Three years ago, prominent pro-family intellectuals launched a public campaign and prevented the introduction of the “educational package” in schools, which was based on LGBT propaganda. But then, the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, Brankica Janković, resorted to targeted attacks at four renowned intellectuals: Branislav Filipović, PhD and Branislav Ristivojević, PhD, both university professors; publicist (and iFamNews contributor) Vladimir Dimitrijević, PhD; and myself, Director of the Institute for European Studies, who was designated as an LGBT discriminator. Charges were filed in court against all three of the former individuals as well.
On 20 July 2020, the Supreme Court of Cassation made a very important decision in the case of Commissioner Brankica Janković vs. Branislav Ristivojević. The decision of the judicial panel, chaired by Justice Vesna Popović, denied the appeal for the revision of the earlier decision by the Novi Sad Court of Appeals. Instead, the court fully confirmed the earlier decision of the Court of Appeals, where the Commissioner had filed charges against Professor Ristivojević for an article published as part of the public debate on the draft law on domestic violence. [The Appeals Court found in favor of Professor Ristivojević – Ed.] By the way, everything that Professor Ristivojević and myself warned would happen if that law were adopted has happened, and most importantly domestic violence has not decreased in the least, while the number of filed charges and reports, as well as divorced marriages, has increased drastically.
This extremely important and brave final decision becomes binding precedent and restores confidence in the Serbian judiciary. The decision confirms the finding of the Court of Appeals and insists in particular on the importance of Article 46 of the Serbian Constitution and Article 10, paragraph 1 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The decision reminds us that: “A democratic society also implies the freedom to express a value judgement. Otherwise, there would not be a true democracy… if we restricted the right of any person to express their value judgement about a phenomenon, legal text, etc., we would bring into question both democracy and the main principles of tolerance for our cohabitation and cooperation.” The court very clearly states that in his article Professor Ristivojević expressed his own critical value judgement about the draft law, as well as about the improper behaviour of certain members of the LGBT population during the gay pride, and that it is quite obvious in the context of the article that his intention was not to offend or discriminate against anyone. On a side note, Professor Ristivojević is currently Dean of the Faculty of Law and, just like the author of this article, he really is in a position to exercise discrimination in terms of taking on staff, accepting students, etc. – if he wanted to. Naturally, neither he nor I would ever do such a thing, and this can be easily verified. This underscores the fact that the Commissioner’s true intention was to banish critical thinking, and not to suppress discrimination.
This court decision is indeed worthy of a careful read. Among other things, it establishes that the petitioner (i.e. the office of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality) exerted pressure on the court by claiming that the decision of the Court of Appeals must not remain part of Serbia’s jurisprudence. I must reiterate that on several occasions we claimed – and, as it turned out, justifiably so – that Ms. Janković abuses the office she holds and persecutes public personages (mostly persons with PhDs and prominent pro-family advocates) in a manner contrary to the Constitution and the law, in an effort to intimidate and prevent them from taking part in public debates and scientific work. And in the case against Professor Ristivojević, that is exactly what Janković demanded: that he should be forbidden to express views on these issues for a certain period of time! In the opinion in which she designated me as an LGBT discriminator because of my article in the Politika daily, she was so reckless to openly write that she is punishing me because my article halted the introduction of the vital educational package that would supposedly have helped combat domestic violence! Let me remind you that the purpose of this “educational package” had nothing to do with combating domestic violence; rather it was outright propaganda of “atypical sexual behaviour,” which is why the Minister had to put a stop to the whole project.
The consequences of such a decision in any ordered country would have to be the following: the Commissioner should publicly apologize to Professor Ristivojević for the damage inflicted; discontinue all identical ongoing procedures, such as the case against Professor Vladimir Dimitrijević; and offer a public apology to me for the damage she has inflicted on me. Moreover, after this landmark decision, which quite clearly establishes and defends the freedom of expression in Serbia, it has become evident that the policy which the Commissioner has pursued as the head of her institution is based in a particular ideology and is in contravention of law; therefore Ms. Janković should either step down from her office, or be replaced by the new parliament after its formation.
Freedom of speech, as an individual right, is the foundational element of democracy and the rule of law, and it has now been affirmed and defended in Serbia’s constitutional and legal system – at least for the time being.
Yet, the best illustration of the times we live in is the fact that this person, who jeopardizes the legal order in such a manner and actually discriminates and persecutes those with a different opinion, is now being mentioned as a candidate for the new Justice Minister!