Serbia ended capital punishment in 2002, but a recent heinous crime, the likes of which is seldom heard of in a small country like Serbia, has some calling for its reinstatement.
News broke on Aug. 7, 2014, that the suspected murderer of 15-year-old Tijana Jurić from Bajmok near Subotica in northern Serbia had been arrested. The man who police say left Jurić's loved ones and the country in shock is 34-year-old Dragan Djurić, a butcher from Surčin, a suburban municipality of Belgrade.
Tijana Jurić disappeared in the late hours of July 25, 2014, and was reported missing almost immediately by family members. Thanks to the residents of her village, Subotica authorities, and web users, Jurić's smiling face was soon plastered across social networks, news sites and blogs throughout Serbia and the region. There was suspicion that she may have been abducted and taken across the border into Hungary or another neighboring country and the authorities of several countries became involved in the search.
The entire country watched and waited, fearing the worst and hoping for the best. When the news hit in the early hours of Aug. 7 of Djurić's arrest, everyone was paying attention. The subsequent police interrogation yielded a confession from Djurić, who led police to where he had buried Jurić's body.
Since some of the facts of the crime have become known to the public, a fierce discussion has developed and spread across social networks, blogs, and on the streets of Serbia. A seemingly large portion of the public are calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty for this crime. Several online petitions have been started asking for the reinstatement of the death penalty and, within just 12 hours, at least one had almost 4,500 signatures, while Serbian tabloid Kurir claims that over 28,000 people were asking for the lynching of the killer on Facebook.
What may have fueled such public outrage, other than the terrifying details of the crime itself, was a public statement by Serbian Minister of Interior Nebojša Stefanović at a press conference on the morning of Aug. 7, at which he also made the arrest and some details of the crime public. Stefanović was quoted as saying:
Moj lični sud, lični osećaj, jeste da mi je zbog ovakvog krivičnog dela, zbog ovavog monstruma žao što je Srbija ukinula smrtnu kaznu, možda naše društvo nije bilo spremno za sve tekovine EU, kao što je ukidanje smrtne kazne
My personal judgement, personal feeling, is that I am sorry for this crime, for such a monster, that Serbia banned the death penalty, perhaps our society was not prepared for all of the facets of the EU, such as the banning of the death penalty
Serbia is currently in negotiations to join the European Union, which bans capital punishment.
While there are certainly people who agreed with the minister, many social media users were disgusted by his statement and by those who are calling for the lynching of the accused murderer, despite their outrage for the murder itself. Popular Serbian satirical news site Njuz.net co-founder Marko Dražić was among those who publicly commented on Facebook about the minister's statement and deemed it inappropriate:
Ministar policije dr Nebojša Stefanović izjavio je da mu je zbog ovakvog monstruma žao što je Srbija ukinula smrtnu kaznu i da naše društvo možda nije spremno za sve tekovine EU. Sledeće što bi mogao da uradi jeste da ostavi komentar na Blicovom sajtu kako bi ga obesio za muda na Terazijama ili sekao na komade.
Police Minister Dr. Nebojša Stefanović stated that he is sorry because of this monster that Serbia banned the death penalty and that our society isn't ready for all of the facets of the EU. The next thing he could do is to leave a comment on [Serbian daily] Blic's website about how he would hang him [the murderer] by the balls on Terazije square or cut him up into pieces.
A popular Serbian blogger who goes by the name of Bjuti Dingospo also publicly commented on Facebook about Stefanović's claims, citing facts about crime rates in both Serbia and several EU countries that contradict the minister's insinuation that the Serbian people are not ready for EU accession:
Видим, опет је у моди сиротињска забава бр. 2: поновно увођење смртне казне.
Поред тога што то неће допринети никаквој превенцији било чега, самим тим је и нецивилизовано и варварски. [...]
Уосталом, Србија се обавезала међународним и европским конвецијама да ће укинути смртну казну што је и учинила. У Уставу пише исто итд.
Иако волите да се храните страхом и читате таблоиде, имате утисак небезбедности и приде, Србија заправо уопште не стоји лоше према статистикама по броју убистава.
Штавише, са 1.2 убиства на 100.000 становника је у нивоу Мађарске, Хрватске, Португала, Ирске итд.
Више убистава по глави становника имају неке ужансе и варварске, неуређене, пуј пуј државе као што су Финска, Канада и Белгија са 1.6 убистава на 100.000 становника, Грчке (1.7), а итекако боље стојимо од Бугарске (1.9), Кипра (2), Турске (2.6), Црне Горе (2.7), Русије (9.2), мирољубивог и насмејаног Тајланда (5) и САД (4.8).[...]
Како судите другима, надам се да ће се судити и вама.
I see, [the topic of] entertainment for the poor masses no. 2 is back: reinstatement of the death penalty.
Aside from not adding to the prevention of anything, it is uncivilized and barbaric in and of itself. [...]
Besides, Serbia has been bound by international and European conventions to ban the death penalty, which it has done. The Constitution [of Serbia] says the same, etc.
Although you like to feed off fear and read tabloids, having a sense of insecurity to go along with it, Serbia actually doesn't stand badly according to murder statistics.
Moreover, with 1.2 murders to every 100,000 residents, it is rated alongside Hungary, Croatia, Portugal, Ireland, etc. There are more murders per capita in some terrible and barbaric, unorganized, yuck yuck countries like Finland, Canada, and Belgium, with 1.6 murders to every 100,000 residents, Greece (1.7), and we rate much better than Bulgaria (1.9), Cyprus (2), Turkey (2.6), Montenegro (2.7), Russia (9.2), peaceful and smiling Thailand (5) and the United States (4.8). [...]
How you judge, I hope you shall also be judged.
The hashtag #smrtnakazna (#deathpenalty) has become increasingly popular on Twitter since the news broke, with opinions both for and against the death penalty, while one of the Facebook pages petitioning support for the reinstatement of the death penalty in Serbia has accumulated over 76,000 fans just within the first day.
A funeral for Tijana Jurić will be held on August 8 at 5 p.m. at the Orthodox cemetery in Dudova suma in Subotica, where a day of mourning has been proclaimed by the Subotica City Council.