Picin Park: Its defenders earned hardline retribution

The park is ours!, protesting walkers in Banja Luka

The last remaining green area in the city center was sold to a private investor at a bargain price and destroyed. The story of the destroyed park in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina is alarming on many levels, including corruption, bullying of citizens, police aggression, and court and physical persecution. What is even more disturbing is the lack of attention paid to those cases where those procedures would be considered unimaginable.


Police oppression and beating, court persecution, and imprisonment for protection of greenery

In 2010, the city of Banja Luka was surprised by its citizens when they decided to sell the only remaining green area in the city center to the Grand Trade Company for BAM 2.2 million, approximately € 1.1 million. Nobody asked the public about their opinion. Fully grown endemic trees (Serbian spruce among others) were cut down by the popular green leisure area, referred to as "Picin Park," a construction site for an enormous office complex.

In response, local residents launched the "Park is Ours" initiative and decided to demonstrate their disapproval in the summer of 2012.

"We are the voice of every citizen who is denied his rights."

Apart from the marching protests, the citizens' initiative has found some major discrepancies in the case. The construction permit that was issued only included the lower two floors of the complex-- something completely unheard of in the law.

Walking and Threat! Call the shelf

With enormous public support, the "walkers" continued to assemble for the next 100 days. At one point, an astonishing number of 3,000 people gathered to openly express their disagreement.

"The judicial institutions and police are in the service of the state
authorities and one political party."

Citizens were again shocked when they began to demonstrate their power over them. The police prevented people from marching toward government buildings, as well as gathering in the park, although the "walkers" were never violent.

The case was raised by several activists being prosecuted at the court of Banja Luka for road traffic offences. In January of 2014, the court found several activists guilty, and sentenced them to a fine and to bear the cost of the proceedings. Some of them pled guilty at the very beginning of the trial and, therefore, received milder sentences.

“The trial reflects the situation very well. What can be done when
powerful people fence wildly against the interests of average citizens?"

Three of the activists filed an appeal to the district court of Banja Luka. Acting upon the activists' appeal, in June of 2014, the district court of Banja Luka revoked the basic court's decision under the statute of limitations.

My name is Zeljko Vulic and I can't get home         

By now, one may think this case should not be getting any worse, but wait until you hear the testimony of the local car repair service owner, Zeljko Vulic, for his story is especially preposterous one. At the time of the construction of the Grand Trade building, the workers barred access to his family home and the office building as well.

Soon, he will need justice and restoration of the public road.

When protesting against his property, Vulic was arrested and his son was beaten up in front of Zeljko's mother. The courts have not recognized him as a victim of despotism, nor did they decide that he should qualify for compensation. On the contrary, in October 2016, the basic court of Banja Luka sentenced him to three months imprisonment.

“I had to remember each moment, even before the event
itself and the so-called treatment. It's been very difficult.

Now, Zeljko Vulic is waiting for the decision of the district court in Banja Luka.

When justice finally arrived

In 2014, the owner of Grand Trade, Mile Radisic, was charged for land price manipulation, false statements, and abuse of the privatization process. He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. In response, Radisic fled the country, only a few days before he was supposed to start serving his sentence, only to return a few months later and surrender to the state authorities.

Since then, the convicted businessman has been avoiding justice and often publishing statements in various media, saying he will reveal his companions and details of the fraud soon enough.

In the end, Radisic returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, surrendered voluntarily to the authorities, and allowed justice to be served upon him. It is not yet clear how he managed to return to the country unnoticed by the border police and the prosecuting authorities.

 "However, it is not yet clear how the 'wanted' man managed to cross the borders
unnoticed by the border police and the prosecuting authorities."

Although the protest did not stop the construction itself, it has mobilized thousands of citizens. The “Park is Ours” initiative has been transformed into a collective movement campaigning for broader structural changes, such as greater government accountability, or social and economic reforms.

Further reading:

07/09/2012 BiH protest in Banja Luka "Everyone hit the streets" (Buka.com)

BiH 08/06/2013 Želko Vulić, the man tortured by Dodik's shelf: Policeman finger-stabbed my eye and I went mad! (Tacno.net)

BiH 26/07/2013 Fight for aroad: Željko Vulić and his sons were brought in (Kurir.rs)

BiH 31/07/2013 Željko Vulić conducted in District prosecutor's office (Kontra PRESS)

BiH 06/09/2016 Željko Vulić, The Establishment Opposer: It's Hard When The Powerful Tread On The Little One (Buka.com)

BiH 04/10/2016 Željko Vulić is awaiting the verdict concerned (Blic.rs)

BiH 06/10/2016 “Picin Park” case: Željko Vulić from Banja Luka sent for three months, appeals against the verdict (Blic.rs)