(IN)JUSTICE OF THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
The article was originally published in Serbian newspaper 'NIN' by author Aleksandar Jinker, President of the Jewish Community in Belgrade (JCB).
Rights and property of the Jewish Community endangered by a small group of profiteers, while the state administration remains silent.
While the competent authorities are refusing to register a new president of JCB in the Registry of Churches and Religious Communities for more than 60 days, though obliged by the law and Constitution to do it, a deposed president, Danilo Medić, is publishing the advertisements on sale of the property taken away from the victims of the Holocaust.
The situation in the local Jewish Community is not calming down. On the contrary. On one side are the Jews of Serbia defending themselves by the Constitution - you can see how far it has gone - and they have submitted to the Ministry of Justice the complete documentation on the elections, otherwise unquestioned by the later; on the other side is the same Ministry lingering to register a new president of the Jewish Community in Belgrade into the Registry of Churches and Religious Communities. By that registration a former president would be finally removed from a post of the Community’s leader. Why is the Ministry avoiding Constitutional provisions instead of applying and defending them on every occasion?
There are more and more members considering that it is a gross violation of the law and the Constitution of Serbia. A fact causing the additional worries - Is Serbia following Poland in relation to its Jewish Community? Lingering of the Ministry to recognize the decisions of the management bodies of the local Jewish Community (in this case it has been refusing to recognize the decisions made by two assemblies of the Jewish Community in Belgrade) is appearing as the intention of imposing the management bodies to the Jewish Community from outside and of putting this religious-national community under absolute control of the others. It is not necessary to be especially clairvoyant to conclude that it is about the most serious violation of the Jewish rights in Serbia in the area of the national, religious and civil rights.
Two electoral assemblies of the Jewish Community in Belgrade have been called ‘the criminal gatherings’ in some means of public information implying the conclusion that the participants of these two assemblies are criminals?! The same media have refused to revoke such claims at the request of the representatives of the several hundred of the participants of the assembly electoral procedures under the excuse that they will do it only after Ministry of Justice ‘recognizes’ new management elected at the assemblies.
And you can imagine, Ministry of Justice has refused again to recognize the results of the elections and to register into Registry a new president of the Community elected by the will of Jews, not by the will of Ministry! Does this interconnection of the attitudes towards property returned to the Jewish Community and problems of the local Jews refer to something? Obviously, someone is not for it and someone is trying hard to leave it as it is opposing therefore to the very Constitution!
Last few months the unlawful activities of some important parts of the state administration by supporting the deposed management of JCB are more and more obvious. Why and who is scrambling for the legacy based on the bones of the killed Jews?
Last few months the unlawful activities of some important parts of the state administration against the rights of the majority of the Jews in Serbia are more and more obvious. First of all, it can be seen in supporting a small group of the members of the Jewish Community in Belgrade connected to some structures in the state administration for whom it is not suitable to have the management bodies elected at the assemblies registered. Whom does it suit to manage in that way the properties returned in the process of restitution belonging to the Jews killed during the Holocaust who are without live successors today?
The process of collecting and spending the means gained from the properties returned in the process of restitution is more than blurred as being confirmed both by the report of the Auditing Agency and supervisory state body. A small group consisting of the former management of JCB does not allow the auditors to have insight into the management of the properties gained by restitution though it was strictly prescribed by the law. Besides, the Ministry of Justice shuts its eyes to that problem in spite of several contacts with the members of the Jewish Community.
Mentioned problems are most present in the Jewish Community in Belgrade which gathers some 60% of all the Jews of Serbia. People in the Community state that they are aware that in this case the Ministry of Justice imposes double standards by giving the rights to a small group from the Jewish Community to manage all its capacities opposite to the great majority of members bringing the later into disenfranchised position by its unlawful activities. The comparisons to the position of the Serbian community in Kosovo can be heard in the Community in relation to the government of the temporary institutions governing the southern province and wishing to subordinate all the elements and all the rights of the Serbian institutions.
Role of the Ministry of Justice is not to arbitrate but only to register the will of the members of the Jewish Community. Instead of fulfilling its legal obligation, it figures out the legal tricks and requires the approval of the deposed management to accept to be dismissed.
Refusing to register the elected management and president of the Jewish Community in Belgrade into Registry of Churches and Religious Communities represents a serious violation of the legal and Constitutional stipulations according to which the national and religious organizations are guaranteed the right of the autonomous regulation of its internal relations without pressure and participation of the state administration. At least it is so in the European Union to which we tend to approach as much as possible through the fulfillment of the provisions of Chapter 23. However, it seems that nobody in the Ministry of Justice has read the requests of Chapter 23 as they are preventing the Belgrade Jews from autonomous arranging the ways of organizing their community and managing their property but forcing them to accept the management the members have already revoked by the decisions adopted at the electoral assembly. Apart from deprivation of the mentioned rights, the outcome is making the results realized by restitution senseless.
Thereby the role of the Ministry of Justice is not to arbitrate but only to register the will of the members of the community. As an excuse for nonfulfillment of its legal obligations, this state body mentions various reasons and legal tricks, including an absurd one according to which the approval of the deposed management is requested for its dismissal!
Is Serbia following Poland’s path and does the Ministry of Justice intend, by its refusal to recognize the decisions of the assembly of the JCB, to impose the management bodies to the Jewish Community from outside and to put it under the absolute control of the others?
An epilogue of such actions of the Ministry of Justice is that Danilo Medić has started to sell the property of the Jewish Community in Belgrade though no alienation of Community’s property is allowed by its Statute - unless the Community Assembly makes such a decision! The proof is an advertisement published in ‘Večernje novosti (Evening news)’ on 3 June 2019 by which the deposed president of the Community, with a tacit consent of the Ministry of Justice, breaches the legal terms of the Jewish Community in Serbia (Art. 14 of the Statute of JCB and point 5 of the Decision of the Alliance of the Jewish Communities of Serbia of 1 July 2018), also violating the provisions of the Law on Returning of the Confiscated Property and the Law on Eliminating of the Consequences of the Holocaust. Did Medić so directly jeopardize the image and interests of Serbia?
The Jewish Community of Serbia is in disbelief as it does not know what to expect in the future. It is likely that this case will move the conscience of the numerous citizens of Serbia with whom the Jews have always lived in close relations. At present, a leading role is in the hands of a small group of profiteers who are withdrawing whomever they can into their dishonest activities. The Ministry of Justice is shutting its eyes to these facts and torture itself by thinking how to continue to refuse the electoral will of the Jews.
Does anyone here think about the fact that a disgrace made in a short time might not be corrected in decades? Not to mention the moral and material damage.
Throughout history, the Jews and the Serbs have been always on the same side of suffering and creation. Today, though decimated, the Jewish Community of Serbia is an important factor and a reliable partner for the global integrations, economic investments and cultural networking of Serbia. Only by respecting the electoral will of the Jews, Serbia remains consistent with its historical heritage and declared aims.