Velibor Vujić, a 35-year-old physical education teacher from Bijeljina, was convicted in March 2021 of sexually harassing a minor student at the Mihajlo Pupin Secondary Technical School in Bijeljina. However, after the verdict, he continued to work in education.
“By the way, he has a certificate confirming the absence of any criminal record”, said Mićo Stojišić, principal of the Vuk Karadžić High School Center in Lopare, where Vujić works today. Stojišić claims he did not know that Vujić was convicted of harassing a student, nor was the school officially notified thereof.
The verdict says professor Vujić had been sending vulgar, sexual, and inappropriate content to the student via Facebook, asking her to send him photos of herself in underwear and answer various questions of a sexual nature and then to delete the messages.
When the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Bijeljina filed an indictment against him, he entered a plea bargain and was sentenced to a 7-month suspended prison sentence. Vujić is not the only one who continued to work at the school with children after he was convicted of sexually harassing students.
CIN journalists found that since 2012, at least seven educators have remained in education after receiving final verdicts. Two of them are still working, one quit his job, and the others have since retired.
Journalists were unable to identify the two convicted educators because the courts in their verdicts redacted their names and the names of the schools where they committed the crimes. Most school principals claim they did not know that their teachers were convicted, while some protected their identities.
They were sentenced to suspended prison sentences of two months to a maximum prison sentence of three years for sexual misconduct and sex act with minor students, both male and female because they: kissed them against their will, touched their bodies, said vulgar words, and sent messages of sexual and other inappropriate content.
Many of them did not want to talk to CIN journalists or did not answer calls.
Convicts continue to work with students
After Velibor Vujić was charged with sexually harassing a female student, he consensually terminated his employment at the Mihajlo Pupin Technical High School in Bijeljina in 2020.
Principal Milenko Maksimović claims to be unaware whether Vujić continued working in schools elsewhere after leaving his school: “We did everything according to the protocol, and with the help of the ministry and all institutions, we promptly reacted (…) and after our reaction, the professor collected his documents from our school”.
However, CIN journalists revealed that Vujić for a short time resumed a career in education at the Veljko Čubrilović Primary School in Priboj near Lopare. School principal Vojislav Božić told reporters that at the time when he applied for the job, the school did not know that Vujić had been convicted of sexual misconduct. Due to the court process related to Vujić’s employment status, the school terminated cooperation with him. Božić says that he “does not want to have any cooperation with such people”.
Vujić soon found a new job at the Vuk Karadžić High School Center in Lopare, where he still teaches physical education four hours a week. Principal Mićo Stojišić says that he did not know that Vujić was convicted of sexual harassment.
“He has a certificate confirming the absence of any criminal record and no ongoing criminal proceedings against him. We have [all papers confirming] that he has no criminal record, and that everything is all right,” replied Stojišić.
Vujić did not respond to calls and messages from CIN journalists.
The competent Ministries of the Interior issue certificates confirming the absence of any criminal record. However, the law allows that criminal records may be erased after a certain number of years, and after that, the certificate does not indicate whether the person ever had any criminal record. On the other hand, the competent courts, upon passing a final judgment, issue a certificate of no ongoing criminal proceedings.
Such a certificate issued by the Sarajevo Municipal Court open the doors to Samir Alihodžić, professor of sports and physical education from Sarajevo, to resume his job at the Grbavica I Elementary School. In November 2021, he was convicted of sexual misconduct against a student of this school.
He was sentenced to one year in prison and the court banned him from teaching for one year. He replaced the prison sentence with a fine and resumed his job as soon as the ban expired in November 2022.
“He was able to get the certificate from the court because the court proceedings has been finalized. There was no legal obstacle for the court to issue him a certificate of no ongoing criminal proceedings”, said the Sarajevo Municipal Court.
The possibility of commuting a prison sentence to a fine was introduced to reduce overcrowding in prisons. The length of the sentence that can be replaced, the monetary amounts, and the methods of payment are not uniform at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Let’s recall that in late 2019, CIN discovered that convicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina had previously commuted their prison sentences for sexual misconduct against vulnerable persons. This option is also used by convicts from Serbia and Croatia who hold dual citizenship based on which they transfer their sentences to BiH to avoid prison time.
The parents of students attending Grbavica I Elementary School asked the school management to dismiss Alihodžić and prevent him from working in jobs that involve contact with minor children.
“We demand that the Grbavica I School immediately, and without any delay, initiate the dismissal procedure against teacher S. A. This is the only demand of the parents whose children attend this school, with no alternative, and it is our obligation to persevere in this, because it is the only solution in the interest of all of us, and most of all, of our children”, said the Parent Council of Grbavica I Elementary school.
Due to pressure from the public and parents, Alihodžić resigned in mid-December 2022. His lawyer, Alen Nakić says that Alihodžić informed the school about his resignation electronically.
“Mr. Alihodžić’s legal position was such that at the moment when these actions began to take place, there was absolutely no legal basis for the termination of his employment, but here, Mr. Alihodžić decided to take this step to calm down the situation, not allowing anyone to feel threatened by his presence at the school, especially not the children with whom he worked for many years”, said Nakić.
Davor Vidaković, another educator from Doboj, was sentenced to four months in prison in 2018 for abuse of position while he served as a professor and director of the Đački dom institution in Doboj. He continued his career as a professor and associate of the University of Business Engineering and Management in Banja Luka (PIM) at the Faculty of Computer Science in Istočno Sarajevo.
Dragan Mitrović, founder of the PIM Department in Istočno Sarajevo, told reporters that he had no information of Vidaković being convicted. As he says, when he applied for the job he presented the documents from April 2020: a certificate of having no criminal record and a certificate of no ongoing criminal proceedings against him.
Mitrović adds that the PIM has meanwhile been anonymously warned about Vidaković, and they again asked the professor to provide the school with documents from the Ministry of the Interior and the competent court. The school then received documents which, according to Mitrović, confirmed based on operational and criminal record searches, that the professor had not been convicted of any crime.
When asked about what the school will do regarding the fact that Vidaković has been convicted, Mitrović replied: “Only if it is factually confirmed that there is anything that indicates the validity of these allegations, of course, all procedures will be undertaken under the law”.
Vidaković hung up on CIN journalists.
Sexual misconduct convicts quietly retired
In 2017, Ahmet Morankić worked as an administrative affairs clerk at the Srebrenik Mixed Secondary School. He was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of eight months for sexual misconduct against a schoolgirl. According to the verdict, in November 2012, this 54-year-old man invited an underage student to his office and kissed her on the mouth against her will, telling her that she was “attractive and that there was some chemistry between them”.
In the same year, the Srebrenik School management pronounced Morankić with a minor breach of duty, which is defined as thoughtless and inappropriate conduct with students during work, but he remained working at the school after the report. However, he continued to work in the same workplace even after he was convicted until he retired in 2020.
Morankić also confirmed this to CIN journalists, stating that he had no problems. When asked if the school knew about the verdict, he said: “Well, what do I know, I guess they have (…), you’re making me go back and reconstructing it all”.
The present school principal Mehmedalija Smajlović said that he did not know that he was convicted: “He had no convictions. There was a report (…). I heard that there was a report. Well, I really did not know what the report was about. I don’t know anything about him being convicted or being in court on that issue.”
Miodrag Maričić, a professor of physical education at the Agricultural and Medical School in Bijeljina, also continued to work until his retirement after he was convicted of sexual misconduct against three female students through the abuse of position in 2013.
At that time he was 61 and he invited the schoolgirls to his office under the pretext that he needed to evaluate them. He touched one of the girls on her bottom, tried to kiss her, and seat her in his lap, while he spanked the bottom of the other, and caressed her hair, neck, and stomach, and he also touched the bottom of the third girl, asking her to hug and kiss him. When the girl refused, he tried to kiss her on the mouth.
He was accused in 2015, and in March of the following year, he was sentenced to a conditional sentence of one year in prison. However, all that time he worked as a school teacher until he retired in the fall of 2016. The current school principal of the Agricultural and Medical School, Zoran Despotović, says that he did not know that Maričić was convicted.
Even Milomir Draganić, principal of the Sveti Sava Elementary School in Rogatica, did not know that the former teacher of physical education Zoran Radojević was sentenced to six months in prison in 2017 for sexual misconduct against a student through the abuse of position.
In 2015, the then 62-year-old Radojević committed a crime against an elementary school student. According to the verdict, he touched the student’s breasts and thighs in the office, slipped his hand under her shirt, and when she slipped away, he hugged her tightly and kissed her on the forehead, saying that she was his favorite and that she would get a positive grade. He then invited the girl to come after class, noting that she should not mention the meetings to anyone.
Draganić confirmed to journalists that Radojević had retired in the meantime: “As soon as the problem surfaced, he retired.”
Pero Šarčević, a former geography teacher at the Jovan Dučić Gymnasium in Doboj, did not answer calls from journalists. In 2012, he was sentenced to three years in prison for sexual misconduct through the abuse of position.
“He didn’t work with us, and he didn’t work at another school either. He waited and retired in the meantime,” said the Jovan Dučić Gymnasium in Doboj.
Despite the public interest, courts and prosecutor’s offices anonymized the verdicts against educators in five cases they shared with CIN. Therefore, journalists were mostly unable to check whether these teachers still work in education.
In some verdicts, information about convicted teachers is completely obscured, while in others only their initials are visible. Among them is M.M., the former mathematics teacher at the Elementary School Vladimir Nazor in Odžak, who is sentenced to one year in prison.
When asked by the journalist to reveal the identity of the teacher, the school principal Nada Bačić, said: “I can’t tell you that. I wouldn’t even think about it anymore if you didn’t bring me back to it.”
Checks in the Pedophile Register
In the Republika Srpska, there is a pedophile register, which is maintained by the RS Ministry of the Interior. However, this register is not public, and to check any convict in it, one should contact the Ministry of the Interior. The Federation of BiH has never established a pedophile register.
Gordana Rajić, the RS ombudsman for children, explains that amendments to the law on education imposed an obligation on educational institutions to check the candidates for jobs in the Register of Pedophiles. However, she says this is rarely done.
Rajić says that pedophiles once registered in this Register can never be deleted from the database: “These are permanent data, and considering that there is an obligation imposed on authorities, organizations and even associations not only when employing but also when engaging someone for activities that involve contact with children, they can ask and obtain information on whether that person is in the Register”.
CIN journalists have previously investigated cases of sexual harassment at educational institutions and discovered that public faculties and academies in BiH avoid initiating disciplinary procedures for sexual harassment, which is punishable by dismissal.
Student testimonies about the immorality of professors are left to the judiciary, which is not benevolent toward the victims – out of 53 people reported for sexual harassment to the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH in the past decade, only five have been convicted. Therefore, support for victims who are empowered to speak out is insufficient, and justice is hard to attain.