Slavko Curuvija

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Slavko Ćuruvija, 51, owner of the mass-circulation Dnevni Telegraf, the first private daily newspaper in Serbia, and the weekly magazine Evropljanin, was shot dead on April 11, 1999, in what appeared to be a professional murder at outside his home near the Yugoslav Parliament in the capital of Belgrade. In February 2024, a court overturned the convictions of all four men charged with his murder and acquitted them in a final verdict that cannot be appealed.  

Curuvija’s wife, Branka Prpa, who was pistol-whipped in the attack, said at the time that two gunmen dressed in black leather jackets fired several bullets into her husband’s back and head.

Curuvija had visited Washington, D.C. in December 1998, when he told the U.S. Congress’ Helsinki Commission that questioning the rule of President Slobodan Milosevic had become tantamount to treason. In March 1999, Curuvija was fined and sentenced to five months in jail for "spreading false information," a violation of Serbia’s restrictive information law, after he published a story linking the killing of a Belgrade doctor to the Serbian deputy prime minister, Milovan Bojic. Curuvija refused to pay the fine and was appealing the sentence at the time of his death.

Just days before his murder, state television broadcast allegations that Curuvija supported NATO’s 1999 air strikes against Yugoslavia in response to ethnic cleansing launched by Serbian forces against Kosovar Albanians.

In 2012, Serbian journalists and government officials established the Commission for the Investigation of Murders of Journalists, which focused on Curuvija’s murder, among others, to break the cycle of impunity in the killing of journalists.

In 2014, the Serbian prosecutor’s office identified four suspects, all with the ties to the security services of the former Republic of Yugoslavia under Milosevic. The Serbian nationalist policies of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, were instrumental in the violent break-up of Yugoslavia and the deaths of at least 120,000 people in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

Police arrested two of them – former Belgrade spy agency head Milan Radonjic and operations chief Ratko Romic – on January 14, 2014, on suspicion they had planned Curuvija’s assassination, according to media reports. The third suspect, Serbia’s former national security chief Radomir Markovic, was already in prison for the assassination of Serbian politicians, according to local media. The fourth, Miroslav Kurak, was on the run and an international warrant was issued for his arrest, media reported. Romic and Kurak were identified as the hitmen while the two others who held higher positions in the security services masterminded the killing, according to regional news site Balkan Insight, citing the indictment.

The trial began on June 1, 2015. Three of the suspects pleaded not guilty, while Kurak was tried in absentia.

In July 2017, the two main suspects–Radonjic and Romic–were released from police custody, after the court ruled they would be held under house arrest pending trial.

On January 24, 2019, Serbian media reported that the deputy prosecutor for organized crime, Milenko Mandic, asked the court that each of the four defendants be sentenced to 40 years in jail, the strictest prison term in the country, according to Cenzolovka, a website that tracks media violations. In his closing arguments, Mandic said that the investigation “established without doubt” that “the murder of Slavko Curuvija was planned to the smallest details, and was prepared in a way that Curuvija had no chance to survive.”

On April 5, 2019, Serbian media reported that a Belgrade court convicted the four former Serbian state security officers of the crime. Markovic and Radonjic were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, and Romic and Kurak each received 20-year prison sentences, with Kurak’s issued in absentia, according to Cenzolovka.

Markovic and Radonjic were charged with instigating a grave murder, while Romic and Kurak were indicted for carrying it out, according to local news website B92, which reported that the prosecution believed the murder was ordered "by top state officials at the time."

On September 7, 2020, the Belgrade Appeals Court announced that it had overturned the four convictions, according to news reports. The court decision, issued on July 15 but only made public in September of that year, cited “significant violations of the provisions of the criminal procedure” in the previous convictions, according to those reports.

In a retrial that concluded on December 2, 2021, Markovic and Radonjic were each sentenced to 30 years in prison, while Romic and Kurak were each given 20 years in prison. Kurak remained on the run and was convicted in absentia.

On March 6, 2023, the defendants’ appeal started at the Belgrade Court of Appeal.

On February 2, 2024, the Court of Appeal published a statement on its website announcing the non-appealable verdict of its five-judge panel made in April 2023, which ruled to acquit the four men and overturned the December 2021  verdict. According to media reports, the verdict said that “in the absence of direct and indirect evidence that would reliably confirm that the defendants Markovic, Radonjic, Kurak and Romic [are] the perpetrators of this criminal act, [it] finds that the allegations of the accusation have not been proven beyond a doubt."