April 30th, 2007
Secret Services – From Omnipotence to Weakness
On The Necessary General Reorganization of the Security System in Serbia
The Security Service or Secret Police, as it is more frequently called, is not as independent as it used to be during the nineties in the countries that emerged from the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic (SFR) of Yugoslavia, but full civil control, according to democratic standards, has not yet been exerted over it.
According to recent research carried out by “Free Europe”, the American state radio for the propaganda of American politics abroad, the worst situation is in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where according to Senad Pecanin, journalist and manager of the weekly newspaper “Days” from Sarajevo, “there is no civil supervision of the secret services” at all, because there is no proper legislative body to enact it. “First, it is not in the interest of the ruling political parties. This is very clear and I think there’s no doubt about that. The second reason is personally inexplicable to me and that is indolence on the part of the international representatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina, under whose supervision the entire reform of the defense, police and security system in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been carried out,” he said. Mladen Ivanic, a member of the parliamentary commission, which according to the law should control the work of the secret services, however, has estimated that “from a formal point of view, a completely reliable form of civil control has been established”.
“Is it always completely usable in essence – that will be shown in practice. I think that up to this moment it was relatively early to talk about it, since this service was more occupied with its internal organization than with serious practical fieldwork,” he added.
The vice-president of the Committee for Internal Politics of the Government, Simo Lucin said that regarding this matter, things are properly set in Croatia, but that there are significant problems when it comes to practical work. He also recalled that those most responsible for the functioning of the secret service in Croatia are the president of the Republic and the leader of the Government.
“Professionally they are controlled by the Council for National Security and the most authoritative for the parliamentary supervision is the Council’s Committee for Internal Politics and National Security,” Lucin said, adding that a legislative body for the civilian supervision called Council for the Civilian Supervision of the Secret Service, had been established three and a half years ago.
According to him the problem is the fact that the top people of the secret services are appearing before the Committee “once a year in principle” and the fact that the president of the Committee belongs to the parliament’s majority and not to the opposition, as it is the case in most democratic countries.
“When you look at what the secret service has been doing in the last ten years—there’s been everything—investigating politicians and journalists, then you have one more reason for demanding civilian supervision,” Lucin said.
Tin Gazivoda, a member of the Council for the Civilian Supervision, has estimated that there is general progress in the professionalism of the secret services in Croatia, but there are too few known facts about the activities of the parliament’s Committee for National Security and that its meetings should have been open to the public.
According to Goran Batricevic, vice-president of “The Movement for Change” and of the Committee for Security, in Montenegro it is above all necessary “to dispel the wide-spread Montenegrin fear of UDBA”. “It means that we should create a more sociable atmosphere, make known that these people are performing a specific job and that we can control up to a certain level what they are doing at least as much as a parliamentary team is capable of. We should rearrange the Agency for the national security by forcing them to be more democratic, to make new systematization, to stop thinking only in terms of their own political parties and to realize that their new function is the defense of the country from the global challenges and not political unlike-mined persons,” he said.
Dragan Kujovic, president of The Committee for Security has estimated that the meetings of the Committee held on March 21st and 22nd “are an important step forward on the way to democratization of the defense and security services” especially emphasizing the fact that “the parliament had really started to exert its control role over the defense and security services.”
Representatives from the Serbian list, however, had expected more from these hearings of the Montenegrin chief of police and the Agency for National Security, estimating that these services “are continuing to carry out their work according to the daily political horoscope of the Social-Democratic party.”
As far as Serbia is concerned, Aleksandar Radic, an analyst, has estimated that the secret services in Serbia “are very inaccessible to objective analysis by political circles and especially by the public, media or non-governmental organizations.”
If some from the West would ask the question, “what have you done about controlling the security service, then it is a misleading answer to show the regulations to make it appear as if out some of the rules of the game that exist abroad are being carried out. For it is an unsuitable approach in practice. There simply are not enough people with sufficient responsibility and qualifications to really exert control over our security services, in keeping with the modern age,” said Radic. It is very important for the political parties to exercise control over the security services, because in that case they have information about their political opponents, scandals and the mistakes which they make by disregarding the law or in corruption. Such data can always be used for the disqualification of their political opponents.
“Citizens of Serbia are still under the strong hand of the secret services and political influential people. The secret services are controlling the movement of Ratko Mladic and others who are being sought by the Tribunal in the Hague and from that control and decisions whether they are going to give this information or no, one can see fateful influence on the country’s future said Dobrivoje Radovanovic, director of the Institute for Criminology. Radovanovic claims that the security services are not making decisions that are in the interest of the citizens but rather in the name of powerful individuals or political parties.
He is pointing out the fact that those who appeared in court for the murder of Prime Minister Djindjic are members of the National Security Service and he is asking why those who are in command are not on trial now, but only the perpetrators.
Djordje Mamula, former member of the Committee for Security of the Serbian Parliament thinks that from the year 2000 until today these services have been reorganized to a great extent.
He thinks that transformation is not only needed but necessary for a country in which the Secret Services had formed organized crime, had been the bearer of paramilitary forces and to a the great extent responsible for what had happened in the past until the year 2000 and after. Mamula thinks that these services should not [simply] be disbanded and then created again.
In the clash
Most of the domestic and foreign officials are pointing to the Serbian security services as those to be blamed for the failure to arrest Ratko Mladic. In connection with this, the European Commissioner Oli Ren had especially emphasized that the security services in Serbia are not under full civilian and democratic control.
Zoran Dragisic, a analyst, says that four years ago a good law about security services had been passed, in which a good system of civilian control is defined.
However, there is a huge clash between what is written in the law and the things that happen in practice. Even the Minister of Defense, Zoran Stankovic had tried to overcome this by dissolving the Sector for Intelligence and Security Affairs and submit these services directly under him, but it was obvious that this wasn’t enough” Dragisic said.
If one seeks further affirmation of the services, then they have to connect with the broader systems on the continental and NATO level. Signing a security agreement with NATO is necessary so that our country could acquire confidential data from NATO. Also, one should keep in mind that a great deal of needed information and data are inaccessible because of the security classification imposed by NATO. This is also a prerequisite for starting the mission “Serbia at NATO in Brussels”. Signing this agreement would create conditions for promoting concrete cooperation between Serbia and NATO such as the education of the members of the Serbian Army in the institutions of this military alliance, and lead to joint police and military maneuvers and so on.