Opening the secret service files will be a challenging task for the new Serbian government, experts say.
By Biljana Pekusic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 05/06/12
Serbian citizens were able to view their state security files in 2002 and 2003. [Reuters]
To fulfill the requirements for the upcoming EU accession chapter, the Serbian government must implement security services reform. The European Parliament (EP) recommended in March that the country strengthen parliamentary oversight and control over security services, and requested that the national archives be made public -- especially secret files from the former Yugoslav era.
Despite the suggestions from Brussels, during the recent parliamentary and presidential election campaign in Serbia, security services reform was not mentioned among the future government's priorities.
"Resistance to opening the secret archives in Serbia and other former Yugoslav countries exists because doing so would likely reveal the role of the state security services in the 1990s armed conflict," Jelena Milic, director of the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS), told SETimes.
She added that the question of opening the files is linked to political killings, crimes in Kosovo and civilian sacrifices during the NATO alliance air strikes, which up to now the government avoided addressing.
"Because they were not dissolved at the time, the secret services of the former Yugoslav countries, and individuals in the secret services, were and still are the main culprits of organised crime in the Balkans," Zoran Dragisic, Belgrade Faculty of Security professor, told SETimes.
Outgoing Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac, from the ministry that also covers the Military Security Agency and the Defence Intelligence Agency, said, however, that despite the anticipation, opening the files will not bring solutions.
"The opening of the secret files is a sensitive issue, and we should put an end to the past," Sutanovac told TV B92.
Another reason the government is avoiding opening the files is that they may reveal people who took part in unlawful actions during the1990s conflicts of the former Yugoslavia, and who are still working in the defence sectors and the police, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) said.
"Opening the files is the least we owe to the Serbian citizens. It was a major promise of the democratic opposition of Serbia that overturned Slobodan Milosevic's regime," SPO deputy Aleksandar Jugovic told SETimes.
SPO President Vuk Draskovic has been the victim of two assassination attempts, organised by the Serbian secret services. In 2004 and in 2010, the SPO proposed a law to open the security service files, but the proposal never reached the general assembly agenda.
Serbian citizens were able to view their state security files in 2002 and 2003, when a government decree allowed it. At the time, about 8,000 people requested to view files from the archives. But only 380 citizens did so.
"I think the files will never be opened, not those relating to the events in Kosovo," Sonja Biserko, director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, told SETimes.
The CEAS is asking the future government to immediately propose a bill to open the archives, and is calling on all politicians in Serbia to publicly present their arguments for and against the action.
"We think it would be a serious step in the right direction to continue establishing democratic control over the security sector, its comprehensive reform, the deviation from the nature and methodology of the Milosevic regime, and the administration of justice for its victims," Milic said.