Always disobedient, and still in the streets...

Women in black - 30 years of resistance

9th october 1991 we took to the streets of Belgrade for the first time - that is when we began non- violent resistance to the war and the policies of the Serbian regime. So far, we have organized about 2,500 street actions. We are still in the streets ...
Women in Black / WiB is an activist group and network of feminist-anti-militarist orientation, consisting of women, but also men of different generational and ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, social status, lifestyles and sexual choices.


Pavle Bozic, Advocate of Conscience

It's as if the territory in which we live is condemned to suffer one horror of war after another for the next few years. It looks as though the powers that be have decided that it's good for us to put up with permanent conflicts, bloody by char­acter and in essence illogical. The horrible logic of the authorities, a demonic raison d'etat, is in a situation that, through arms that dishonored the homes in which gen­ erations resided, smothers feelings of hu­ manity and of elementary responsibility toward oneself and others in the bloody puddles of trenches. Such acts already tested throughout Croatia and Bosnia, to­day control Kosovo, from which Milose­vic earlier gathered the strength of his rule. Armed skirmishes and horrendous massacres already indicate the possibility of an explosion of war elements between different armed groups, behind which stand power or aspirations for power: the Yu­goslav Army, the Serbian police, the Koso­vo Liberation Army (KLA), different para­ military groups, and NATO troops, who would entangle themselves in a perverse dance of death. On the territory of the former Yugoslavia, where states, nations, and capital so cleverly united from the disaster of war, too many men and women demonstrated by personal exam­ple that in the general echo of war cries, human conscience and worth is stronger than violent hysteria. Open demonstra­tion of such attitudes was an act of per­sonal courage.

Pavle Bozic, a glasscutter from Stari Banovac, is one of the most recent exam­ples of courage in the battle for one's own beliefs and the willingness to support a righteous cause. He is at the same time proof that the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of this country don't work in harmony, whereas they do work together against basic human rights.

This hardworking young man is in jail for the second time due to an objec­tion of conscience. In 1993, the military court in Nis condemned Pavle to nine months in jail due to his refusal, as a mem­ber of the Nazarene Faith Council and a man of strong Christian beliefs, to carry arms and serve the military. It was strange to him to serve or assist an institution whose work is so contrary to Christian teachings. At that time, jail was practically the only choice for those who refused to serve the army because of religious, political, or moral reasons. When the new, al­though very discriminatory, military law allowing the possibility of civil service and the provisions for establishing such service was passed in 1994, it looked, at least partially, as though conscientious ob­jectors would be able to realize their rights. It demonstrated, however, that here there is a monstrously large gap be­tween the letter of the law and its applica­tion in real life. The case of Pavle Bozic points to hypocrisy and lawlessness as principles of the working organs of power. At the end of September 1997, Pavle was summoned to appear at the military section "Stara Pazova" in regard to serv­ing his military obligation. He responded within the stated time period and ex­plained to them that it would be contrary to his conscience to serve his military obligation in a military institution. At the military section, they suggested to him that he submit a request for civil service of his military obligation per the new law, and they gave him a list of health and res­cue institutions where such service could be fulfilled in a period of two years. Pavle Bozic accepted that suggestion with joy because he considers helping people to be the meaning of Christian life. So, he submitted such a request, and on October 1 received a command decision of the military section "Sremski Mitrovic" that approved his serving the military obligation in a civil capacity, meaning that the military obligation wasn't to be served under arms, in a uniform, or in a military institution.

However, already on November 20 they requested that Pavle report to the military section, and there they gave him a summons to serve the Karadjordj army installation, the place where Tudjman and Milosevic negotiated rather nicely the carving up of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Pavle refused the summons, believing that it wasn't in sync with the command deci­sion he had received. Rather than finding him a civilian position and sending him there, the civilian police came for him in the early morning hours of December 18 and without any kind of explanation, except that he was under arrest, took him to the SUP in Stara Pazova and then to the army command in Ruma, where the military police, under orders to take him by force, took it upon themselves to escort him to the Karadjordj army base. At Karadjordj, they ordered him to complete tasks "that are not directly connected to the military," which Pavle thought of as absurd, considering the character and terms of the institution in which they |were carried out. In the meantime, they ordered him to temporary confinement of seven days due to the infeasibility of the orders even though he continuously quoted the Command Decision of the military section "Sremski Mitrovic" in front of the officers. With no success in solvingthe confusing situation in which he found him self, through the Federal Defense Department, Pavle Bozic requested, together with the officers at Karadjordj, that he be sent to the military jail in Belgrade, "in order to finally stand before people who know and respect the law" as it is written. In February 1998, he came before the military tribunal in Belgrade where he even refused a lawyer, thinking that the order approving his civil service would be enough to prove his innocence before the law. Despite his beliefs and ex­pectations, the military tribunal in Bel­grade condemned Pavle Bozic on Febru­ary 23, 1998 to one year in prison due to "the guilty act of not fulfilling and refus­ing to fulfill orders from article 201. Para­graph 1 KZ SRJ." Disillusioned, Pavle did­n't want to lodge a complaint against the judgment. "I won't complain. To whom?! Oh, I myself spoke to them at the trial, read from military law, and cited the order, " he said. The Women in Black, the Yugoslav Committee of Lawyers for Hu­man Rights, student activists, and journalists reacted to the decision as well as the Belgrade military tribunal's rejection of Attorney Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco's re­quest for a retrial. The Yugoslav Bureau for Conscientious Objection began a cam­paign of sending letters of protest to state officials most responsible for this kind of case in which they sought the release of Pavle Bozic. Afterwards, internation­al organizations, like the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO) and Amnesty International, came to Pavle's side and set in motion a campaign for his release.

After the judgment, Pavle was quickly thrown in jail beside the birthplace of Mr. President, hence he will spend months in Zabel where he will atone for his conscience and belief in the law and the courts. Despite the number of protests and calls for the release of Pavle Bozic, the competent authorities are mer­ciless in this case. Faith in the law must wait for another day, but faith in justice, in human conscience, and courage is that which we should share with Pavle.

Vladimir Markovic