Award Winner's Serial
News / Serbia 2002
Daily Jurnal DANAS, December 28, 2002. / Serbian source
Five families in the south of Serbia have doubts their children have been stolen
No reaction from examining officials
KURŠUMLIJA, BELGRADE - Five families that suspect their children were taken away immediately after their birth from the maternity hospital in Prokuplje but were officially declared dead didn't receive the adequate documentation issued after child's death by hospitals. This was remarked by lawyers of the Committee for human rights in Kursumlija according to the revision of the documentation owned by the parents.
The director of the Committee for human rights from Kursumlija, Tomislav Maksimovic, says that families Momirovic from Dzigolj, Gopic and Milenkovic from Prokuplje and Petrovic and Gvozdenovic from Kursumlija suspect their children were taken away after their birth from the maternity hospital in Prokuplje in the period from 1985 to 1995.
- A lot of other facts that the lawyers of the Committee possess point to the doubt that these children were sold. None of the families were allowed to see their babies after they were proclaimed dead. Also they weren't given the necessary documentation in which the cause of death should be written. The parents were given birth certificates but they've never received death certificates - says Maksimovic.
These families filed a criminal complaint to the Town prosecutor in Prokuplje in which they demand investigation against the employees of the Hospital for gynecology and childbirth and the birth service in Prokuplje.
- The only thing that has been done is taking the statements from six families that suspect their children are alive. We have no other official information - says Tomislav Maksimovic and adds that the High commissioner of the UN will take part in the process of solving these cases.
Milutinovic points out that the main problem is the prosecution and that they will demand the exception of prosecutor Snezana Bogdanovic.
- Her statement that "the Manojlovic case" is ended is tendentious. How can you believe in the result of DNA test done at the same place where my wife was issued two certificates with different blood types? For 12 months Snezana Bogdanovic has had bundles of evidence that prove my case isn't solved and which have a signature of my child's death, which hasn't been registered for 23 years, as well as the contradictory confirmation she is alive - claims Manojlovic.
BELGRADE - DNA results have confirmed that Violeta Roganovic is biological daughter of her parents and not of Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic who suspected she was their child who was taken away immediately after birth at the Belgrade clinic "Narodni Front"-states the Second court in Belgrade.
The Manojlovic have filed a complaint against John Doe for taking away their daughter, born in that clinic in 1979, for whom they were told died after the birth. As the Manojlovic suspected Violeta Roganovic is their daughter law officials suggested her parents, Slavica and Sima Roganovic, to do the DNA test together with the girl.
With the Roganovic consent the Institute for forensic medicine did the analysis that undoubtedly shows that Slavica and Sima Roganovic are biological parents of Violeta Roganovic.
SOKO BANJA - Milutin Manojlovic emphasized on Monday that he is only now 1000 per cent sure Violeta Roganovic is his daughter.
- Paper stands everything. The judge has led this case tendentiously - says Manojlovic.
- All the time during the hearing she was putting an accent on the DNA test but I kept returning to the beginning of the case. I called by names everybody who is involved and who put their signatures on documentation full of wrong information about my girl.
At the beginning of the procedure Manojlovic said he was willing to do DNA test but he had doubts about the credibility of the results.
- If they wrote on my wife's documentation that she was first Rh positive and then Rh negative who could guarantee that they hadn't done the same now. I'll ask all the parents who found their children to visit the Institution for blood transfusion together to check the accuracy of the machines and staff and then allow them to take our blood - Manojlovic pointed out.
- I demanded confrontation with all the people mentioned in my criminal complaint but something like that hasn't been done in enquiry procedure. However, DNA analysis has been done only with Violeta and her supposed parents while the court never invited neither me and my wife nor Violeta's twin brother to do the test. Not to mention the persistent avoiding of any reactions from the Roganovic whom I've been inviting in public for 13 months to react.
BELGRADE (Beta) - DNA analyses have confirmed that Violeta Roganovic is a biological daughter of her parents and not of Milutin and Radojka Manojlovic, who suspected she was their child who was taken away immediately after birth at Belgrade clinic "Narodni Front", it was said at the Second public prosecution in Belgrade.
Since the Manojlovic expressed suspicion that Violeta Roganovic was their daughter, judicial officials suggested her parents, Slavica and Sima Roganovic, to, together with the girl, do DNA analyses.
With the Roganovic's consent the Institute for forensic medicine did the analyses, which undoubtedly showed that Simo and Slavica are biological parents of Violeta Roganovic.
The Manojlovic are one of the families in Serbia who have, in the past few months, publicly accused doctors of Serbian maternity hospitals for taking away their newborn babies, who were pronounced dead after birth.
The arrival of the new government in Serbia gave hope that series of legal solutions, which are part of established laws in European countries, will be adopted in our country. However, due to various political and social problems, current government has done very little, suitably to the promised, regarding the accessibility of the information. Normally, the information that is connected to the state alone is state secret, with the code-confidential, but some of the institutions didn't change their relationship toward the public regarding the regular informing about the important problems of the citizens. So, the Ministry of internal affairs introduced the practice, at the beginning of last year, about increasing the contact with media representatives at local police stations, so the information would be closer to the Serbian public.
In most of the towns of central and south Serbia the medias are frequently mentioned, there is no reaction from the police about important problems, and media conferences, which became very frequent, turned out to be notification of the public about the effectiveness of the persecution officials.
In that way, shown by this example, the new government has managed to open institutions suitable to its own needs of promotion and gaining rank, while there really is no freedom in accessing the information. Although there are institutions which have opened their doors and presented the public with adequate information.
A group of experts from influential non-governmental organizations has recently suggested a legal act about free access to the information. That law suggestion was stopped at a part of the town hall-government procedure so the people of Serbia still don't have a regulated right on free access to the information. According to the statements of impliers of the law the constitutional basis for bringing this law has been defined by providing and accomplishing, and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of a person and a citizen, as well as the regulation that the work of state officials is accessible to public but that the public could be limited or excluded only in cases defined by the law.
"The law about the free access to the information is a general act which regulates the way of accomplishing and protecting the human rights and freedoms. Everybody has a right to ask a bearer of the government for the information of public interest so the adequate seeing of the information would be possible, which would enable the citizens to realize their right to control the representatives in the government they have chosen. Confidence of the citizens is an important, but not the only, condition for legitimacy of the government. The standpoint, which is generally accepted, is that the confidence of the people is good, but that every control is better, with a century experience that every government, especially if it isn't limited by anything, spoils its bearers, it is stated by the impliers, experts from the Committee of lawyer for human rights, the Center for alternative examination, the Forum for ethnical relations and the European movement in Serbia.
It is very important, the impliers continue, that the work of every state official in every region would be accessible to the public. The open work of the government represents the essential feature of a legal state. Dejan Milenkovic from the Committee of lawyers for legal rights says that the free access to the information in today's conditions represents a law, which derived from the freedom of thinking and expression, so the transparency affirms the role of the citizens and reporters, which encourages the public to control the bearers of the government.
- The affirmative role of a citizen to ask and get the information, which is used for checking and controlling the work and course of the bearers of the government, should provide the transparency of the work of the state officials as it is well known that every government spoils people - says Milenkovic.
He states that adoption of the law about the free access to the information is necessary and that, up to now, every country in transition did that. Also, Milenkovic thinks that bringing of this law is one of the series of measures in a wide public campaign for responsibility in work of the government bearers in Serbia.
- At the same time this law enables the means of public informing and journalists to accomplish the ideals of research and independent journalism because they are provided to freely and impartially, seeing the determined documentation, reach the adequate information or check their verity. This prevents what's important, placing of false and unchecked information. Also, it supports and enables the transaction of truth and complete information in due time, that is - the realization of freedom of public informing - says Dejan Milenkovic.
NIŠ - We have to find out the truth whatever it may be. Under this slogan about 500 hundred parents from all the towns in Serbia, who suspect their children were taken away, asked the highest state functionaries of Serbia to form the inquiry committee of experts to deal with their matters.
- Whether we are talking about harsh administrative mistakes, fantasies of the mothers or the paranoia of the families who lost their children it is up to you to decide - emphasize the parents in the letter to the presidents of ministers in The Town Hall.
Republic ministers are asked to suggest adequate modifications of the law so something like this would never happen again.
- We invite the directors and chiefs of all the maternity hospitals in Serbia, the Ministry of health, the Society of writers, actors and musicians and education and sport workers to help us find the truth - says Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja.
Due to slowness and no contact from the authorized people the parents have started their own researches and already found out where their children are, claiming they have proof about that as well as the knowledge about who sold their children.
At the same time the parents are angry the prosecution disregarded their complaints due to the obsoleteness of the criminal act of taking away the under aged person, which starts after ten years, and the complete obsoleteness after twenty.
- It is obvious they are concealing the deceit. It preceded the theft of the babies and the alteration of family status - emphasizes Manojlovic.
Manojlovic also says there are hundreds of people in Serbia who don't now they are brothers and sisters.
- Does anyone think about the proportion of the sacrilege of relations that can appear - asks Manojlovic. Has anyone thought about engaging psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to work on these cases beside judges and policemen?
BELGRADE - No matter who announced the false news about the beginning of DNA analyses they couldn't break us apart. In the beginning I thought that taking of DNA samples would start with Milutin Manojlovic, but during his stay in Belgrade he didn't know anything about it. I believe it was someone's unsuccessful attempt to divide us and break us apart because as much as it is in our interest to find out the truth it is in somebody else's interest to cover it. There are more than 700 families in Serbia who are looking for their children. The theft of our children became a state problem-says Nikola Segrt, one of the parents who believe their children were taken away after birth.
Nada Otasevic, the mother of "taken away" baby is looking forward to beginning of DNA analyses.
The main evidence against Branko Zivkovic was supposed to be his hair, found, allegedly, on his turtle neck, which was found a month after the crime. Instead of (re)solving the case with DNA analysis, a court disgrace happened:
- The experts of the Faculty of biology in Belgrade, guided with respectable interpreter Prof Dr Stanka Romac, said, on August 14, 2000, that they don't exclude the similarity of the hair found on the turtle neck with the one taken from the head of Zivkovic, but, also, that it could be anybody's - says lawyer Radulovic.
- Docent Dr Oliver Stojkovic, who also signed the interpreter's report, however, self-initiated, comes, on October 17, to the enquiry judge and changes his statement: he says that disputable hair belongs to Zivkovic 99,8 per cent. That, in other words, means that only about 16 people from Sabac have a hair like that, which was enough for the court to convict him.
However, lawyer Ilija Radulovic didn't miss this "catch": - I saw that, during that time, nothing happened in the document, so, on the main hearing, I asked Dr Stojkovic why did he come to orally change the interpreter's report, which he signed two months ago? He was honest. He said he was called to come to the police and with the official car brought to Sabac to see the enquiry judge. He didn't, however, confess he was asked to change his statement, but that was obvious. They weren't satisfied with the report so they took Dr Stojkovic into custody to change it and give a new one.
This is why I suggested a new, controlled interpretation in Novi Sad, which was accepted by judge Stojcic. But then, we reach the top of the iceberg of dishonesty of the Belgrade police: it is estimated that the hair material was missing from the documentation among the exhibits?! This means that everything is fixed. I don't want to express my doubts about the hairs being interpreted during the first time. I would rather say that the first interpretation was correct and that they wanted to make hints about Zivkovic not being a killer.
Judge Branislav Stojcic had only one solution after that: to reach the liberating verdict.
- We are talking about the police conspiracy by the scenario of the state security - lawyer Radulovic claims. - It wasn't enough to convict Zivkovic only for the abduction, but they wanted to use him to solve their problems. Everything happened a month and a half before the elections in September, so they tried to set him with guilt for triple murder. They couldn't leave the unsolved liquidation of the whole family to the Serbian voters. A great political point of a former regime was "disclosure" of the murderers. They wanted to say: "There, they aren't only thieves but cold-blooded murderers!" So, we are talking about framing the criminal act for political purposes.
BEOGRAD (Beta) - Association of the parents who believe their children were taken away after birth invited the directors and chiefs of all the maternity hospitals in Serbia, the Ministry of health of the Serbian Government, the Society of writers, actors and musicians and education and sport workers to help in solving this matter.
In their letter the parents ask the institutions "not to defend themselves from the accusations or confirm them" but "to reach the truth together", appealing on their professional and human authority.
It is not possible that a child was born in the seventh month of pregnancy and the documents say "abortion", that "dying" happened on three different dates, that permanent documentation is missed and that the most frequent cause of death is - "death" - it is stated in the appeal to the directors and chiefs of the maternity hospitals and the ministry of health.
In the appeal, the artists and education and sport workers are asked to "raise their voice" against, as it is stated, the injustice the families are living in their searching for the destiny of their children for whom they were told to have died after birth.
"I sometimes think that my child was replaced at the hospital"-this is the sentence that many parents use to describe their mischievous children, but, of course, only in joke.
Milijana Cumic, the employee of the administration of the Town hall Zvezdara, is one of the mothers who suspect her child was taken away after the delivery. 24 years ago, to be precise on December 21, 1978, Milijana gave birth to a girl at the maternity hospital of the Clinic center Zvezdara. Immediately after the child was born a midwife told her that it has died. A few days after the delivery she left the hospital with papers that would, many years after, arise doubts that the child had actually been alive.
Beside the written reports and certificates there is a series of unusual circumstances regarding this case. The memory of that day 24 years ago made Milijana suspect that her child is alive: "I gave birth at 5.40 and the doctor who was on duty that day said that 6.30 should be written as the time of the delivery. I asked myself then why the wrong tome was written in, but I got over it because the child was dead. Now I realize the time is very important. Another thing I remember is insisting of the staff to sign the agreement that the hospital should burry the child. I didn't want to sign until I consulted with my husband. When he came a nurse told us that it was customary for the hospital to bury dead children, so we signed."
In the response on the two claims that the Cumic wrote to JKP "Pogrebno" (funeral) they notified them that, looking into their documentation, they couldn't find any information about the death of the nameless female child Cumic. They referred them, for further information, to the hospital where the child was born. During her visit to the hospital Milijana Cumic wasn't allowed to see the documentation of the children who were born that day. By mediation of Olivera Henc, a legal advisor of patients' rights, documentation about Milijana's child was found. The last track in the documentation is direction of the child to the pathology where the cause of death should have been found, but there is no result of the test. After filing a claim to the Clinic center Zvezdara for complete documentation the hospital has, they received only the statement that Milijana Cumic gave three births at the Clinic-first time she gave birth to a born dead female baby and after that to two male babies-alive.
After this Milijana filed a complaint to the Third Court and the police department in Belgrade. "I plead with the authorities not the let these cases become obsolete but to do everything to find out the truth, not only for us who think our children are alive, but also for future parents. "I would specially like to thank my colleagues from the Town hall Zvezdara for supporting me in enduring the struggle of finding out what really had happened to my child."
BELGRADE (Beta) - A group of parents, who believe their children were stolen after birth, have asked today from the highest state functionaries of Serbia and Yugoslavia to form an inquiry committee of experts who would examine their statements.
The letter with demand for forming the committee has been referred to the President, Vojislav Kostunica, the Prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, the President of the Town Hall, Natasa Micic and the presidents of all emissary groups in the Town Hall of Serbia - one of the parents, a signer of the claim, said to the Beta agency.
Families ask from the President Kostunica and the Prime minister Djindjic to pledge their authority in order to form the inquiry committee, which would investigate all their statements and "put a stop" on their problem.
We are a part of voters over whom a crime has been committed. It is up to you to decide if harsh administrative mistakes, fantasies of the mothers or the paranoia of the families, who lost their children, are in question. You should suggest adequate alterations of the law so that something like this would never again happen on the ground of Serbia-it is stated in the letter referred to the presidents of all emissary groups in the Town Hall of Serbia. In the letter referred to Natasa Micic parents appeal on her as "a mother" and state that "a crime, which has been committed once will be committed again".
During our investigation we have encountered numerous non-logical facts. We don't trust the institutions, which we believe to have deceived us and this is why we feel it is better to form a committee of experts who would investigate the matter in details, establish the facts and punish the perpetrators - it is stated in the letter to the President of the Town hall of Serbia.
More than 300 parents in Serbia are looking for the truth about the death of their babies. Some of the stories date back from the sixties and if only one case proves to be true that could be the biggest scandal in the last couple of decades.
According to some judgments, parental search for justice can be eternal prolonging of hope their children may still be alive. It can also be possible that the theories about the conspiracy of silence in the police and justice departments and their co-operation with "white mafia" at maternity hospitals arose pressed back memories of the families whose babies couldn't survive outside the mother's womb.
Parents, who suspect they children "have resurrected", into the other families for large amounts of money, established co-operation and now they work together, gathering in Soko Banja in the home of Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic, a couple who claim to have found their daughter Nikoleta.
Representatives of those mothers and fathers visited the President of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica, and presented their demands to him. They have also asked for reception with the Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, and spoken to the officials of determined ministries at the government building.
Dr Danica Mihajlovic, chief of medical inspection at the Ministry of health in Serbia, visited the Federal president after going through medical institutions and checking the documentation mentioned in the cases. According to our sources administrative faults have been noticed. Parents have also pointed out the same faults but they can't be regarded as proofs that the trading really happened.
At the beginning of November more than a hundred of parents from Serbia who have doubts in the official doctors' reports, which stated death of their children, gathered at the Second Court in Belgrade to remind about their request for leading the unique investigation.
They stated then that in most of the cases the theft was committed in co-operation of the hospitals, birth officials, social work centers and homes fro children without care. According to the experience and statements of these people the "scenario" by which the babies disappeared looks like this: a friend, neighbor or relative "observes" the convenient family and informs their connection at maternity hospital about the expected time of the delivery. When the mother arrives at the hospital there is a woman already waiting to take over the baby the moment it is declared dead. In order to cover everything with documents medical staff has to have a connection in the administration of the hospital and authorized birth service.
However, the afflicted family is still being watched and if it starts asking inconvenient questions everybody in the "conspiracy chain" is informed. Then, as it usually happens, "paper parents" move to another town or even another country. Documents are either lost or forged.
This is the assumption of Slavica Milanovic who claims her brother is still alive although-reported by the evidence of the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth "Narodni Front" in Belgrade - he has died due to sudden complications on September of 1975.
Although the story of the mentioned family has psychic elements, for example the candle they lit for the child didn't want to burn, the doubts are really arisen after the incredible story from Soko Banja about the family Manojlovic. Slavica went there and heard the story about their supposedly discovered daughter in Belgrade, about which medias have reported in detail.
Reported by the results of the investigation done by Slavica Milanovic and the information of the Manojlovic, the informal coordinators of this conspiracy, 300 families are looking for their officially dead babies who are all Caucasian, of the Christian parents and 85% of them are male. The babies disappeared between 1961 and 2001 and the numerous happened at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth "Narodni Front", the maternity hospital in Nis and the maternity hospital in Visegradska Street in Belgrade.
Among these people is a famous opera singer Radmila Smiljanic who has been waiting for her baby's postmortem results for 33 years.
In the "lime light" of her career, she was30 years old and pregnant. She was singing in the Vienna opera, she had nine roles of the first soprano. She was delivered by that days manager of the Clinic "Narodni Front", Dr Dragomir Mladenovic. The baby cried very hard after the birth so staff made jokes about a new opera diva being born. The next day she was told that sudden complications happened. She could hardly recognize the words: "Everything is over, the baby is dead". The discharge list had no diagnosis of baby's death; it simply said, "the baby died".
The inquiry committee
Beside her persistence for getting the postmortem and determining the causes of death she hasn't received any results up to now, except the shrugging of shoulders and promises she would get the documentation in the shortest possible term.
The families told their tragic stories first to the media and then looked for the truth at courts. At the prosecutors' office of the Second Court in Belgrade 79 criminal complaints have been filed against taking away the under aged person on section 116 of Criminal law of Serbia and criminal act of alteration of the family status of section 117 of Criminal law of Serbia.
Public prosecutor for the Second Court, Snezana Bogdanovic, says these cases are legally obsolete. "For the criminal act of taking away the under aged person obsoleteness of criminal pursuit begins after 10 years from the execution of the same, while for the other mentioned act obsoleteness begins three years after. But, the public has risen to their feet and all the 79 cases are put under demands for gathering the necessary information from the town police, hospitals for gynecology and childbirth and Savski venac town hall", says the prosecutor Snezana Bogdanovic reminding that she has attended the most demonstrated case of the Manojlovic at the town police as a public prosecutor.
"The parents of the girl who Manojlovic family claim to be their daughter agreed on DNA test in order to confirm they are the biological parents. However, the Manojlovic are not willing to do the test demanding additional explanation of the method of sample taking justifying themselves by mistrust to our medical institutions. I think the DNA test can completely unravel these cases", says Bogdanovic.
Lawyer of theYugoslav committee of lawyers (Jukom) presented a suggestion for the Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, to form the inquiry committee, which would consist of the representatives of the parents, Ministry of health, justice, police and the services authorized for the information about the birth and death. "We were outside the Serbian Government building with the parents and brought out the suggestion for the President of the parliament, Natasa Micic, to form the Town hall committee in order to lead unique parliament investigation as many of the parents became poor in search for the truth", says Mirna Kosanovic, the executive director of Jukom, warning about the chaotic condition in the hospital documents and the birth books.
"It only heats up the parents' doubts. We have to support them whether their doubts are justified or not", says she.
Legal advisor of the Prime minister of Serbia Zoran Djindjic, Radmila Jovanovic, received yesterday a delegacy of parents who suspect their children have been stolen after birth and said that the Government wasn't authorized to solve their problem. She advised them to turn to the Parliament of Serbia.
This is, above all, a political problem and it has obviously assumed large proportions of the organized crime. It has to be solved in political and judicial institutions where main political actors should engage mostly-said for Ekspres Zarko Petrovic from the Yugoslav committee for human rights (JUKOM), who supported the parents yesterday.
A mother, Gordana Radisic, says that, at the moment, the biggest problem is that none of the institutions wants to help the parents.
- Under criminal and material responsibility I claim that there is a firm connection among maternity hospitals, birth services and public prosecution and that they protect each other and keep quiet - claims Miladin Markovic, one of the parents who came in front of the Government building yesterday. R. Bajcic
BELGRADE - About ten parents who believe their children were stolen and not died after birth, protested yesterday in front of the Serbian Government building. The parents claim they were promised, a few weeks ago at the meeting in the Government, that the expert committee, which would investigate their statements, would be formed.
Radmila Jovanovic, a legal advisor of the Prime Minister, Zoran Djindjic, accepted the representatives of the parents. She explained that the Serbian Government is not authorized for such matters and proposed them to contact the Serbian Town Hall and ask for forming of the inquiry committee, which would examine these cases.
Rada Pantelic, who attended this meeting says that Jovanovic said "there was a misunderstanding the last time".
About 300 parents from different towns in Serbia believe their children are alive.
Executive director of theYugoslav committee of lawyers (Jukom) for human rights and a lawyer Mirna Kosanovic emphasizes that we have to keep in mind the suffering of the parents and that it isn't good "to formally disregard the accusations". In her opinion the first to announce in public should be health services, the Ministry of health and other authorized health institutions as well as the administration of justice.
- According to parents' words, they couldn't get any information from authorized institutions so it is assumed that birth institutions are involved. I think authorized state institutions have to take action even if only one case is in question, and not 300 - states Kosanovic.
Parents could start the legal proceeding in which the act of finding out the act was committed would be regarded as important and not the dates of performance, and the parents could ask for amends.
Jukom will insist on forming a commission with Serbian Government, which will deal with similar cases. Mirna Kosanovic says there is no reason to unite the cases into one procedure as they are all different and they happened at different times. She also says that the Committee of lawyers is willing to offer legal help to all the parents who look for it.
Parents who believe their children were stolen gathered at the Department of justice. Majority is completely sure their children were stolen by sanitary workers in co-operation with town hall officials and social work centers. Incomplete documentation pointed that out clearly. In several cases it happened that after couple of months parents received calls for vaccination or registration into the birth book. Documentation, owned by the parents, shows that there were administrative omissions that should be approved and great numbers of parents believe that so called baby mafia is connected throughout the Serbian territory.
The last supposed theft happened last year and the parents expect that "cases in which we know where the children are" would be solved. It is interesting that the parents who believe their children were stolen gather every Friday and discuss the strategies they should take.
BELGRADE - More than a hundred parents from all over Serbia, who doubt the official doctors' reports, which announced death of their children, gathered in front of the Second court in Belgrade in order to remind about their claim for leading the "unique investigation" about these cases, while one of them, Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja, gave statement to an inquiry judge.
Mr and Mrs Manojlovic claim that their daughter was allegedly announced dead and taken away after the birth of the twins on May 5, 1979 at the Maternity hospital Narodni Front in Belgrade.
After a hearing that had lasted for four hours Manojlovic didn't specifically say whether he agreed to do DNA analysis, and asked for court's guarantees that the test would be done fairly.
Representatives of the families, who suspect their children were taken away, spoke yesterday with the President of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica, who promised to pledge with authorized state officials about solving their cases.
BELGRADE (Beta)- More than a hundred parents from Serbia, who have doubts in the official doctors' reports, which say their children died after the birth, gathered yesterday at the Second court in Belgrade to remind of their demand that these cases should have communal investigation.
The parents were waiting in the corridor, outside the room where one of them, Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja, was giving his statement. Milutin claims he has found his daughter who was taken away from the hospital 23 years ago.
In their statement for the Beta agency most of the parents stated that they had doubts about their children's deaths due to the nonlogical information in the documents. Also, they wonder why the court didn't call the people from birth services, maternity hospitals and other medical institutions in which their children supposedly died.
- They call us only to give statements, as though we are accused-said one of the parents, Goran Radjenovic from Batajnica who "lost" twins last year.
- They told me they would transfer my babies when one of the babies at the institute dies because there was no room. My twins were transferred a few days after that but I found out that none of the babies died in that period - says Radjenovic.
- I have large documentation with obvious nonlogical information I'm saving for the court. I believe that people from birth services, hospitals as well as the police are involved into this matter - says Radjenovic.
Pointing out to the omissions in the documentation he said that the doctor who signed his children treatment at the Institute for neonatology, Rudzi Ramadani, was on holiday at that time. Also, Radjenovic claims that the birth certificate has no name of the doctor who delivered his wife while some names appeared in the later police report. Emphasizing that he has never seen his children Radjenovic claims that he has received three different reports about their funerals with three different dates.
BELGRADE (Tanjug) - The families of taken and disappeared babies from Kragujevac, on yesterday's press conference in front of the Town Hall, estimated that "Serbia is incapable of solving the child theft"
"We came to the knowledge that town prosecutors put our cases in the archives and gave some to authorized secretaries of internal affairs, which, also cover and remove trails", it is said at the conference.
- In the Town Hall we were told that baby thefts are not in the town interest and were referred to the chief of the county of Sumadija, Aleksandar Vukicevic, who, also didn't have time speak to us - said Agatonovic.
He added that the families of stolen and disappeared babies referred a letter to the President of Yugoslavia, Vojislav Kostunica on October 16, but they got the answer that the president was "busy and didn't have time". The families would, as they have announced, attend the first summons on Thursday at the Court in Belgrade, on the accusation of Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja against the doctors who told him and his wife that their newborn baby was dead, and they found their child after more than 20 years.
Vera Vukomanovic pointed out that after publishing the first information about "the story of their newborn baby", she and her husband were visited by a police inspector from the police department in Kragujevac who offered to help. According to her words, while he was leaving their house the inspector said to their son, with a smile on his face: "Goodbye kid, you'll soon meet your brother".
KRAGUJEVAC - Milutin Manojlovic almost had a heart attack when a clerk at the administrative building of the Belgrade municipality of Savski Venac, where he was supposed to pick up a copy of his son Ljubomir's birth certificate, he was also given the birth certificate of his daughter Nikoleta, who he thought had died 23 years ago. Ljubomir and Nikoleta were twins, and several days after they were born doctors told the parents their daughter had died. The parents, who were certain their daughter was long dead, began searching and finally found her.
The Manojlovic case caused an outrage in Serbia and prompted other suspicious parents from across the country to inquire if their newborns were not in fact dead as they were told, but had actually been stolen. The media speculated that a criminal network of physicians selling newborns was at work.
The Manojlovic family lives in the Serbian town of Sokobanja. In addition to Nikoleta and Ljubomir, they have an older son, Dragan. The mother, Radojka, gave birth to the twins in one of the biggest maternity hospitals in Serbia, on Narodnog Fronta Street in Belgrade. The municipal clerk told the parents that the register shows that Nikoleta was discharged from the hospital on June 25, 1979, the same day her twin brother left the hospital.
Immediately after the babies were born doctors told the parents that the baby girl was not well and had to be transferred to the Belgrade Neonatology Institute. The mother stayed hospitalised with the baby boy.
Eleven days later the Manojlovics were informed that the baby girl had died. A person claiming to be a doctor said an autopsy had been carried out and that parents could not take the body, as the baby was already buried in line with hospital rules. They were also told that they should consider themselves lucky that the other baby survived and they should devote themselves to their two sons.
The Manojlovics say they had no reason for suspicion even though they were never issued a proper death certificate for their daughter. They decided to try to forget their pain and turn to nursing Ljubomir. This lasted 23 years, until the shocking day when Milutin went to the municipal office to get the birth certificate.
In their attempts to find their child, who they now believed was alive, Milutin and Radojka encountered little understanding. "Don't ask me how I found Nikoleta. Yes, I'd be glad to have them sue me for what I did looking for her, at least then the truth would come out," says Milutin. "With help from certain people, I managed to get in touch with my daughter. Don't ask me how. I arranged a meeting with her. As soon as I saw her I knew she was my daughter," says Milutin. As he speaks of his encounter with the girl he believes to be his daughter, his eyes fill with tears.
Milutin then goes on to say that he found out that the girl, whose name is now Violeta, was given to a family that used to live in the town of Krusevac. Later, they moved to Belgrade. He has no doubts whatsoever that the girl is his daughter.
"This year Violeta came to Sokobanja on May 5 to celebrate her birthday together with her twin brother, and older brother, Dragan. We gave her a golden necklace intended for her when she was born, 23 years ago. This is the first birthday we celebrated together, as a complete family, says Milutin, crying.
Nikoleta, or Violeta, came to Sokobanja with her sister from the family she lives with and with whom, according to the Manojlovićs, she is very close. Milutin also says that the family in question was unable to have children for a long time, and then, according to what Milutin discovered, they got two girls in two years. The one he believes is Nikoleta was born in May 1979, and the other is a year younger.
Manojlovic also says that six months ago he petitioned a court to determine whether Violeta is indeed his daughter. He is still waiting for a response from the judiciary. Belgrade police say the Manojlovic case is still being investigated and that DNA tests will reveal the truth.
Milutin is convinced that organized crime is behind this. According to him, it is essential to expose the culprits because of other children and their parents. This is why he does not want to elaborate on the case, or wants his wife or children to make any statements.
Violeta, who the Manojlovićc believe is their daughter Nikoleta, still lives in Belgrade, with the family she grew up with. The family does not want to talk to the press, and the girl has also declined comment.
Since they went public with their story, the Manojlovic have been contacted by a number of parents who lost their newborn babies. All their stories are similar: they were told their babies had died and were never issued proper documents or allowed to bury the bodies.
These families have now teamed up and are searching for the truth together. At the beginning of October over one hundred parents from across Serbia gathered before the Serbian government building asking for help. It is believed that there are about 300 families looking for their children and doubting the truthfulness of reports on their death.
Among them are Milka and Zivan Agatonovic, from Kragujevac. Their baby was born on Sept. 26, 1974. The birth was premature, and her son weighed only 1,600 grams and was 46 cm long. Immediately after giving birth she was separated from the baby and told that it had to be urgently transferred to a hospital in Nis, because of an infection in the Kragujevac maternity ward.
"Then both me and the baby are going to Nis?" she asked, but was told that she was to remain in Kragujevac. The Agatonovics never saw the child again. When several days later they went to the Nis hospital to inquire about their baby's health, they were told that the baby had died six days before and that hospital staff had been unable to inform them because they did not have their address.
"We were young then, my wife was 19, and I was just several years older. We were to learn later that such couples were an ideal target for baby traders..." says Agatonovic, and shows a thick batch of documents he managed to gather about his son. He claims that doctors in the Kragujevac hospital told him that the baby was completely healthy, but in Nis he was told that the baby had been sick even before it was born and had no chance of surviving.
The Agatonovics are convinced that their son is alive. As proof they say that they were not given the baby's body and show the death certificate which was issued even before the autopsy was carried out.
Vera and Milovan Vukomanovic, from Donja Sabanta near Kragujevac, also claim that they lost their baby in the Kragujevac hospital under unclarified circumstances. Their baby was born in 1987.
The head of the Serbian police force, Srbislav Randjelović, talked with the parents in Belgrade and told them that every case would be investigated separately. He said that since July, 66 cases involving suspicious death of newborn babies were probed and, according to him, "no irregularities" in hospital procedure were discovered. Randjelovic also said that 60 cases were still in the hands of prosecutors and that the authorities were doing everything in their power to shed light on each case.
Not surprisingly, this failed to placate most of the parents. One mother, Vesna Knezevic, says that her impression is that they are only "buying time," for lack of a response to evidence that newborn children were abducted in the hospitals and later sold.
In Kragujevac alone, some 30 families are looking for their children. Local media, especially Kragujevac TV, have also joined the pursuit for the truth. Kragujevac TV aired a serial titled "Where Are Our Children?", but the issue remains shrouded in silence.
Staff members of the Kragujevac hospital maternity ward are unwilling to speak without permission from the management. The managers, on their part, instead of responding to the flood of questions, have threatened to sue. When the search was at its peak, Kragujevac hospital director Ljiljana Mijatovic was on Mt. Zlatibor. She told journalists that she was on vacation and didn't know anything.
Her assistant, Ljiljana Bajevic, also was unwilling to give statements, saying that she had not been informed about the issue. She added that the managing team had not debated the parents' requests.
The only manager willing to talk to the press was assistant director for surgical issues Dragan Djokovic, but only to deter the journalists from further investigation. "This is not your business. Whether this will be clarified or not, is God's will. Our's is only to do what we can," said Djoković and added that he personally believes all data should be made available, especially to the people who are directly concerned.
Finally, the Kragujevac hospital legal representative, Milan Dumic, addressed the public saying that he did not know "which families are looking for their children," but that the hospital has proper documentation "on all such cases."
One of the Kragujevac doctors mentioned by many mothers, Bogoje Nikolov, in October sued two mothers for slander and mental anguish.
About one hundred parents from across Serbia gathered at the initial hearing in the Kragujevac Municipal Court. Nikolov arrived with a group of private bodyguards. Judge Gordana Radovic, after investigation, decided to dismiss the charges as unfounded.
Seven Kragujevac families have collected documents on their officially dead children and pressed charges against the staff of the Kragujevac hospital for "changing their family status" and "abduction of minors" which took place in 1974, 1985 and 1987. Their charges, however, were dismissed because of the statute of limitations.
Municipal prosecutor Kosara Radovanovic said that the cases could not be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations and that parents could only demand that the chief health inspector go through the entire documentation. She added that if any irregularities were determined, the parents could seek financial compensation.
The parents, however, have no intention of giving up. Psychologists claim that parents will not abandon their search as long as there is the slightest hope that they could find a child whom they thought to be lost forever. The case of the Manojlovic family is what gives them hope. This is why the authorities will have to launch a speedy and thorough investigation, something that has yet to be organized. Only then will several hundred Serbian parents be able to find peace again.
Olivera Tomic, Kragujevac
- I appeal in the name of all parents who suspect their children have been stolen, on all those people who got their children through papers and know they are not their biological children, to help us find our taken youngsters. In the same way, I want to tell them to tell the children they are keeping that they have been adopted and that they are not their biological parents.
I also appeal on all children who know they have been adopted, to, if they can, check their documentation and the way of adoption, because there are many cases in which their biological mothers were told that their children died and, on the other hand, the papers say they left and rejected them because they didn't want them - said Milutin Manojlovic, one of the parents who suspect their children have been stolen.
He estimates that, ever since the protest of parents in front of the Serbian Government building, held at the beginning of this month, all the doors have closed for them.
Manojlovic claims that since the parents who suspect their children have been stolen can't even reach the Police department any more, a couple of days ago they turned to the High commissariat for human rights and got a promise that somebody would officially accept them on November 14, this year.
On Ekspres' question what has happened with his child, who, as he claims, he found and if he did the DNA test, which would show who the real parents are, he says:
Manojlovic explains that all criminal complaints of other parents are connected with "the case Manojlovic" so that the authorized people could, by parallel reading of all criminal complaints, notice the things that repeat.
He sends a word to the state that the parents won't stop even beside "the wall of silence", which stands in front of all "the cases of baby thefts".
BELGRADE - Representatives of the families that believe their children were taken away from hospitals after their birth agreed on co-operation with the chief of criminal service of MUP Serbia Srbislav Randjelovic on October 3, but by the words of Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja the agreement was disregarded.
- We were promised that, starting from October 3, every authorized institution will be ordered to help us and give all the documents necessary in determining whether our children are alive or dead, but the behaviour toward us has only become worse since October 3! Randjelovic left us his telephone number, but he's been unavailable for two weeks - says Manojlovic.
He explains there is still no information regarding the team of experts that was promised to be formed.
- This team would research the cases of our children and it was supposed to consist of doctors, lawyers, inspectors and representatives of the families, but there has been no word about its forming. I hope that this communication standstill is only a coincidence - says Manojlovic.
Mafia at maternity hospitals usually took children from young and inexperienced couples. The firstborn babies in afflicted families were declared dead. The parents, as they say, weren't allowed to see their suddenly dead babies and they were comforted by pat on the shoulder and words: "You'll have other children, you are young."
According to Jankovic's words, and also according to Radio Index, seven babies died that night at the Clinic in Narodnog fronta Street, which has in Serbia happened only here and at maternity hospital in Nis. It was the night of great confusion and anarchy, which started after Milosevic had lost the elections. The child of Jankovic's wife, Milena Ljubicic was the fifth to "die" that night. At least this is what one of the doctors said to his wife.
I don't know exactly who did the tragic delivery, but I know they were women and hat I could recognize them even today because I have seen them at the Clinic - says Jankovic. There were two doctors who attended the delivery. One of them suspected "by chance" that the baby had been dead in the womb for three-four days, while the other didn't agree. They turned on the machine that registered the baby's heartbeats, and they also checked by the ultrasound. After everything, my wife was told the boy was born dead, although she heard the midwife saying the baby was beautiful which opposed the fact the baby was dead three-four days before the delivery - says Jankovic.
Nenad and Milena were told they would be given the postmortem report, but they haven't got it until today. The story about seven babies dying that night was denied by the authorized chiefs of the ward. Although they have always had doubts, they didn't do anything to find out what had happened to their baby until this summer when they saw the case of Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja. They started to gather documentation and regardless of the obstruction at the Clinic and Savski venac community they have found the evidence that undoubtedly show the documentation was forged and that many people have misused their duties.
Their first clue was JKP "Pogrebno" (funeral) which confirmed that the nameless baby Ljubicic (Wife's last name was written) died on October 27, 2000, and my wife was delivered on September 28 - points Jankovic in astonishment.
It is impossible that a child that was told to be born dead died a month after its birth. This is why I asked confirmation from JKP "Kapele" (chapel), a deceased child has to go through, and got an answer saying they have no records of ever having that child with them. Then at the Savski venac community, the chief of birth service said that my born dead baby wasn't brought in the book of newly born and I know my wife gave birth. Due to all this things my doubt is now greater and I have filed complaints to a prosecutor and the police. I hope that my case won't be declared obsolete and that the prosecutor would represent us against those criminals and not defend and cover for mafia at the maternity hospitals - finishes Nenad Jankovic.
BELGRADE - Group of about 60 people who claim their children were sold right after their birth expected to be received by the Prime Minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic. The Prime Minister didn't receive them but instead they met the representatives of the police, the Ministry of health and the Ministry of justice.
One of the families from a part of Belgrade called Borca received the call for the army for their "dead" child, which arose suspicion. Chief of the Criminal police department, colonel Srbislav Randjelovic, tried to persuade the parents that the police, in co-operation with the authorized public prosecutors, are checking all the criminal accusations and that the prosecution disregarded accusations in some of the cases due to obsoleteness. He explained that obsoleteness in criminal case of taking away a child begins after ten years and complete obsoleteness, after twenty. He pointed out that, regardless of the obsoleteness, the police would check all the accusations. He also said that he didn't find the law about these matters ideal and that Serbian Town Hall is authorized for any changes and additions.
The parents acted against his statement saying the parental right is the most important and that it never gets too old.
Assistant of the republic justice minister, Predrag Savic, stated that the Ministry of justice received six complaints and that they would all be answered to in writing. He also said that if the cases ever reach the court they would do everything that is under their authorization. Chief of the health inspection of the Ministry of health, Danica Mihajlovic, said that what ever it may be the truth must be reached and that their institutions were ordered to give the copies of the documentation.
In spite of the fact the representatives of the country are trying to make them peaceful and convince them they are examining all the cases the criminal complaints have been filed for, the parents accused them of not having time for their problems and of wanting to limit them to five minutes. Milutin Manojlovic from Soko Banja who stirred the public with his story about finding his daughter, supposedly dead right after birth in 1979, said that even ten months after filing a criminal complaint against the unknown executor he didn't get any answer.
He warned that, as he stated, the meeting of biological mother and son could have led to an incident-shooting, and that nobody, especially "paper parents", as he described them, don't want these cases to be solved. Vesna Knezevic, an otorhinolaryngology doctor, gave birth to twins at the Maternity hospital in Kragujevac in 1978. The baby that weighed 2,5 kilos died, as she was told, and the baby that weighed only 1,050 grams survived. She stated that nobody asked for comparison of the documentation of the parents and those of the maternity hospitals and birth services.
- Should our daughters and daughters-in-law deliver their babies at home like in the old times - asked Knezevic. Other parents agreed by saying that this is the only way to prevent child theft.
Vladislava Tubic claims her daughter was born alive in 1980, which was established by the health inspection. At the end of the meeting they managed to agree that authorized people in ministry should regularly inform the parents about the progression of the investigation. The parents were advised to make a kind of organization to establish better co-operation.
BELGRADE - The stories about healthy-born and then unexpectedly "dead" babies at maternity hospitals in Serbia are getting great proportions because, every day, there are more and more families who suspect their children are, fortunately for some other families, alive and well or, for some reasons, had to die by unnatural death.
- If there really are so many people who doubt their children died after birth, and they possess the knowledge or documentation that confirm such claims, the Ministry of health would have to show great concern for them. If any of the cases proved to be right in countries with democratic tradition the official ministry would mobilize all the institutions in order to check those claims - says Kovacevic Vuco.
Aleksandar Petrovic, public prosecutor from Nis, got a united criminal complaint from about a 100 parents from Nis and other places of the southeast Serbia who suspect their newborn babies were taken away-the BETA was told at the Community court in Nis.
The complaint was filed against John Doe and, also, against some doctors whom the parents accused of taking part in trading with babies in the period from 1969 to 2001.
"It is rude and impudent from those who told us that our cases were obsolete, because this crime never gets old", said Miodrag Milivojevic from Aleksinac. According to his words, in 1986 they were told they got a son at the maternity hospital in Nis; the boy had a health grade 9 and, soon after, they were shocked to hear from doctors that the boy suddenly died.
"Documentation either gave reasons for new doubts or there wasn't any documentation at all, and it was necessary in cases like this. Me and my wife Sofijanka have already traced our child and we believe he lives in Krusevac", said Milivojevic.
Something drew my attention and I stared at that girl in a bus nine years ago. She incredibly looked like my husband and my middle daughter. Then my doubts occurred again - says 40-year-old Vladislava Tubic from Belgrade.
22 years ago, at the maternity hospital in Visegradska Street, doctors told her that her baby died immediately after birth. She instantly suspected the story, but she kept silent for years. Only recently she found out that the same destiny happened to many families in Serbia. Today, around 300 families from Belgrade, Nis, Leskovac, Sabac… are looking for their children. They are convinced that their babies were sold after birth!
Vladislava gave birth to a girl on December 11, 1980 at the hospital in Visegradska in Belgrade. During one of doctors' rounds she was told that the child died and she was discharged after 48 hours. Discharge list had no seal and signature, and the date was altered. After two days a midwife appeared to see the baby and the mother!? Vladislava started her search in July this year.
- A lawyer from the hospital refused to accept my lawyer's demand to see the books saying: "Lawyers revive deceased children". I managed to find the history of baby's illness in the main hospital archive. The fascicle was completely new. It contained several blood analyses (one of which has been done after the official baby's death), there was no verification of death, except on the fascicle and it was in hand writing without a seal. When I saw what I saw I went to the Health inspection. They concluded that the child was discharged from the hospital. I obtained certificates from the Town hall: On December 24, 1980 the baby was registered as dead and on December 25 its birth was registered in books. You don't register a child first in the book of the dead and then in the book of birth. Personal number was false. At the police department I was told that nobody exists under that number, neither alive nor dead - the mother discovers.
Regarding the documents that Vladislava owns a prosecutor decided to initiate a criminal procedure due to publishing of forged documents.
Radojka Pantelic from Kosovska Mitrovica has lived in Belgrade for the last decade. She gave birth to twin boys on August 8, 1983 in Kosovska Mitrovica. The children were all right, but since they were premature we were advised to transfer them to the Institution for premature babies in Belgrade. After six days they phoned my husband and said that the smaller boy died. A week after that we went to Belgrade so that I could nurse the other child. We found out that it wasn't the smaller child that died but the bigger!?
I was then told that I couldn't stay because "we, women from Kosovo, had some kind of an infection". A nurse simply spread her arms to prevent me from passing through. They took a sample of my excrement for examination and said they would inform me when to come. That examination had never been done. When, at last, I went there on September 26 to take my child I went to the ward to see my cousin, who was there with a baby. Beside her there was a Romany woman from Kosovo who was surprised they didn't let me stay! Again, I think, maybe I'm really ill - Radojka remembers.
At the Town hall they wanted to name both boys, they didn't have the information that one of them died. -I have a postmortem report without a signature and seal-for the child who is alive. They mixed my children like potatoes. I asked for the certificate at the Town hall. It says that somebody from the Town hall Savski Venac reported the child's death in 1985 - after two years. All these years I suspected and asked myself if somebody could really steal a child-says Radojka thoughtfully.
28-year-old Ilona Novak from Kikinda gave birth to premature twins on March 3, 1997 at the hospital Narodni Front. They didn't know she was carrying twins since there was only one ultrasound machine in Kikinda. She was delivered before term. - I was delivered by a doctor who was married to a woman from Kikinda. He was very attentive and kind. I lay there for three days before the delivery. He called my husband and wanted to be treated with - money.
- Well, you know where I work-my husband justified himself. - Then, I can guarantee for your wife but I can't for your children - said the doctor. My husband went home crying. I was delivered. Both babies were crying. I was put asleep. When I woke up a nurse told me unkindly that one of the babies died: "What are you crying for? You knew you were giving premature birth and the babies won't survive". She told me that at 3 a.m., the same time the baby's death was stated. I guess it is their way - a baby died, I'm running to tell you right away!? I obtained a discharge list only for Denis. I got nothing for the deceased baby - says Ilona.
Sanja M. Petrovic
KRAGUJEVAC - For several months now there has been a drama in Kragujevac in which number of families are looking for the answer to their question:" Where are our children?" Under similar and specific circumstances these parents lost their children in the hospital in Kragujevac. Although they were initially told their babies were dead, parents believe the children are alive.
Until now 20 families have required to see the whole documentation about their children birth and death because they have strong doubts their children are alive. They have contacted the justice department and the town hall but nobody has been willing to help.
It has all begun with the case of the Manojlovic family from Soko Banja, which alerted the whole Serbia. The twins, brother and sister - who was told to have died immediately after birth, met after 15 years at graduation party.
Zivan and Milka Agatonovic are the first couple from Kragujevac who started searching their baby born on September 26, 1974 and who they believe to be the victim of children trade.
Milka Agatonovic gave birth to alive, male, premature baby that weighed 1,600 grams and was 46cm long. She was immediately separated from her child with explanation that the baby has to be transferred to the hospital in Nis, because of so-called infection on children ward in hospital in Kragujevac. She asked if she was to go along with the baby, but the answer was she was to stay in Kragujevac.
The parents haven't seen their child since. They were told in the hospital in Nis that their child has been dead for 6 days but they couldn't inform the parents personally because they didn't have their address. "We were young, she was 19 I was only a few years older. Later we found out that young couples were the best targets for the people who traded with children…" says Agatonovic. Showing us very large documentation, Agatonovic claims that doctors at the hospital in Kragujevac said "the baby was born healthy" and in Nis they said the baby "was ill even in mother's womb" and it stood no chance of surviving. The Agatonovic are convinced their son is alive because they haven't seen it dead and they weren't allowed to take the body. According to the documentation the death certificate with the cause of death was issued before the postmortem.
Working on a TV serial, TV Kragujevac addressed a letter to the management of the hospital in Kragujevac asking the following questions:
The answers haven't arrived yet. Employees at the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth mostly don't want to and can't give statements without the management approval. But instead of giving some answers the management is threatening to the reporters.
At the end of August the director of KBC Ljiljana Mijatovic was in Zlatibor and she told the reporters "she didn't know anything". Assistant director of internal medicine Ljiljana Bajevic wasn't willing to talk with the explanation she wasn't sufficiently informed and the remark that this subject wasn't discussed at the board meeting.
According to the statement taken from the newspaper "Nezavisna Svetlost" the only person who agreed to talk was assistant director for surgery Dragan Djokovic who tried to divert the reporters. "This is nothing you should be concerned about. It is God's will whether something is going to be solved or not. All we should do now is try", said Djokovic and expressed his attitude towards the matter saying "that all the information need to be presented" especially to the people who are directly involved and that he "doesn't approve of obsoleteness with matters where there is emotional surge"
After a long time the representative solicitor of KBC Milan Dumic spoke to the public saying he "doesn't know which families we are talking about," specifying that the hospital has all the documentation for the cases in which "the families are looking for their children".
Vera and Milovan Vukomanovic, a couple from the village Donja Sabatna near Kragujevac are one of the people who lost their baby under strange circumstances in KBC Kragujevac in 1987.
During the regular pregnancy control one doctor said to the mother that he didn't hear the baby and the baby was dead while the other, who was near, said:" The child is alive!" The couple that has two grown-up children has been looking for the truth since that day. Mother says that she heard the child crying during its birth and saw it alive. Soon after the delivery the mother was told the baby died. On mother's request to see the body one of the doctors said "the child has already been cut to pieces, the postmortem was performed. The child was cremated and it is already somewhere in the sewers".
A group of 20 parents is referring to Yugoslav society of lawyers and international organizations for help. They have also announced they are going to establish a nongovernmental organization.
A TV reporter of TV Kragujevac Sladjana Palcic, who worked on a serial called "Where are our children?" notices that all the cases have common features like premature birth, babies having very small body weight, as well as mothers not seeing their dead babies or anyone being allowed to take over the body. Three families from Kragujevac that have collected necessary documentation filed a criminal complaint about the criminal acts of "alteration of the family status" and "deprival of an under aged child" which referred to events from 1974, 1985 and 1987, but the complaints were disregarded "because of obsoleteness". State prosecutor Kosara Radovanovic stated that all these cases are obsolete and the parents can now refer to the inspector of health ministry, who is authorized to check the entire documentation. In case of finding any incorrect features in the documents a person could demand reimburse.
It seems that none of the parents is willing to be diverted from finding the truth by cold law-like words. After more than 25 years thing have started to unravel. The case from Soko Banja is encouraging.
Olivera S. Tomic
KRAGUJEVAC - The parents of thirty babies who died at birth are taking a case to the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg seeking an investigation of the deaths.
All the families are from the central Serbian city of Kragujevac, however it is estimated that up to three hundred children throughout Serbia have died during birth in suspicious circumstances.
The parents have also sought an audience with Bishop Jovan of the Sumadija diocese, asking for the church to clarify its policy on the suspicious deaths.
The first summons regarding the accusation of the gynecologist from Kragujevac, Bogoje Nikolov, who sued Jasna Spasojevic and Vera Vukomanovic for calumny, will be held tomorrow in front of the Town Court in Kragujevac. The first summons in legal collision between Dr Nikolov and mothers of the babies, who supposedly died after birth at the Clinic center in Kragujevac, is set for 10.30.
Jasna Spasojevic and Vera Vukomanovic, mothers whose babies supposedly died soon after birth at the Clinic center in Kragujevac suspect the official doctors' reports, among whom the name of Dr Bogoje Nikolov appears, accusing them of taking part in stealing their babies.
A group of parents who accused the Clinic of co-operation with the police department and birth services for organized theft of their children referred to all the official departments that deal with children theft and the media to attend the summons tomorrow, which, by the parents estimation, represents "the duel between the unhappy mothers and the stealers of their children".
As it is stated in the call for tomorrow's trial, the parents who believe their children were taken after birth and sold will form "nongovernmental organization, which will stand against the stealers and state officials that cover them".
It is expected that parents from other towns in Serbia, who doubt the official doctors reports about the death of their children, will attend tomorrow's trial in Kragujevac.
At this moment there are about 300 families that doubt doctors' reports about their children dying immediately after birth, but we're assuming the number is "much larger".
NIS - The story of Grana Stefan, one of the 300 mothers searching for their children in doubt of doctors' information about the children being dead, differs from most of the others. Grana is familiar with the whereabouts of the child whose biological mother she is and says: "I look at him, but I can't go near him. I can just look from the distance. My heart wants to break!" The case of Grana Stefan began on May 11, 1987 when she gave birth to identical twins, a boy and a girl, at the Maternity hospital in Nis, although the cases of identical twins of the opposite sex are extremely rare.
- The doctor who did the delivery was a foreigner and both babies were healthy and with high grades. The doctor immediately said the babies were in a very good condition! The next day Dr Zecevic came into my room and said the male baby was dead. I was given some injections, which made me fall asleep. After I woke up I wanted to see my baby's body, but I was told it had already been sent away for postmortem. I left the hospital after 40 days in suspicion my child is still alive - explains Grana Stefan.
Grana emphasizes that coincidences that occurred six months after the delivery strengthened her suspicion about the male baby being alive.
Doctors recognized the twins
- While I was walking the baby in the park I came across the doctor who did the delivery. We had an incredible conversation. When I answered his question why I am not walking the other baby, that is when I explained what had happened with the male baby, the doctor was speechless at first and then he said it was impossible! He said he was sure the other child was alive and promised to examine the whole situation. Sometime later he told me he was working on my case, but then, suddenly, just when he was near the solution, he had to return to his country. He received a letter from the hospital, which said he had to leave Nis and Yugoslavia - says Grana.
Soon, another event happened, which strengthened her belief her son was alive.
- When I took my six months old daughter to the sanitary service in Nis for the hips X-rays Dr Momcilovic asked: "Why did you bring your child again? You were here yesterday!" I undressed the baby. The doctor took a closer look, saw a female baby and claimed he had seen "the same baby, only male" yesterday. But there was another turn. When I came to see him again, after two weeks, he went pale and said he knew nothing of the matter - adds Grana Stefan.
I know where my son is
Grana lived for years in certainty her son was alive. After the affair that happened at the maternity hospital in Nis in 1997, when some babies died, she began her search by checking the documentation she was given at the hospital and at the Town hall, as well as 300 other families. But Grana's case is different because she knows where her son, who was told to be dead, is.
- I got the name of the woman who is now my biological son's "mother" in an unusual way. You must understand that I can't speak much about the matter. I'm only going to tell you that I got the paper with the name of the family my son lives with from a woman. I saw my son for the first time in 1998 in Nis. Since then I have only been looking at him, but I can't go near. I still hope that someone who has the authority will contact me and that they will start working, at least on some cases. What I would like the most is to be contacted by my son's parents - says Grana.
KRAGUJEVAC - Zivan Agatonovic, one of the parents who are searching for "the lost babies" says there is an increase in the number of the families who claim their children have been stolen from hospitals in the period from 1974 to 1999.
- 21 families from Kragujevac and villages near have been listed. They claim that their children have been stolen and sold with the official explanation that the babies were born dead or died immediately after the birth. Regarding the documentation we have managed to collect up to now it is certain that these statements are untrue, and the real truth about the destiny of our children has to be found - says Agatonovic.
We have filed seven criminal complaints: one to the prosecutors' office in Nis, two were disregarded as obsolete and four are waiting to be contemplated. In the last 30 years 1,319 babies died, but the documentation was guided with negligence. Authorized services lack sources from the books of birth and death based on which we can conclude that some of the babies haven't even been born, and not died.
Milan Dumic chief of legal service of KBC says there is no mystery of the missing babies and that KBC has all the necessary documentation, which denies claims of the parents that their children were stolen and sold.
BELGRADE - Out of 20 families from Kragujevac who doubt in supposed death of their babies, born at the Clinic center in Kragujevac, five have gathered the necessary documentation and started the search to find out what actually happened with their children. Among them is a doctor, Vesna Knezevic, a specialist for otorhinolaryngology, who today lives and works in Sopot.
- My story is similar to the stories of all the parents who think their babies were stolen at the maternity hospitals. In 1978, as a young doctor of general medicine I lived and worked in Kragujevac. There I gave birth to twins, refusing the advices of friends and some colleagues to give birth in Belgrade, because I didn't think that it mattered which maternity hospital I would go to. However, now I realize that this could have also happened in Belgrade-says Dr Knezevic. Completely aware during the delivery she heard the babies crying, but contrary to the rules, they were shown to her after they were swaddled.
Her doubt in the death of the male twin Dr Knezevic completed with discharged lists, birth certificates and other documentation in which, as in other cases, most of the information doesn't correspond.
On Vesna's discharge list, issued on August 2, 1978, there is no name of the medical institution where the delivery was carried out, and the information about the babies' weights she was told after the delivery don't agree with the ones in the list. Also, it is stated that the children were transferred to the children ward, immediately after birth, due to insufficient weight and it isn't written that the male baby died 8 hours after the delivery, as it was told to the parents a day earlier.
On discharge list for the female baby, issued on September 26, 1978, the seals of the institution and the doctor's signature are replaced by just one, unclear signature. There also is no information that the baby is first born from the twin pregnancy and that the other twin has died.
KRAGUJEVAC - Due to suspicion in doctors' work, 5 out of 20 up to now registered families from Kragujevac gathered the necessary documentation and started the search for the truth about their children, who officially died after birth at the Clinic center in Kragujevac. The parents have, by themselves, gathered information that arose doubts. However, the families that looked for the documentation from the Clinic center and the Town Hall didn't receive the necessary papers in legally anticipated term of 30 days. Some were told the documentation was gone because the archives had been destroyed by floods, while the others got papers, which only arouse their doubts.
- My wife Milka gave birth to alive and healthy premature baby on September 26, 1974 at the maternity hospital in Kragujevac. A doctor told me then that they had to transfer the baby to Nis due to some kind of an infection. Six days after this I go to Nis, to the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth, to see the baby. The doctors tell me everything is all right and that my son is in the incubator and that I should bring my wife to nurse him. I go to Nis on October 7 with my wife. She stays at the ward and I go back to Kragujevac and the day after receive a telegram in which they inform me that my son died on September 30 - says Zivan Agatonovic, the employee of "Zastava". Among the parents who are persistent to find out the truth is a lawyer Jasna Spasojevic. She came to the Clinic on May 15, 1985 to give birth.
Vera Vukomanovic, who gave birth to a baby boy on May 8, 1987, filed a claim to the police and the prosecution to investigate her case. She remembers the baby was crying and it was alive, which was confirmed by one of the nurses. Four days before the delivery she was told the baby was dead, although she felt it moving in her stomach.
- They didn't show me the body of the baby, even though I asked to see it. While I was begging at the prosector they said the baby was burnt and it was "down the sewers". I got certificate from the Town Hall that my child wasn't signed in the book of the deceased - says Vera Vukomanovic. Vesna Pantic has the same story. She says that she gave birth to twins at the Clinic center on December 30, 1988. The female child came first, alive and then came the male child-dead, by the official information.
- When I gave birth to the second child I lifted my head and saw it was alive. It was crying and no one can convince me in something else. They didn't give me the body of the baby and when I asked for the discharge list it said the baby was falling apart - says Vesna Pantic.
On August 28 this year her husband, Ljubisa Pantic, received the certificate from the protocol of the women who gave birth at the Clinic center. It said that the deceased child was male. At the pathology he got the information and a shape of the female child. This case was also reported to the police department in Kragujevac.
BELGRADE - Representatives of 300 families that are searching for their children for whom the doctors said were dead, believe they were manipulated and victims of the children theft. They referred to us with a letter, which we publish in agency abbreviation. -For months you have been reading sad, but true stories about the babies that mothers give birth to in various towns and that babies soon die in a very strange way, that is, are given to other families for adoption in the country or abroad. The affairs like this have happened before, and usually one or two texts are written and then nothing else happens.
The Brdjovic-Velickovic affair from Nis had a stronger effect when families with similar problems tried to unite and establish an organization. However, the Ministry of health put a ban, allegedly because of the Ministry reputation or something else, familiar only to them. We ask Mrs Velickovic from Nis if her conscience is troubling her when she claims that she gave birth to a daughter when she knows she was carrying a false stomach, one day high, the other day low; everyone new everything, and then the doctor gave her the baby after the "delivery". It is also known that her "daughter" was nursed by another woman!
The doctors' role
The letter further explains the alleged role of some of the doctors in the cases of stealing the babies. -Dr Iva participated the affairs wherever he worked in the region near Negotin. He used his private car to save the babies from Aleksinac who would then supposedly die at the hospital in Nis.
The case of Slavoljub Milenkovic from Trnjani whose son Dejan was born on August 21, 1971 weighing 3.200 grams proves this. The baby spent more than 20 days at the hospital in Aleksinac and was then transferred to Nis by Dr Iva where it supposedly died. That child is now a grown up man, 31 years old-it is claimed in the letter.
- Prokuplje is one of the most painful places where the largest number of children disappears compared to the number of births. During 1986, 22 babies were gone, which was confirmed by the public prosecutor Miroljub Nikolic who was replaced due to alleged affair regarding a professor of the Faculty in Pristina. He actually worked on a case of Ivanovic Nenad and Slavica, from Stara Bozurna, who gave birth on June 15, 1987. The baby weighed 2.500 grams and supposedly died after 7 days.
That child is alive today and lives in the family of Bratislav Filipovic in village Lipovac near Nis. We are 100 per cent sure in that and the child is signed neither as alive nor as dead and he doesn't have a medical record because he is treated by a private doctor. Dr Cvetanovic from Nis is also involved in this case as a mediator on the occasion of the child "adoption". We note that a cousin of Bratislav Filipovic, Nadica from Aleksinac, adopted a daughter a year ago in the same way. One of the mediators in the disappearance of the children is the chief of the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Prokuplje, Dr Nada Milosavljevic.
The hospital in Prokuplje is one of the leading hospitals for children disappearance compared to the number of births, maybe even because there are narrow relationships between Nis and Prokuplje (midwives-doctors) and Prokuplje-Beograd. Profesor Slobodanka Ilic from the Institute for neonatology as well as the deputy of the minister, Rodoljub Milosevic, who is mentioned 2-3 times in discharge lists, also come from the region of Prokuplje-it is added in the letter.
In the conclusion of the letter it is emphasized that the families demand the execution of the tests on the children for whom they suspect to be signed as dead and that the children should decide by themselves whose last name they will take. - We, the 300 families, ask does Vidosav Jovanovic, the assistant director for legal matters at the Hospital for neonatology in Belgrade, have a private clinic and if yes, with what money did he buy it? Is it true that, beside the babies, their organs were sold and who did that? We don't have a leader, nor a lawyer, but we are 300 families, we have experts, lawyers, birth officials, policemen, graphologists and we will endure in our search until the end-it is concluded in the letter of 300 families who search for their supposedly dead children.
KRAGUJEVAC - The families Agatonovic, Spasojevic and Vukomanovic from Kragujevac suspect their babies were stolen from the hospitals. They have filed criminal complaints against the doctors of the hospitals in Kragujevac and Nis (where Milka Agatonovic gave birth), but the prosecutor discarded their statements due to the obsoleteness of the cases. Milka Agatonovic gave birth on September 6, 1974 in Kragujevac as a 19-year-old girl in the seventh month of pregnancy, and the baby was transferred to Nis, without the mother.
- A midwife said there was a big infection in Kragujevac and that there were not enough incubators. A month after, when I left the hospital in Kragujevac, I was notified from Nis that my baby died on September 30, even though that wasn't told to my husband, who, in the mean time, visited the maternity hospital in that town - remembers Milka Agatonovic. Her husband Zivan claims that his baby was, while it was at the hospital in Nis, fed with milk by a woman from Belosevac, near Kragujevac, to whom he appeals to contact him.
Also as a19-year-old student Jasna Spasojevic came to the hospital on May 15, 1985, in the ninth month of pregnancy. She says she got an injection and that she vaguely heard she would have to be delivered by Caesarean section.
They were then told that they couldn't see the baby's body. The Spasojevic state that the word "dead" was typed over the word "alive" in the discharge list. Also the baby weight stated in the list is 2,87 kg and in the postmortem results 2,93 kg. From the birth official in Kragujevac they got the information that their baby wasn't registered in the book of the dead.
Vera Vukomanovic was on a pregnancy control on May 8, 1987. She says that the doctor said the fetus was dead, although she felt moves in her womb and although she was kept at the ward until May 11 "to open naturally".
- I claim that the next morning, when I gave birth, I heard my baby crying, but it was taken from me by one of "the three women" I was left over to. That woman soon came back and said the child was dead. I kneeled and begged them to at least show me the baby's body, but they said that was impossible - says Vera. There is no information about the time nor there are parents' personal numbers in the birth certificate book. This child also wasn't registered in the book of the dead.
M. M. Dj.
KRAGUJEVAC - Anybody who asks Kragujevac KBC hospital for documentation regarding their dead child can have everything that KBC can offer. Log books were kept during all those years from 1968, and all the data can be found there- from origin,in other words name and surname, to the autopsy details , said yesterday dr Ljiljana Mijatović, deputy director of KBC Kragujevac.
As "Blic"has already reported, twenty families from Kragujevac have strong daubts that their babes have been stillborn, i.e. thtat they have died after the birth.
As we have learned on the Pathology department, from 1978. so called "molds" containing tissue parts of the dead persons after the aytopsy. Those are the parts of the brain, hart and lungs 9 wgether the babies are concerned). So, according to the words of dr. Mijatović, parents who have doubts that their babies were sold, may have, on a receipt, those parts as to conduct DNK analyses and establish the thruth, Afterward they have to bring them back to the hospital.
A group of Serbian families is demanding an investigation into the possible theft and trafficking of newborns. Their claims open a window onto a practice that may have been going on for decades.
The families contacted the State Attorney last month, citing information from a medical worker linked to police investigations. According to the families, the medical worker told them that stolen babies are sold in Serbia, Western Europe and America for amounts ranging from 250,000 euros to 2.5m euros.
The issue received public interest after a family was reunited with their supposedly deceased daughter, now 23 years old. Radojka Manojlovic gave birth to twins in 1979 in Belgrade. The babies were transferred to the Belgrade Neonatology Institute, but after 11 days doctors informed the family that one of the twins had died. The parents took the surviving twin, a boy, to Sokobanja where they have lived ever since.
The truth came out last year, after Manojlovic visited the institute to obtain papers concerning her son. She also asked for documents concerning Nikoleta, the twin who had died. Although the clerk refused, saying a court order was required, Manojlovic succeeded in obtaining the papers. They said that the baby girl had been released from the hospital in healthy condition nine days after her supposed death. The family subsequently pressed charges of child theft. After five months of searching, they found Nikoleta - now named Violeta.
The family contacted dozens of Serbian parents with similar stories. All had given birth to healthy babies who died a few days later for no apparent cause. When parents demanded documents about their babies’ deaths, they were told that no records existed or that they needed a court order to see them.
The Belgrade Neonatology Institute, which is linked to most of the cases, has refused comment, saying only that it has forwarded all papers to the Public Attorney’s office. The case is under the jurisdiction of the Second Municipal Public Attorney’s office in Belgrade. The office confirms that several families are pressing charges, and said it is collecting data.
By Zoran B. Nikolic for Balkan Times in Belgrade
SOKOBANJA - After feverish private investigation Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic claim they have tracked down their supposedly dead daughter Nikoleta and even welcomed her to their home in Soko Banja.
Milutin Manojlovic says they no longer have any doubts as they have "living proof" that their daughter has been stolen. After the birth of their twins, Ljubomir and Nikoleta, on May 5, 1979 who have been transferred from "Narodni front" hospital to the hospital for premature babies, the female baby was stolen.
- On May 16 we were informed by telegram that the girl died. In confusion we believed the doctors. We wanted to keep the boy - says the father.
Quest in Krusevac
The Manojlovic have the paper that says their daughter, who was declared dead, was taken away from the hospital for premature babies-alive! According to that document, issued on December 3, 2001 the girl didn't die on May 16, as it was written in her death certificate. On the contrary, she was released alive 40 days later.
When they started to compare the numbers on the available documentation for those children, they thought of it as a code-letter that baby mafia used to keep track of the babies. One combination of numbers from birth and death certificates was, for instance, supposed to hide the dialing code of the town the stolen baby is taken to. According to that combination their girl was to be looked for in Krusevac.
Somehow, at that time they heard from an acquaintance that knew well Dr Aleksandar Marjanovic - the doctor who worked at the Institute for neonatology who in 1979 signed the confirmation of their daughter's death. The acquaintance said that she had always believed their child was alive and that it should be look for in Krusevac.
The Manojlovic organized the search in the town under Bagdal and gained information about a family that had difficulties in having children. First the mother had a miscarriage then, officially, in July 1979 by Caesarean section she got a girl and then, again by Caesarean section she got another girl in August 1980.
Further research about that family brought them to Belgrade. It turned out that a girl, who was named Nikoleta, went to the same high school as their son - her possible twin brother Ljubomir, who attended that school as the scholar of the Football club Zemun. They knew each other superficially, but that was enough to become friends.
During the time, the Manojlovic told their assumptions to Nikoleta and advised her to look for her data in the birth certificate books in Krusevac. In March this year she found herself in Krusevac with her Belgrade sister and visited the birth service where she was told she could only get her birth certificate but she could not see the book, regardless of being over 18 and regardless of the book being a public document. The official emphasized that in the case of the adoption the book can't be seen. She then went to the high school where she asked to see the data about her and her "Belgrade sister".
- In Nikoleta's birth certificate it was written that the father was born in 1957 and the mother in 1956, which isn't true - says Milutin Manojlovic.
In the meantime the Manojlovic tried to get some information from the Archive in Krusevac. In the report of Nikoleta's birth mother's signature differs from the signature in the report for the other child. Besides, Nikoleta doesn't have a personal number while her sister does.
- In Nkoleta's birth report there are dates and places of birth of the parents while this information is missing in the birth certificate. Also, it says the parents were both born in Krusevac, which isn't true - says Manojlovic. In the report it says the parents live in Krusevac, with no address written while the birth certificate has the address.
Bracelet as a gift
The Manojlovic believe that the original birth report was made and the parent's address was written to the birth certificate from it. Then, by their words, the original report was destroyed. The forgery has recently been made, without the address but with forged mother's signature.
Seeing all that Nikoleta decided to visit Soko Banja for Easter, to be baptized and to celebrate birthday with Ljubomir as her twin brother. Ten days later, after she told her "Belgrade mother" she had doubts about her origin and that she had visited Soko Banja, Nikoleta went to Krusevac again, with her mother. They managed to get the official documents but without seeing the birth book. On their return Nikoleta wanted to visit Soko Banja again, which her mother refused.
"Belgrade mother" and "parents from Soko Banja" met on May 20 on Nikoleta's demand. The Manojlovic say they came to the meeting with bundles of papers and documentation while "Belgrade mother" didn't have anything. She said she was taken to maternity hospital two weeks earlier, she didn't remember the delivery as she was under narcosis and she didn't know when the child was brought to her because she was "asleep for three days".
In their conversation she said: "We took good care of Nikoleta." On our remark there are no data about her delivery at the hospital in Krusevac she said: "What's going to happen to the doctors?" When we said that brother and sister could have fallen in love with each other she said: "Well, now they know each other so they won't!"
A few days later Nikoleta again spent some time in Soko Banja with her sister and a friend. She told her "Belgrade mother" she is going "to get used to the situation". After some time she returned home and showed a bracelet she got from the Manojlovic. This bracelet was intended for their daughter right after her birth. "Belgrade mother" said: "Maybe you have accepted the gift too early if you are not quite sure about the thing".
"Belgrade mother" and "parents from Soko Banja" met again on June 1 in Zemun. This time it was also on Nikoleta's demand. The Manojlovic say that after the second meeting they have irrefutable proof that woman didn't give birth to Nikoleta.
In the meantime the Institute for neonatology issued declaration in which they claim that the confirmation, which says the Manojlovic girl, was released from the hospital alive was issued by mistake. Supposedly the authorized official was confused by the noisy atmosphere raised by the Manojlovic so instead of the information about the female she entered the information about the male child. The official was suspended and the Institute apologized to the Manojlovic for the harsh mistake that was made. Meanwhile, the Manojlovic weren't peaceful…
SOKOBANJA - Were the doctors in maternity hospitals during the seventies and eighties stealing and selling babies that were initially declared dead? Does this "business" which involves people in white robes, exist today at clinics for gynecology and childbirth? Many parents who weren't willing to accept the official versions of their babies' death are trying to prove their children are alive even after a few decades.
In Soko Banja, in the home of Radojka and Milutin Manojlovic about 15 families gathered, connected by the same destiny - mothers mysteriously lost their newborn babies. They all believe their children are not dead, as they were told by the doctors, but sold for huge amounts of money to some other families.
- This is all a great project of stealing children, which involves the doctors - says Milutin Manojlovic. - The goal of our gatherings is to inform all the families in Serbia, which there are dozens of, how to look for their children.
They all show certain documents with certain information but at resumed receiving of the documents the tracks are lost.
All the parental uncertainties will be written down and delivered to the Republic prosecutor. As we could hear at the meeting in Soko Banja, the price of a stolen child goes from 250, 000 to 2,5 million DM. Great numbers of our children were sold in Western Europe and the USA and female children usually go to the Albanian families.
Dr Slobodanka Ilic, the director of the Institute, wasn't willing to comment on the accusations raised by the parents who are determined "to file a communal complaint against the white mafia" The parents claim "children trade is an organized crime in our country and it involves doctors of various health institutions and as a rule everything finishes at the Institute for neonatology" where premature babies are taken care of.
At the weekend the parents gathered in Soko Banja, in the home of the Manojlovic family, who claim they have found their supposedly dead daughter Nikoleta. They established that there were neither discharge lists nor death certificates given for supposedly dead children and that only very persistent parents have managed, after months or even years of searching, to get the postmortem results, but without protocol numbers, without any signatures and with blurred seals.
A telephone at the Manojlovic's flat rang. Mother Radojka answered it and then she got startled and said:
After a conversation that lasted many hours a murmur in the big room fell away. A younger son, Dragan, jumped without thinking, picked up the receiver and dialed a well-known number.
To our interrogative look father Milutin answered affirmatively: - Yes, Nikoleta is calling. We talk to each other every day. She calls from her cell phone when she has a chance, and we call her back to talk. We have so much to say to each other.
While he is talking in interrupted voice Milutin looks at his younger son, Dragan, who is talking to the person on the other side of the line. He can't stay calm. After a few moments he goes to the phone and takes the receiver:
And then, while Radojka is speaking, Milutin can't hold of himself anymore and lets a tear. We are bare witnesses of the drama that is happening in the family Manojlovic from Soko Banja; actually from Belgrade, but about that later. In this little town, a spa at the foot of mountain Ozren, a first class sensation happened. After almost 23 years, four member family Manojlovic claim they found their daughter for whom they believed not to be among the living anymore.
- No, never, during all these years, when I went to church I didn't light a candle for her soul, as it is customary. I pressed it back inside myself. Something inside disobeyed to believe-says Radojka, 44-year-old handball player and a mother of two grown up sons. And now, a mother of a grown up daughter.
Confusing, unbelievable, because the whole story misses a little pieces of mosaic that would brighten the clues that show up. So, the story has to be returned to the beginning, in the summer of 1979.
- I am young, barely over 20, pregnant and Milutin is in the army. We live in Belgrade with his parents, in Zvezdara. I get into labors and go to the maternity hospital in Narodnog Fronta to give birth. On May 5 I give birth to twins, a boy and a girl. Premature pregnancy. Children are small, no weight they tell me. After two days they are transferred to the Special hospital for premature babies in Haile Selassie Street. I ask why I don't go along, I have milk to breast feed them, but they refuse my request without any explanation. I am inexperienced, I don't understand, I believe it is the way things have to be done…
Doctors release Radojka home, and her mother-in-law Darinka and Milutin's half sister Zorka, Darinka's daughter from the first marriage, visit babies every day:
It isn't hard for mother Radojka to got to the hospital every day but she can't bear the fact that she can't see her children:
- My mother-in-law Darinka told me that. I screamed to the sky. Husband Milutin continues the story instead of his Radojka: That days' lodger, Ljilja, told me that she found Radojka in the room, alone, unconscious. Also, her milk dried up. A lot of things were left unclear then. How come my mother Darinka and half sister Zorka, who had a "connection" at the hospital, suddenly don't have it any more and can't take over the baby's body for burial? How come there is documentation about the acceptance to the Special hospital for premature babies for the boy, Ljubomir and there isn't for his twin sister? How come one document says that she was born on May 5, 1979 at 22.05 and the other - at 22.47? How come nobody took the baby's body and buried it according to our Serbian customs? How come the death certificate is written for the nameless female child when the child had a name Nikoleta and a birth certificate? Since when a hospital organizes a burial without parents' knowledge?
Father Milutin states more reasons that made him doubt:
He continues his sad testimony:
Things would be like that forever if, last year, the "ill kid", now a footballer full of strength, didn't get an offer to play football abroad. But future finicky chiefs demand all documentation about illnesses since birth until now. So Radojka and I go to Belgrade. At the hospital, which is now called the Institute for neonatology, we ask for the evaluation of illnesses for Ljubomir. This happened on December 3 last year. But this is where a problem appeared. We got it for Ljubomir, with difficulty, but there was no lead about the deceased daughter. How come there is documentation from 1979 for Ljubomir under a number 599 and there isn't for Nikoleta under a number 600? Only from the book of protocol, the employee of the Institute, Marjenka Lipovaca, read that the female child was born on May 5, 1979 at the Hospital for gynecology and childbirth in Belgrade from mother Radojka Manojlovic and father Milutin; entered the hospital on May 7 and discharged on June 25 the same year. Doubt, suspicion, and awaken hope. How could it be? - asked Milutin then and now.
He manages to get it in writing.
For all those things the Manojlovic started the search for their daughter in winter. Ljubomir joins them, but also the younger son Dragan, who was born after Ljubomir in Soko Banja.
Milutin doesn't sleep for months. Neither he nor his family. They are tense and tired. Their "company" are now policemen, judges and prosecutors. That day they spent several hours, talking, at the police department in Soko Banja. We waited at the café "M", which is in front of their house.
After a fight, which lasted half a year, a girl called Violeta came to Soko Banja, for Easter, to the home of the Manojlovic:
Father Milutin is afraid to say some things out loud, but he gathers strength and says:
The Manojlovic are determined to endure till the end. They obviously have a very strong motive. On our return from Soko Banja we try to fix an appointment at the Institute for neonatology with director Dr Slobodanka Ilic. We get only condensed and brief response from her:
We also found Milutin's mother Darinka. This 76-year-old woman is severely accused by her son and daughter-in-law.
SOKOBANJA - Confident to be right, Radojka (44) and Milutin (44) Manojlovic from Sokobanja, owners of local Little Caffeteria, persisted and succeded in their efforts to prove that 22 years ago somebody have stolen their newborn baby girl from Belgrade special hospital for premature babies (today Institute for Neonatology).
After frantic private investigation Manojlovic couple found their allegedly dead daughter and she recently visited them in their home in Sokobanja. Emotion and tear-filled reunion took place after great drama, mostly psychical. It was difficult for Radojka and Milutin toi explain to a girl that they are her real parents, and who knows how Nikoleta (till then Violeta R) accepted the fact that all these years she lived with people who are hot her own flesh and blood.
- Don't ask me how we came across a trail of our daughter, but she came in our home and learned the real truth - states Milutin Manojlovic - We proved that she was stolen from the hospital.
This almost incredulous story, which threatens to became a huge scandal, begins while ago, when Radojka, fieldball player from Benkovac, and Milutin, football player from Galenika team, met, fell in love, got married and settled in Belgrade. She got pregnant and he went in army service. Their biggest trouble was that they had the worst combination of Rh-factors - Radojka was Rh-negative, and Milutn was Rh-positive. On top of that, in that time sonography was not a common procedure, so Radojka was not aware that she is bearing twins.
- Only when I gave birht to a boy, in Gynecological and Obstetrical Clinic „Narodni front“, they realized that there is another baby - remebres Radojka Manojlovic.
After accepting the cruel „fact“, Manojlovic couple focused all their parental love and care on a son, Ljubomir. Doctors stated that hi is very ill, so parents asked them how to take care of him. They were told that nothing is for sure, at least till after his puberty, and advised to change the environment and move to seaside or a health spa. Mr and Mrs Manojlovic decided than to leave Belgrade and change their life altogether. Milutin remembered his inheritance in Sokobanja, so they settle in this tourist town.
Last fall Ljubomir decided to became professional football player, and for that reason he needed detailed health documentation. After so many years Mr and Mrs Manojlovic got a chance to peer in their dead daughter files. They found a document which brought them great upset. It said that their daughter, who was pronounced dead, left special hospital - alive!
On December 3. last year Instutue for Neonatology issued a certificate which said: „Infant Manojlovic, female, reg.number 600, mother Radojka, father Milutin, born 05.05. 1979. in GAK Belgrade, was admitted in this Institute on 05. 07. 1979. and released 06. 25. 1979.“
So girl haven't died on May 16. although that same hospital issued her death certificate in that time.
Contrary, she was released alive after forty days. Of course, it was enough for Mr. and Mrs. Manojlovic to start chase for truth which recently ended successfuly.
Short life was predicted to Ljubomir. So greater the shock for parents was when were told that the girl died. Mr and Mrs Manojlovic claimed that doctors proposed a lethal injection for a boy, to „shorten his suffering“, because he will, if survived, be wheelchair-ridden. The boy who was written of today is big young man, 185 cm tall, and active football player. He has a younger brother, Dragan (21).
Atr the end of past year Mr and Mrs Manojlovic really „frightened“ district attorney in Sokobanja by filing a lawsuit aganist NN culprit who had stolen their infant daughter Nikoleta.
Weekly magazine NIN, February 2002. / Serbian source
When a doctor makes a mistake
Still, the furthest point was reached by the doctors of a hospital in Subotica where anonymous inquiry regarding the Charter was conveyed. Most of them established the fact that the rights of the patients are "excessively represented". The majority attitude toward the matter is that some parts of the Charter don't give trust in expertness and knowledge of medical workers. They are especially pointing out to the section 9 point 2 which says: "A doctor is obligated to notify a patient about the mistakes made in medical treatment"… Their opinion is that most of the sections of the Charter are not used in practice "due to bad material situation, overburdening and indifference of the doctors as well as the bad organization of the medical service".
30-year-old Ivana Djuric from Belgrade was completely healthy until she was transferred to the delivery room of the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth of the Clinic center of Serbia on April 28, 2000, from where she was taken out dead after the delivery. Her husband Sasa Djuric (a psychiatrist) claims for NIN that "that wouldn't happen if her doctor accoucher Sasa Kadija wasn't in a hurry to, as unconcerned as she could be, spend Easter and 1st May holiday". Dr Kadija and Dr Zizic, who also have a private practice, were hired and paid to follow the pregnancy of Ivana Djuric, which means they were obligated to attend the delivery. "They have always pointed out that we shouldn't come to the clinic before the labors appear. I guess they didn't expect that delivery could happen on holiday. When they realized there was no joke and to be undisturbed for the holiday, they decided to cause a premature delivery. They called us to come although my wife wasn't in labors nor her water broke. As soon as we arrived she was given "sintocin", a medication for causing labors. That caused terrible pains for several hours although there were no medical reasons for premature delivery. Up to that moment Ivana and our unborn child were well."
Because of the forcing of the delivery the baby, however, turned from normal position and the umbilical cord got wrapped around its neck. To save it from choking Ivana was emergently transferred to the operation room for Caesarean section. Then a member of the staff, according to Djuric's words, makes a mistake: "Anesthesiologist Vlada Andric misses the larynx with anesthetic cannula and enters the gullet."
Death occurred due to choking. It seems that some members of the staff weren't in the operating room at that time. Every beginner, even I as a psychiatrist, knows that a simple procedure tracheotomy could have saved Ivana. In this way only our son survived the operation.
Everything that was told Sasa heard only unofficially. Officially, the doctors disregarded a doubt about thromboembolism as incorrect and as a new cause of death announced embolism with fetus water. He then asked for the postmortem, which was, on the District court demand, carried out on May 1 in Belgrade. Why not earlier than four days after death? "Wanting to conceal the case, the staff of the Clinic for gynecology and childbirth in Visegradska didn't transfer the body of the deceased women immediately to the freezer of the forensic medicine. The body was kept in the hospital basement waiting for the process of decay, hoping that the postmortem report wouldn't be valid."
Soon it will be two years from the premature death of Ivana Djuric. The case is still with the public district prosecutor. Only these days Sasa heard that criminal complaint would be raised against, in the mean time retired, anesthesiologist Vlada Andric. "Yes, everything is moving really slowly but it's more important to me if everything is righteous. I am also accusing Dr Sasa Kadija, the chief of the accouchement staff, because I find her responsible for my wife's death."
Sasa Djuric is not a regular patient who doesn't find unprincipled procedures of medical staff unfamiliar and who, as laymen, can't prove that a doctor made a mistake; he is a doctor himself. "I can only imagine how they treat a person who isn't an expert. The possibilities for concealment are bigger. They couldn't lie to me, although they tried, with stories about embolism and the other diagnosis. Still, during the operation they asked neither for my opinion nor my approval. They didn't tell us, but they had to, they were going to perform the Caesarean section."
Even when a patient of average education notices a mistake it's very hard for him to document it. Only the harshest and the most obvious omissions could make a patient ask for reimbursement and legal responsibility of doctors. Usually those legal proceedings are hard to win and they last long, in our country even longer than a decade. The damaged usually can't rely on any state official and always feels like the weaker side in the proceeding with the medical institution. Jakov Radisic, professor at the Faculty of law in Kragujevac, writer of the book "Professional responsibility of medical workers", says for NIN that "usual negligence and temporary damages are concealed because the patients think they owe the human gratitude to doctors even when the final outcome is unfavorable. Feeling of that obligation is stronger than the feeling of injustice that has been done to them because it wasn't done with bad intention."
Listening to the lawyers it seems that doctors in our country are privileged. They say the biggest problems are proving and court interpreters, and also medical workers who unite with their colleagues. Their results are usually imprecise and can be interpreted differently. "Usually with insufficient or wrong information they cause a complex of complete ignorance on court. Instead of their own logical conclusions everybody accepts nonlogical conclusions of doctors. The reason: "I am a layman".
The world, however, has totally different situation. During the seventies, in the USA, a number of cases against doctors was rapidly increased. At the end of the seventies every tenth doctor was accused. Rewards and insurances of doctors in cases of responsibility toward the patients, only between 1965 and 1975 were increased by 800 per cent. The sums usually exceeded 1m $. This outcome of the events threatened to seriously damage the medical service. Reimbursement was shortly limited to a sum between 100 and 500.000 $. American hospital association adopted the Charter about patients' rights in February 1973.
In our country the law is also clear-if you harm somebody, you have to make up for it. Only, in our country people are cheap. We know how much is a house, a car or a fridge worth…but we don't know the price of a man. One of the chiefs of "Dunav" insurance company claimed that, comparing the accusations for reimbursement for death of domestic animals, he noticed that a life of a horse, ox and a sow is worth more than human. Man is on poultry level, having a rank of a chicken or a turkey. The ones who dared to complain about doctors' mistakes and won the trial got very little money. It is completely clear why none of the doctors in our country lost a license for work for making medical mistakes. You don't go to prison because of the poultry.
By the end of the month "Charter about patients' rights" will be published in our country. It was arranged by a group of lawyers and doctors: Marija Draskic, Vladimir Vodinelic, Jakov Radisic (professors at the Faculty of law), Milan Popovic, Mira Samardzic and Vuk Stambolovic (doctors). The Europe council is the next gate we have to open. It is assumed that one of the conditions for our acceptance would be reformed legislation in which the rights of patients would have to be represented. Why is that important?
Owing to numerous professionally conducted researches medical institutions got a chance to convince themselves that informed patients show better outcome in curing and stay less at hospitals. According to a study, conducted by the Group for health strategy of the state of New York, patients could be divided into three categories: passive, interested and active.
Passive patients see themselves as victims of circumstances that are out of their reach. They seldom ask for any information regarding their health condition. They die earlier than the patients from other two categories. Interested patients listen carefully to what the doctor is saying and comment the information they get. In the end they always listen to the advice and usually it is said that they are the patients doctors like the most. Active patients take responsibility for their health. They act from positions of somebody who demands and doesn't hesitate to say their opinion about dissatisfaction. They see themselves as consumers of health services so they consider they have a right for corresponding demands and expectations from the health service.
Marija Draskic says that patients' rights in Europe could be divided into three groups. "One treatment is bringing a special legislation about patients' rights as it already exists in Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Lithuania. Finland is the first country in Europe that adopted the Law about patients' rights and status. The law anticipates the institution of ombudsman. He is authorized to advise patients about the application of the law, help them in cases of legal proceedings, inform them about their rights etc. The other treatment is incorporating the patients' rights with already existing legal texts. This solution was chosen by Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Uzbekistan. Our suggestion (authors of the Charter) is that our country should, in the same way, incorporate the Charter about patients' rights. The third way represents signing of the Charter on national level as it was done by the Great Britain, Ireland, Poland, San Marino etc."
In our version of the Charter two rights have main importance. The right of human dignity and self-decision, and the right of quality and safe medical service. All the other rights are in the function of these two, says Jakov Radisic and adds: "A doctor should help a patient to bring reasonable decision regarding his treatment and not to decide instead of him. A doctor should notify a patient about every medical measure that should be done and about its risks. Agreement of uninformed patient is not legal and a doctor should know that in that case he takes the risk of failure. But, if a patient agrees a doctor can't be expected to guarantee success of his treatment. The Charter is pointed against blackmailing, corruption and bureaucratic mentality."
Vuk Stambolovic, one of the authors of the Charter, is an optimist: "The connection between mafia and medicine, law and the state will be broken. Special interests will be made. Regarding them the picture and the position of doctors who ruin the patients' health will be changed. There already is a term: a problem doctor, in the West. The institutions themselves want to get rid of those kinds because they are losing their patients. This is the entrance of the human rights into medicine. Patient's right to chose the way of treatment is still unthinkable in our country. I don't expect that the Charter would be greeted honestly because it jeopardizes the power. It changes the position of patients, they wouldn't just be dependants of doctors' help."
The authors of the Charter have tested the opinion of doctors and patients about it. They had conversations in Podgorica, Subotica, Sombor and Kikinda. Of course, patients liked the text but they expressed healthy suspicion in the possibility of its realization. On question would you be ready, as a patient, to ask for the application of the Charter a woman said: "What's wrong with you, after that I would be boycotted from all the doctors!" A man from Subotica said: "In other circumstances, another country, another planet and another dimension." A man from Podgorica: "Yes, because it regulates the right on dignity, regularity and legal protection." A woman from Kikinda: "Many times I have been dissatisfied with medical treatment but I was helpless. I just didn't have anyone to complain to." Our patients, wherever you find them, mostly complain about inappropriate behavior of medical staff. Regarding this they are thinking about being unaccepted for examination, refusals, waiting, negligence, aggression, inexpertness and mistakes at work.
It's normal to expect that, due to conditions in which they work and small wages, referring to the patients' rights will make doctors, nurses and technical staff hair stand on end. Still, the furthest point was reached by the doctors of a hospital in Subotica where anonymous inquiry regarding the Charter was conveyed. Most of them established the fact that the rights of the patients are "excessively represented". The majority attitude toward the matter is that some parts of the Charter don't give trust in expertness and knowledge of medical workers. They are especially pointing out to the section 9 point 2 which says: "A doctor is obligated to notify a patient about the mistakes made in medical treatment"… Their opinion is that most of the sections of the Charter are not used in practice "due to bad material situation, overburdening and indifference of the doctors as well as the bad organization of the medical service".
"At this moment we mostly miss the codex of medical ethics, and, on organization agenda-a doctors' chamber. Medical workers in the countries in the west are proud not only with their knowledge and technology but with the codex of their ethics. They are obligated to respect the codex by their doctors' chambers and state officials. On the contrary, they lose their right to work", says Jakov Radisic. As for us, who cares for Hippocratic oath, which, by the way, some people ascribe to-Hippocrates.