CASTELBUONO, Sicily (CN) – Lawyers in Serbia went on strike Monday for a week to protest the weekend killing of a prominent defense lawyer who represented former President Slobodan Milosevic and mafia figures.
Authorities had made no arrests as of Monday in the killing of Dragoslav Ognjanovic, a 57-year-old lawyer who was gunned down Saturday in front of his home, a Belgrade apartment building. His son was shot in the arm, according to authorities.
Viktor Gostiljac, the president of the Serbia Bar Association, said in a statement that Ognjanovic’s killing was the latest in a number of attacks on Serbian lawyers, many of which remain unsolved.
He hoped the week-long strike by lawyers would send a “clear message of professional unity” and show that lawyers are determined to grapple with violence against them.
He did not immediately respond Monday to a message seeking comment.
Both the Serbian bar association and that of Belgrade, the nation’s capital, called on the government to find Ognjanovic’s killers.
The bar associations also want a commission set up to investigate crimes against lawyers with the aim of quickly arresting suspects. The groups said they want to send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can kill a lawyer and get away with it. The groups also said they would announce a financial reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for Ognjanovic’s death.
In the past 10 years, three lawyers have been killed in Serbia and lawyers have been the victims of about 50 attacks, the Balkan Insight news outlet reported on Monday, citing bar association officials.
Serbian media reported that Ognjanovic’s death may be linked to warring criminal gangs in Serbia and neighboring Montenegro. Ognjanovic had defended well-known crime figures in Serbia, according to news reports.
Filip Rudic, the Serbian correspondent for Balkan Insight, said Ognjanovic was the lawyer for Luka Bojovic, who was allegedly a leader of a criminal gang. Rudic added that others linked to Bojovic have been killed in recent years.
Rudic said another Belgrade lawyer who was connected to a rival gang of Bojovic’s organization, Vladimir Zrelec, was killed in December 2015 after he was shot on a Belgrade street.
Ognjanovic was also part of a team of lawyers who defended Milosevic, the former Serbian president who was put on trial in The Hague, Netherlands, for war crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Milosevic died of a heart attack in 2006 during the court proceedings.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was quoted by Serbia media as saying that police had leads in Ognjanovic’s killing and that his government would do more to deal with the “clan war over the drug market.”
Rudic, the Balkan Insight correspondent, said he did not expect the Serbian government to seriously crack down on crime groups.
“Vucic repeatedly announces a war on organised crime that never happens,” Rudic said in an email to Courthouse News. He said the Serbian government has proven to be unable to tackle organized crime groups. He said about 90 deaths have been attributed to criminal groups since 2012.