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Oliver Antic, a long-time Milosevic associate, was appointed the new dean of the law faculty. The decision appointing Antic reportedly came directly from the office of the prime minister of Serbia.31 While still a student, Antic had been active in communist youth organizations and had become a prominent member of the League of Communists. He is now a self-declared nationalist and a member of Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). Heis remembered by many of his colleagues on the law faculty for his role as a communist student leader in a purge of faculty members carried out in the mid-70s, the last major purge at the faculty.32 Antic did not require that professors in the Faculty of Law sign new contracts, but he has not hesitated to move against political opponents of Milosevic and against those who publicly opposed the new law.

In a public statement in November, Antic stated that he would “bring order to the Faculty of Law, which is a breeding ground of the Civic Alliance.”33 As noted above, the Civic Alliance is one of the three opposition parties that had formed the opposition Zajedno coalition that won local elections in 1996. It is a small party known for its public commitment to the defense of civil rights and opposition to the war in Bosnia. Antic’s remarks made explicit the political motivations for several of the actions described below. Four members of the law faculty were members of the party, three of whom were fired.

Case of Vladimir Vodinelic

The first victim of the new law at the Faculty of Law was Vladimir Vodinelic, recognized by colleagues and former students alike as an outstanding professor and as the leading Yugoslav authority on civil law. Vodinelic had taught at the faculty for twenty-seven years and is the author of many articles and texts, including model legislation on the media and other subjects.

At the time of the new law, Vodinelic was awaiting appointment as a tenured professor. He had been recommended in glowing terms by his peers and was awaiting final university decision by the university council, which had been scheduled to meet on June 22. Prior to that meeting, however, the new law came into force and the minister of education directed that all faculty appointments were to be made by the new deans. Procedures initiated under the old act were to be suspended. Antic used the lapse of Vodinelic’s previous five-year appointment as an excuse not merely to oppose his promotion but to fire him.

Vodinelic’s position was formally terminated on August 31, 1998. According to one report, the dean gave inconsistent statements of the reasons for the dismissal: “To some he said that Vodinelic was a security risk and had a file in the secret police and to others that he was disliked by colleagues. . . . In later statements Antic accused Vodinelic of being intolerant and, in a return to ‘communese,’ said that Vodinelic had allegedly been given an ‘opportunity to improve,’ which he had refused. The dean probably was referring to hints that Vodinelic would be moved to the library or some other non-teaching job, a ‘pedagogical’ measure used by communists 25 years ago; allusions were also made to Vodinelic's Croat origins and thus his opportunity to find work abroad.”34 Although Vodinelic is not a member of any political party, his wife (later fired, see below) is a member of the Civic Alliance and Vodinelic has described himself as “opposition minded.”35 Vodinelic believes that the real reason he was fired is “the revival of the old Communist category of the politically correct person.”36

Case of Dragoljub Popovic, Dragor Hiber, and Mirjana Stefanovski

Immediately after Vodinelic was fired, fifteen of his colleagues announced a strike effective September 7. All sixteen had previously announced their opposition to the new law in a public declaration. The strike came as exams were beginning. On September 14, three of the striking professors received written notice that they had been fired. The three were Dragoljub Popovic, former MP from the Democratic Party of Serbia, Mirjana Stefanovski, a supporter of the party, and Dragor Hiber, active in the Civic Alliance Party and a vocal critic of Milosevic. As in the Faculty of Philology, the dismissals had been based on a provision in Serbian law allowing an employer to fire employees who fail to appear at work for more than five consecutive days without excuse.

Suspension of Ten Professors

On September 29, Antic suspended ten of the remaining twelve professors who had signed the public declaration against the new law, stating that, in lieu of firing them, he was offering them time to come to their senses. The ten were Kosta Cavoski, Jovica Trkulja, Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic, Radmila Vasic, Mirjana Todorovic, Gaso Knezevic, Slobodanka Nedovic, Dragica Vujadinovic, Aleksandra Jovanovic, and Vojin Dimitrijevic. The two professors among the original sixteen who were not suspended—Danilo Basta and Miroljub Labus—announced that they would not enter the faculty building until the prior decisions of Antic had been annulled. Another professor, Olga Popovic-Obradovic, and several lecturers stated that they were joining the strike.

Over the next two months, professors who had been suspended but not yet fired were called in for disciplinary hearings, with the dean as prosecutor and the deputy dean as judge. The most common disciplinary measure was a 20 percent salary cut.

Case of Vojin Dimitrijevic

The new dean also forced Vojin Dimitrijevic into early retirement. Dimitrijevic had long been a internationally prominent member of the faculty and has been visiting professor at universities in the United States, Norway, and Sweden. He served from 1982 to 1994 on the prestigious U.N. Human Rights Committee, which is composed of eighteen independent members and meets in Geneva and New York (he was elected rapporteur and later vice-chairman). He was also active in the Civic Alliance party and, in 1993, founded the Belgrade Center for Human Rights. Although Dimitrijevic had reached retirement age, he had been granted a two-year extension by vote of the faculty in 1997 along with four other professors who had reached retirement age. That extension had been upheld in court when challenged by the Serbian minister of education; the court then issued a temporary injunction against the then dean, which the new dean has refused to respect

Shortly after Popovic, Hiber, and Stefanovski were fired, Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told reporters that Dimitrijevic had been “spared” in order to give him a chance to “reform.” A few days later, however, Dimitrijevic was fired. Ignoring the 1997 court decision as well as Dimitrijevic’s pending challenge to Antic’s suspension order, Dimitrijevic was ordered to clean out his office within twenty-four hours. The other four senior professors who had been given two-year extensions were not retired. Under the terms of the decision in 1997 and the provisions of the Labor Act Dimitrijevic’s retirement before the end of the academic year 1998-1999 was not legally possible. The matter is under appeal; the Municipal Court in Belgrade confirmed the 1997 injunction but refused to act against the new dean.

Case of Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic

On November 12, Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic, an expert in civil procedure, was dismissed after twenty years on the faculty. Rakic-Vodinelic is the author of various legal reform proposals and a critique of the university law, and she is active in the Civic Alliance. She is also the wife of Vladimir Vodinelic, whose case is discussed above. Rakic-Vodinelic was among the sixteen professors who refused to sign new contracts and among the ten professors suspended for going on strike, but she is the only professor to have been fired after a disciplinary hearing.

Rakic-Vodinelic, who had been given a day’s notice of her disciplinary hearing (eight days is required under Serbian labor law), did not attend the hearing but she sent her lawyer to find out the status of her case. The hearing proceeded in her absence. She was accused of missing work like the others who had been suspended but, in addition, she was accused of having slandered the faculty in public statements. Rakic-Vodinelic told Human Rights Watchthat her lawyer had challenged the slander charge on grounds that the allegation was so vague that it was impossible to defend against, and that the dean had then withdrawn the accusation.37 Although the charges against her thus ended up being identical to those against the other suspended professors who had received fines, she was dismissed.

Suspension of Marija Rudic

In late October, law students arranged a seminar in which two of the suspended law professors, Kosta Cavoski and Jovica Trkulja, were to discuss the purge of faculty members in the mid-1970s. The dean refused to allow the seminar to proceed, locking the room where the seminar was to be held. He also brought disciplinary proceedings against Marija Rudic, a student alleged to have organized the seminar. Rudic, an excellent student in her last year at the faculty, was a member of an autonomous student parliament created after the 1996-97 protests. On November 10, the dean temporarily suspended Rudic, issuing an order barring her from examinations and prohibiting her from obtaining her school records (necessary for transfer to another faculty). After faculty and student protests, however, Rudic was given a warning and was allowed to resume classes.

31 Human Rights Watch interview with Dragoljub Popovic, Belgrade, November 9, 1998.

32 Ibid.

33 Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Universities in Serbia, “Chronology of Events, 1 November 1998 - 27 November 1998 (Resistance),” entry dated November 9, 1998, (copy on file at Human Rights Watch).

34 Belgrade Center for Human Rights, “Information Bulletin No. 11,” September 1998 (copy on file at Human Rights Watch);

35 Jane Perlez, “Yugoslav Wields Ax in ‘Pacification’ of Academia,” New York Times, Sunday, November 1, 1998.

36 Ibid.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with Vesna Rakic-Vodinelic, Belgrade, November 13, 1998.

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