Unjustified detention on remand of two former secret-police officers in case of Slavko Ćuruvija

In the case of Radonjić and Romić v. Serbia (application no. 43674/16, 04.04.2023) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court). 

The case concerned the detention on remand for almost three and a half years of two former secret police officers suspected of murdering a well-known Serbian journalist and newspaper publisher Slavko Ćuruvija, in 1999. The murder oft he well known journalist led to an international outcry and one motive was thought to be Mr Ćuruvija’s public criticism of Slobodan Miloševic’s policies.  The case also concerned the length of the proceedings before the Constitutional Court to review their detention. The criminal trial is still pending in their case. 

The applicants, Milan Radonjić and Ratko Romić, are Serbian nationals who were born in 1959 and 1963 respectively and live in Belgrade. They are former secret-police officers. an influential Serbian journalist and newspaper publisher, was shot in the back. 

The Court saw no reason to disagree with the Constitutional Court’s findings that the first year and two months of their detention had been justified by, among other reasons, the need to preserve public order if the applicants had been released given the high-profile nature of the case, but that over time, and for the remaining two years and three months of their detention, that reason had no longer been valid. Although the national courts had therefore acknowledged a breach of the applicants’ rights, the Court noted that they had not been awarded any compensation. Accordingly, it refused to dismiss the case for lack of victim status, and held that there had been a violation of the Article 5 § 3. 

The Court also found that the proceedings before the Constitutional Court had amounted to more than two years.  There were no exceptional circumstances to justify a constitutional review lasting two years for issues which were relatively straightforward. Nor could the court’s excessive workload justify the excessively long procedure in the applicants’ case. It considered that the two years taken to rule on the lawfulness of the applicants’ detention could not be regarded as “speedy”, in violation of Article 5 § 4.

Finally, in accordance with the Article 41 (just satisfaction) the Court held that Serbia was to pay the applicants 1,000 euros (EUR) each in respect of nonpecuniary damage. 

Reference from the website of the Court of Human Rights