was in Ribnikar. There is no need to apologize to anyone,” Vučić explained.

On the same day of his guest appearance on RTS, it was announced that he visited the victims’ families in the villages of Dubona and Mala Orašje near Mladenovac. Also, no cameras accompanied him. Only one photo was published, unlike the visit to Vladislav Ribnikar School. Naturally, so all of this raised the question of whether the president really visited the school where one student killed nine students and a school guard. Photos of the president signing the book of mourning were subsequently published.

Murders like reality shows

After the very long session of the Serbian National Parliament, at which many insults were hurled among MPs, an Inquiry Commission was formed, which was supposed to determine the facts that led to two mass murders in early May and therefore determine who should be held responsible. The Commission was suspended a few days after it was established.

The National Parliament Speaker, Vladimir Orlić, accepted the request of the victims’ families and their lawyers to suspend the Inquiry Commission.

In the families’ petition, which the Danas daily had access to, it is pointed out that the signatories are unanimous in the opinion that there is a justified fear that the Inquiry Commission could jeopardize the further unhindered conduct of the prosecutor’s investigation and criminal proceedings because the facts and evidence that were important for the conduct of the proceedings could be made public before the trial.

“The whole life of society has been turned into the worse ever reality show, where the top state officials and all citizens are participants. In such a society, even unimaginable crimes are treated as reality shows. And that is terrifying!” Momir Turudić wrote in his article “Protests and Reactions: Life as a Reality Show”, published one month after two mass murders.

Not much has changed three months after the murders. It’s just that everything got a little bit quieter because of the summer.”

(Vreme, 03.08.2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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