Statement of Anita Mitić, director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights regarding the Beška Attack and Serbia Progressive Party praising a war criminal.

I’m sitting here alone today because my colleagues who were attacked are afraid for their safety and don’t want to be exposed. It is up to me to say their age: 33, 28, 26, 25, 22, 20.

Almost all of us are children of the nineties who watched their parents being beaten during the protests or mobilized to army. Violence is the surrounding we grew up in, yet hoping and believing that things will change and that our parents weren’t beaten for no reason. However, two days ago, we were the ones that got beaten. And if this continues, our children will get the same treatment. THEY ARE BEATING US AGAIN. THEY ARE BEATING YOUR CHILDREN. The same people who did that to you. This is the continuity of the same policy from the past, which is applied to those who oppose it.

The bashing and violence policy has been ruling for decades in Serbia and the current ruling party, although self-proclaimed as European and democratic, obviously uses bashing as means of reaching their political goals.

We demand from Aleksandar Vučić, as the Prime Minister, to condemn the attack on us and to put his way of leading this country into the framework of the rule of law. We, as individuals and as a society have nothing out of him being at Davos at the moment, conducting his alleged pro-European policy, if he will use methods that describe a dictatorial society in our country.

We demand from Aleksandar Vučić as the president of Serbian Progressive Party to stop the bullies from his party. We ask for the change in policy of the Serbian Progressive Party, because they use every opportunity and campaign to promote people sentenced for war crimes, because they did not stop being responsible for those crimes once they served their sentence. We demand not to give the legitimacy to violence over his political opponents. We demand European values in politics and actions, not only in statements for media in Brussels or Davos.

Serbian Progressive Party beat us, and everybody who did not defend us is their accomplice – accomplice in creating an atmosphere where violence is acceptable in politics. Perhaps we should wonder whether they’ll kill someone the next time he/she disagrees. Are we going back to times when political murders were a part of the state policy?

This may sound like an exaggerated statement. But do take into consideration that we have been warning for weeks of radicalization of nationalistic rhetoric in Serbia and saying that it inevitably leads to increase in violence. Then Beška happened.

The attack on activists is not only an attack to Youth Initiative for Human Rights but the attack to all young people who disagree with the idea of welcoming a war criminal in a state institution and giving him space to spread his ideology and values and deny war crimes.

I ask you whether it is necessary to beat us in order to draw attention to the fact that a war criminal is given space in a public institution, in organization of the party in power.

By bashing us, they bash those values we fight for, and when I say we, I don’t mean just YIHR but all those people who disagree with bashing as a way of confronting the opponents. All those people who fought for democracy and who are still fighting today, who know that a war criminal does not belong in a Cultural or Youth Center.

Minister Stefanović said that he won’t allow violence, referring to whistles and a banner with a message saying that it is needed to speak about victims of war crimes. Minister Stefanović targeted us and gave legitimacy to bashing the moment when he did not condemn the attack on us and called us fascists.

We are not fascists or hooligans. We are young people who think that we should not discuss anything with a war criminal. It is our obligation to stop praising war criminals and denying war crimes in public, ESPECIALLY by the ruling party.

We’ll be there in similar situations in future, to oppose the ideas which had lead us into the abyss once before.

You go ahead and beat us. We are ready to get beaten again in the name of Serbia where bashing is not a part of political culture, where violence is unacceptable and where murderers are not heroes.

We invite the entire public to oppose violence and to join us in this fight.