Written by: Lorenzo Bodrero, journalist and co-founder of Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI)
The data on mafia related deaths in Serbia and Montenegro collected in the past five years by KRIK and Radio Free Europe are impressive. With an average of 16 homicides each year, the statistic underscores the prevalence of criminal gangs in those two countries. What is most striking is the number of unsolved cases. If I was a citizen of those countries, I would find it outrageous that only 4.8% of all the killings were solved. Not to mention that the victims’ loved ones live without recourse and can’t depend on the government’s comprehensive effort to bring these cases to justice.
This data is only useful if governments act on the findings and hold criminals accountable. As an outside observer, I’m more inclined to say that there is a lack of interest by these governments to solve the cases rather than a lack of capacity.
At IRPI, we have created a similar database which contains the data of all innocent people killed by Italian mafia groups in the past 150 years. We were able to trace 1,126 victims, although the number is likely higher. Among them are journalists, policemen, lawyers, prosecutors, judges, anti-mafia activists and just passers-by who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The mafia’s cruelty is boundless. The vast majority of the cases were solved and culprits were brought to justice. What is crucial to a country’s democracy is to understand the motivations behind murders and expose those responsible. While Italy is not a flawless example, it has become better in the past few years. Serbia and Montenegro have yet to make strides.
Projects like this should also be extended to other EU and non-EU countries. Raw data can lead to greater understanding of complex issues and push the masses to react.
I can only hope that projects such as “The black book” serve to inform the local population and pressure authorities to change for the better.