Serbian army trade union leaders detained

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(5 March 2024) Two leaders of the Serbian Army Trade Union have been detained. President Novica Antić and General Secretary Predrag Jevtić were detained on Tuesday, February 27, and subsequently released to defend themselves before being re-arrested on March 1, where they remain detained and can be held for up to 30 days. No formal indictment was presented to them at that moment, adding to concerns regarding trade union freedoms in the country.

Over the past few weeks, the union has faced a concerted campaign from army management, including threats of dismissal and career stagnation for members. This campaign has culminated in the arrest of the union leaders, Antić and Jevtić, on charges related to financial mismanagement within the union.

Of particular concern are recent statements made by Minister of Defence Miloš Vučević, who has expressed strong opposition to the existence of trade unions within the military in an appearance on ‘Direktno sa Minjom Miletić’:

“Let me tell you in Serbian - the biggest stupidity in the world is that the army has unions. What unions in the army, the army defends the country. Well, it's not a municipal service. What kind of unions in the army...I'm telling you, if I continue to deal with this department and if we change the set of laws on the army, the unions have nothing to ask for in the army."

Concerns extend beyond the legal proceedings themselves to the well-being of those detained. Recent reports from the Council of Europe's Committee on Prevention of Torture highlight issues of overcrowding and poor conditions within Serbian detention facilities, raising additional worries about the treatment of the detainees.

The Military Trade Union of Serbia has a history of advocating for the rights of defence employees within the country. However, it has faced challenges from the management of the Ministry of Defence and the Serbian Armed Forces, who have been accused of various attempts to undermine the union's legitimacy and operations.

EPSU supports its affiliates in the fight for the defence of basic trade union rights and the right to organise.