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Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Smith Reacts to Djindjic Assassination

Washington – United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) issued the following statement after today’s assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic:

This is a true tragedy, not only for family and friends of Mr. Djindjic but for all the people of Serbia and, indeed, for all who struggle for human rights and democratic development.

Zoran Djindjic became a leader during difficult times in his country. He chose to stand in opposition to Slobodan Milosevic and his regime. That certainly was not the easiest course, and it took courage. Zoran Djindjic also had determination and, after repeated setbacks and obstacles, he played a key role in ousting Milosevic from power in 2000. He subsequently became, as Prime Minister of Serbia, a force for reform, recognizing that Serbia needed to cast off not only the yoke of Milosevic’s rule but also Milosevic’s legacy of nationalist hatred, organized crime, corruption and greed. Transferring Milosevic to The Hague in 2001 to face charges for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide perhaps best symbolized Djindjic’s continued courage and determination to conquer the sinister forces which seized his country.

Zoran Djindjic was still battling resistance to reform in Serbia when his life was taken by the vicious act of cold-blooded assassins.

These will undoubtedly be turbulent times for Belgrade, for Serbia, and for Montenegro which is just embarking on a new relationship with Serbia. This tragedy may have reverberations throughout the region, particularly in Bosnia and in Kosovo.

It is my hope and prayer that the people of Serbia will respond to this crime with a loud and united cry: “Enough is enough.” In the past, they have seen the lives of journalist Slavko Curuvija and politician Ivan Stambolic snuffed out for their advocacy of a civilized Serbia, in which human rights and the rule of law are respected.

Similarly Djindjic, too, was advocating such noble objectives. The very decent people of Serbia deserve a society which respects human rights and upholds the rule of law. That is what the leaders of Serbia must now provide without further hesitation or delay. I take heart in knowing that Djindjic had many colleagues who shared his vision of a reformed Serbia.

My deepest condolences go to the family of Zoran Djindjic. I hope that the incredible grief they must now feel will be tempered by the pride they should feel in his accomplishments and service to his country. (END)

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