On June 8, 2019, unidentified individuals attacked Dejan Bagaric, a student of philosophy at the University of Novi Sad, on university premises following his participation in a pro-democracy protest.
Bagaric is a student-activist associated with “One of Five Million,” a movement that has organized demonstrations across Serbia since January 2019 to protest the policies of prime minister Aleksander Vučić and a reported recent rise in violence targeting opposition politicians. Members of the movement have reportedly accused Vučić of undermining democracy in Serbia by compromising the independence of the media and various state institutions.
On the evening of June 8, Bagaric reportedly helped organize and participated in a rally and an accompanying march for the “One of Five Million” movement in central Novi Sad. Later that night, after returning to campus, Bagaric reported that he was attacked by unidentified individuals as he made his way on campus to meet with his girlfriend. The attackers reportedly threw Bagaric to the ground outside a university dining hall and beat him.
Bagaric suffered numerous bone fractures and head injuries and was reportedly hospitalized overnight. After being released from the hospital, Bagaric told the press that could not remember details of the attack.
The incident reportedly took place one day after two other student-activists were attacked on the University of Novi Sad campus.Nebojša Stefanović, Serbia’s minister of the interior, issued a statement the day after the attack to announce that police had launched an investigation into the attack on Bagaric. On June 12, police reportedly detained, questioned, and released one individual suspected of attacking Bagaric. The ministry of interior stated that they were searching for one other individual believed to be involved in the attack. As of this report, nobody has been charged for the attack on Bagaric.
A group of University of Novi Sad professors reportedly signed a petition condemning the violence shortly after the incident.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a violent attack on a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association. State authorities have a responsibility to protect higher education communities and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.