After protesting all night, about a dozen people are on Thursday morning still standing in front of the Interior Ministry of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated part in the northern city of Banja Luka, demanding that police bring whoever is responsible for the March death of a young man, David Dragicevic, to justice.
The mysterious death of Dragicevic, which police initially said was caused by drowning but is now being treated as murder, has been shaking Republika Srpska (RS), the semi-autonomous Serb-dominated semi-autonomous part of Bosnia, since March.
"I’ve come here and I’m not leaving. They are preparing special police forces. Should the police even touch any of us, we will go at them. We were calm and dignified all this time, but enough is enough," David’s father, Davor Dragicevic stressed on Wednesday night.
“The entire RS Interior Ministry knows what happened (to David),” he added.
David Dragicevic, 21, was reported missing on March 18. His body was found in a local river days later. Two days after, police organised a press conference which sparked a series of protests that periodically took place in Banja Luka throughout the past more than six months.
Police told media that the cause of David’s death was drowning, and that there are no indications his it was the result of a crime.
But two autopsies conducted by two different teams produced different results regarding the time of death, which outraged the family, but also many citizens.
Led by Davor Dragicevic, who maintains his son was tortured and killed and that police are hiding the perpetrators, citizens began gathering on streets in Banja Luka.
Supporters of Dragicevic connected through a Facebook group, ‘Justice for David’, and the issue began receiving more and more attention from citizens, the media, but also politicians, who have all been calling for a thorough investigation into both David’s death and the behaviour of police during the initial investigation to be conducted.
The Banja Luka Prosecutors’ Office has meanwhile submitted a lawsuit against unknown perpetrators for the murder of David Dragicevic and prosecutors also indicted two police officers in Banja Luka for tampering with evidence in the case.
But the crowd gathered around Dragicevic said that police knew who was responsible all along, and they gathered on Wednesday again at the Krajina Square in Banja Luka, which they now call ‘David’s Square’.
According to Dragicevic, someone approached and threatened him there. RS police said they have apprehended that person.
But the incident prompted him and many others to gather in front of the RS Interior Ministry, where the protest started growing.
“They killed my child here, in the RS Interior Ministry. From tonight on, your rule ends and the rule of justice starts,” he said, accusing RS police of being a criminal organisation.
“The entire RS Interior Ministry knows what happened to David and they are silent. You took justice into your own hands, you play God, you raised yourselves above the institutions,” he said.
The crowd yelled “Who killed David”, “Justice for David,” “We will remain here, until the end,” and sang a song that David wrote when he was 16 years old, ‘Youngster from the ghetto’, which became the anthem of the ‘Justice for David’ group.
Meanwhile, the election campaign in Bosnia is in full swing ahead of the general vote on October 7, and the ruling party in the RS and an opposition coalition of parties are embroiled in a fierce political battle.
“There will be no election in Republika Srpska until the murder of David and other children is solved,” Dragicevic said on Wednesday evening.
Several police officers stood between the Ministry and the crowd as Dragicevic called upon all citizens of the country to join the protest.
Although much smaller than the night before, the protest is ongoing and those who remained asked police to take off their uniforms and join the crowd.
“There is no sleeping until we catch the criminals and murderers. We have decided that September 25, at 18:00 o’clock, will be the deadline after which we are going on a hunt for the criminals and murderers,” Dragicevic said, adding that he is not leaving and that he will sleep on the Krajina Square.
“I am not going home anymore, I don’t have a home,” he said.