Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Socially Unacceptable Victim

Dubravko Novak, deputy chief of Zagreb Police District, is removed from his post today following the reports of the breakdown of security during Sunday’s handball festivities. However, Novak's removal is also motivated with another example how Croatian police understands its mission these days.

Few days ago in Zagreb 21-year old Tihana V. accepted invitation for a drink with her ex boyfriend, 36-year old Elvis V. and her present boyfriend, 21-year oldDanijel J. What followed was a car ride and some 14 years of relentless beating, rape and torture which included spending large amounts of time in a trunk of a car. By a miracle, Tihana V. was able to smuggle cell phone in trunk. She thought she could get help from police that way.

She thought wrong.

According to media reports, Tihana V. spent most of the next 14 hours in the trunk. During that time she managed to contact police four times and on each occasion she gave her full name, names and clear description of her abductors, description and license plate numbers of the car and her approximate location.

Each time on-duty police dispatcher reacted with some very original interpretations of Crimminal Law in order to explain why police was not authorised to intervene.

Since it became apparent that Croatian law enforcement agency won’t do anything to stop the torture, Tihana V. tried to do it by herself. Her attempts to slash her wrists were unsuccessful. The torment ended only when one of her abductors literally ditched her, naked and barely alive.

After some time, Tihana V. was brought to her hospital and two men were apprehended and charged for abduction and rape.

Needless to say, Croatian public was outraged. Especially considering that one year ago that very same Zagreb police acted with surprising level of swiftness, efficiency and professionalism during other, much more publicised abduction of General Zagorac’s son.

Police dispatcher, who today got suspended together with his shift commander, is most certainly going to lose his job and serve as a sacrificial lamb.

His lack of action, regardless how reprehensible it is in its essence, is completely understandable in the context of the way Croatian criminal justice system handles such cases. If the dispatcher acted like he was supposed to be acted, two men would have been apprehended resulting with long, complicated and expensive legal proceedings. And during that proceedings every policeman involved would have to testify and thus expose his face and, ultimately, his families’ identities to the accused who, since Croatia happens to be small country, might very well have some connections in the military, police or organised crime. And even if this long trial results with convictions, two men aren’trganised crime. And even if this long trial results with convictions, two men aren'some connections in the military, police or likely to get more than a year of prison. And even if convicted, it is very unlikely that two men would serve a single day of those sentences.

So, it isn’t that surprising that police dispatcher and his superiors tried very hard to interpret woman’s call for help as crank call, over-dramatic interpretation of innocent lovers’ quarrel or product of deranged mind. And they had ample time to check whether victim belongs to “socially acceptable family”. She apparently did not meet such criteria for intervention. Waiting for this sad affair to end in a “normal” way - without police involvement – was, therefore more acceptable alternative.


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