Seventeen-year-old Antonia Bilić disappeared on June 7 somewhere in the area of Drniš, Croatia. Antonia had been hitchhiking and was last seen entering a truck on a road to Split. A suspect was found quickly. Dragan Paravinja was the man driving the truck that drove off Antonia into an unknown direction. Two weeks later, police located the truck, but there was no sign of Antonia or the driver. DNA analysis of hair found inside of the vehicle proved that she had been in the truckat one point. The only thing left to do was find the man responsible for her disappearance.
On June 26, he was arrested. In a rather shocking turn of events, it was discovered that Paravinja was not just a random deviant passer-by who committed his first crime. He was a convicted rapist who fled Serbia in 2003, after facing four years of jail time for one rape and attempt of rape. He had escaped jail time by fleeing to Croatia. In 2007, Serbian Interpol contacted Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs and informed them that an international arrest warrant was issued on him. This is when laws started to work in favor of the offender.
Paravinja had Croatian citizenship, and according to the constitution, Croatia doesn’t extradite its own citizens. Instead of imprisonment for the committed crime, he landed a job as a driver for a transportation company and continued to live a normal life. The fact that the offender was walking freely around the country sparked media frenzy. How was that even possible? The Croatian government and police immediately dodged responsibility and denied any wrongdoing. According to them, Serbia didn’t show enough interest in the extradition.
Dear officials, excuse is a tool of incompetence and there is nothing you can do or say to eliminate your lack of judgment. What is more, Croatia is currently protecting 311 citizens who are convicted for various crimes in other countries, including homicide, rape, kidnapping, war crimes etc. It is not so much the idea that criminals, rapists, murderers are walking among us that scares me; it is the fact that institutions of this country fail to bring cases to justice while bearing the legal and moral obligation to do so.
The truth of the matter is simple and sad. If Croatian police had arrested Paravinja when finding out about the warrant then extradited him to Serbia, today, Antonia Bilić might have been at home with her family. and the offender would be paying for his crime.
Despite all of this, Croatian Minister of Justice says there’s no need to change the laws or constitution. He merely proposed better coordination between neighbouring countries in such cases.
During one of the police hearings, Paravinja admitted to have strangled Antonia and thrown her body into the river Krka. After weeks of extensive search in the area, where he had supposedly left Antonia, there’s still no trace of her. The police is now reconsidering the option that Paravinja’s testimony was false, and that Antonia could have been a victim of organ trafficking and is no longer inside of the borders of Croatia.
Antonia’s family strongly believes that she is still alive, hidden somewhere in one of the countries from the region. They are currently working on distributing flyers about Antonia’s disappearance all over Europe through a syndicate of drivers.
As I write this, I sincerely hope that by the time this text is published she will be found, alive and well. If you want to help, take a good look at the videos below, no matter what country you live in. The chances that you saw this girl somewhere near you are small but don’t let that stop you. Share this video with your friends.
There is still a possibility that this young life can be saved.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo credit: Bill Bresler
The views, opinions and comments published on this BLOG are not necessarily those of the Kosovo 2.0 editorial staff. Also, the website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted on the blog stories. All comments that incite and encourage hate speech or discrimination will be moderated.