Radar: Captured police force

NEWS 21.06.202412:41
Shutterstock/ V.Dr

Excessive political influence on operative police work undermines the autonomy of the police and obstructs the fight against corruption and organized crime. A captured police force hampers criminal investigations in politically sensitive cases, it intimidates, assaults, and retaliates against police officers with integrity, the weekly Radar said in its latest issue.

Since 2022, Serbia has seen three changes in government and three heads of the Security Intelligence Agency (BIA), yet the chief of police position remains vacant. During this time, Bratislav Gasic and Aleksandar Vulin swapped places as director of the BIA and Minister of Internal Affairs, with neither requiring the support of a competent and accountable police director in what were nominally the priorities of all previous governments—fighting corruption and organized crime. Admittedly, Gasic did express a desire for this position to be filled, but in his own way, thus he tried to alter the legal criteria for selecting the police chief, Radar said.

However, no criteria are outlined for the director of the BIA—neither expertise, scientific background, professional experience, proven integrity, nor non-affiliation with a political party. Security service personnel are vetted, they cannot be members of political parties, and must act “in accordance with the rules of the profession, impartially and politically neutrally,” but none of these requirements explicitly apply to the Agency’s director. This was a good enough legal loophole to allow high-ranking party officials to slip into the top echelons of the BIA, following which they were kind enough to “freeze” their party membership during their term in office, said the weekly.

The government appoints and dismisses the BIA director at its discretion, consulting the Council for National Security. The Council comprises members of the government, directors of security services, the chief of the general staff, and the president of the Republic, who convenes and presides over its sessions. The actual decision-making authority was highlighted in a statement by the president of the Republic, claiming the council had “given consent” for the appointment of Serbian Progressive Party senior official and MP Vladimir Orlic as head of the country’s most important security and intelligence service. Thus, the President preempted the government, interpreting the provision of (non-binding) opinion as giving consent.