One year has passed since the murder of Kosovar Serb politician Oliver Ivanović, without his killers being brought to justice.To commemorate his loss, relatives, friends and colleagues gathered in North Mitrovica in front of his party headquarters, where he was killed in a drive by shooting on 16 January 2018.
While neither the gunmen nor the people who ordered his death have yet been identified, the investigation into Ivanović’s murder have so far pointed in the direction of his own Kosovo Serb community. So far, three suspects have been arrested following a raid by the special units of the Kosovar police in North Mitrovica on 23 November. Two policemen, Dragiša Marković and Nedjelko Spasojević, were detained, as was Marko Rosić, a member of the local Partizan Belgrade football fan club.
At the beginning of January the Pristina Court of Appeal extended the duration of the precautionary custody until 23 February for the three Kosovar Serbs. High on the the list of suspects, however, is Milan Radoičić, a Kosovar-Serb businessman and vice-president of Srpska Lista, the main Serbian political party in Kosovo, which is closely allied with the Serbian government.
Unlike the other three suspects, Radoičić managed to avoid arrest by taking refuge in Serbia. In an interview with Balkan Insight a few months before his murder, Oliver Ivanović mentioned Radoičić as a central figure in the informal system of power that holds real control over Serbian majority Kosovar municipalities.
In the interview, Ivanović also expressed concern that Radoičić was seen in Belgrade as a patriot fighting for the survival of the Serbs in Kosovo. Indeed, Ivanović had long been on a collision course with the Belgrade government, denouncing the threats that had been directed at him and other Kosovar Serb politicians who dared break ranks with Srpska Lista in the run up to Kosovo’s local elections in 2017.
Meanwhile, President Aleksandar Vučić has voiced his support for Radoičić, asserting on his behalf, that he played no part in the murder of Ivanović. The Serbian government has also failed to process Kosovo’s extradition warrant for Radoičić, arguing that he would not receive a fair trial and his life would be endangered if he were extradited back to Kosovo.
Belgrade’s refusal to extradite Radoičić has further damaged relations between Serbia and Kosovo, which at the time of Ivanovic’s murder had been undergoing a process of EU-brokered normalisation to bring an end to the bitterness that ensued in the wake of Kosovo’s breakaway from Belgrade in 2008.
As the investigation goes on, a number of critical voices have arisen in Serbian and Kosovar civil society demanding that those responsible be brought to justice. The climate is particularly tense in Belgrade, where following an attack on opposition politician Borko Stefanović there have been several protests in recent weeks, under the slogan “1 of 5 million” – a reference to a comment made by Vučić that he would not listen to the protesters’ requests even if there were five million of them.
The demonstrators, who voice a growing discontent over the autocratic governing style of the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić have repeatedly stressed the need to shed light on the assassination of Ivanović and on the relations between Vučić and Radoičić.
What the protests seem to suggest is a strong desire among civil society to find out the truth behind the Ivanović case as soon as possible. In this regard, Ivanović’s memory will live on in the consciences of those who want ensure that the region can move beyond its bloody past.