The City of Belgrade issued permission for the construction of the Belgrade Waterfront parking lot on the site of the demolished buildings on Hercegovačka Street in Savamala, according to documents collected by KRIK.
By Bojana Jovanović
During the six months while Belgrade Police and the Prosecutor’s Office were unsuccessfully attempting to discover who was behind the April 24th demolition of approximately a thousand meters of office in Savamala, the City of Belgrade allowed the company Belgrade Waterfront to begin building a parking lot on the site of the demolished buildings.
Temporary building permits issued on September 19th that were included in publicly available documents gathered by KRIK journalists show that work on the parking lot is in progress and expected to be completed by the end of October. The entire project is estimated to cost 46.4 million dinars, according to the documents.
An application for a building license on the site was at initially rejected because Belgrade Waterfront did not provide complete documentation to authorities. The company repeated its request two days later, after which the license was issued.
The construction is on part of the land which previously housed the facilities of companies Iskra and Transport Peroni, which were illegally demolished on the night of April 24th. A permit for the construction within the Gallery Walk Pedestrian Zone was at first refused by the City of Belgrade, but on the same day as Belgrade Waterfront fulfilled documentation requirements, a temporary permit was immediately issued.
KRIK journalists contacted both the City of Belgrade and Belgrade Waterfront, but were refused comment on their questions regarding the permits. Journalists were told to send questions by e-mail and wait for a reply. As soon as these answers arrive, KRIK will publish them.
Top city officials behind the demolition
It had been almost half a year since the illegal demolition on Hercegovačka Street in Savamala, and the public has still not been informed as to what steps authorities have carried out to uncover the people responsible for carrying out the demolition, or of those who ordered the demolition.
The prosecution ordered police to collect the necessary information only ten days after the buildings were been demolished. Meanwhile, a crime scene investigation was never carried out because the City of Belgrade had ordered the land to be cleared.
The city municipal inspectors noted that in the part of Hercegovačka Street where the illegal demolition took place, the street had an “increasing number of collapsed buildings, construction and municipal waste”, after which they ordered the land to be cleared.
On the events inSavamalaon election night, state authorities, politicians and government officials madeseveral independent statements.
Serbian Ombudsman Saša Janković said that police did not respond to phone calls on the night citizens on Hercegovačka Street were temporarily detained by masked individuals. In a report published two weeks after the demolition, Janković concluded that police did not respond because of an order coming from the “top”.
In response to the Ombudsman’s report, Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanovic said that no one from the “top” of the police force had issued any order that would be in violation of the law, and said that police had visited the site after they were called and notified of the events.
“When it comes to endangering the lives of police officers, as for example when power cables are cut, then police really do not act. The police do not go near that area until the danger to the lives of policemen is eliminated,” said Stefanović, when asked why the police did not respond to citizens’ calls.
A month later, Vučić said that those responsible for demolition are in the highest authorities of the city government.
“I think their motive was the cleanest, they wanted to provide the cleanest place by clearing something out of the criminals,” Vučić said in June, but he has not yet provided the names of those responsible.
Belgrade Mayor Siniša Mali has denied that the city government has anything to do with events in Savamala, but confirmed that the surface on which the facilities were destroyed would be used for construction of the Belgrade Waterfront.
In an interview published two weeks ago in “The Insider”, he said that the city government had already destroyed 370 buildings and would have found no obstacle of ordering the demolishing of 12 more, and that he sees no reason that anybody in city government would go about demolishing the facilities in such a way.
“If in the next few months, weeks, these objects would be removed anyways, why would anyone in the city government do that?”, Mayor Mali said.