On 11 January 2020, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights filed a criminal report with the Republican Public Prosecution Service (RPPS) against unidentified staff of the Niš Higher Public Prosecution Service and/or the city police officers. They are suspected of leaking to tabloids the statement Ninoslav Jovanović from Malča gave the Niš Higher Public Prosecutor in early January 2020, which contained details of the grave crimes he had committed against his underage victim. By leaking his testimony to the dailies Informer, Alo, Srpski telegraf and its Internet portal republika.rs, the officials have committed the following offences that are incriminated by the Criminal Code and prosecuted ex officio: violation of confidentiality of proceedings (Article 337), abuse of office (Article 359) and/or violation of the law by judges, public prosecutors or their deputies (Article 360).
Given the content of the information published by the outlets and the Criminal Procedure Code provisions on interrogations of suspects by the relevant public prosecution services, presence of individuals during evidentiary actions and availability of interrogation records, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the entire or part of the statement Ninoslav Jovanović gave the Niš Higher Public Prosecutor was made available to the journalists of these outlets by the staff of the Niš Higher Public Prosecution Service and/or by the police officers who attended the interrogation. Such suspicions are corroborated by some of the published articles, which specified that their reports were based on information from “investigation sources”.
Information about the number of times and the ways the child was victimised does not constitute information of public importance, i.e. information the public has a justified interest to know. Its disclosure incurred irreversible and grave damage to the victim’s dignity, privacy, reputation and her other rights enshrined in the Serbian Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights.
To recall, Article 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code lays down that, where necessary to protect the interests of minors, privacy of participants in proceedings or for other justified interests in a democratic society, the authorities undertaking evidentiary actions shall instruct individuals they are interrogating or interviewing or individuals attending the evidentiary actions or perusing the investigation case files to maintain the confidentiality of specific facts or information they thus become aware of and warn them that breach of confidentiality constitutes a criminal offence. Furthermore, Article 74 of the Public Information and Media Act allows the publication of information obtained during ongoing criminal proceedings only in the event it is disclosed at the main hearing or if access to it may be gained from public authorities under the law on access to information of public importance act. Under Article 77 of that law, with a view to protecting the free development of the minors’ personality, particular care must be taken to ensure that the content and manner of distribution of media do not impair the moral, intellectual, emotional or social development of minors.
The BCHR filed its criminal report with the RPPS to ensure an independent investigation into its suspicions. It also called on the RPPS to perform all the actions taken with respect to the criminal report itself, rather than delegate them to the Niš Higher Public Prosecution Service or the Niš Police Administration.