Sorry, this entry is only available in srpski.
Sorry, this entry is only available in srpski.
On 25th December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center submitted to the Constitutional Court of Serbia an initiative for assessing the constitutionality and compliance of the Law on Free Legal Aid (ZBPP) with the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, generally accepted rules of international law and ratified international conventions. The HLC considers the legal solutions foreseen in the ZBPP on the one hand deny equal access to justice to citizens, since they exclude a wide range of persons who could be users of free legal aid, whilst, on the other hand, they narrow down the circle of providers of free legal aid, leaving a large number of Serbian citizens without adequate legal protection.
At the end of November 2018, the National Assembly adopted the ZBPP, although its actual implementation was postponed until 1st October 2019. The debate on various proposals of this law lasted for over a decade, and one of the biggest obstacles to its adoption was the disagreement between bar associations in Serbia and citizens’ associations regarding the issue of who can provide free legal aid. For this reason, the HLC considers one of the most controversial provisions of the ZBPP to be Article 9, which provides that free legal aid can only be provided by lawyers, local self-government units and organizations providing free legal assistance in the fields of protection against discrimination and asylum. The organizations dealing with issues that do not include protection against discrimination and asylum cannot provide free legal aid, but free legal support exclusively, as reflected in administrative matters such as, for example, filling in forms.
On Friday 21 December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) submitted to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Veteran and Social Affairs (Ministry) its comments on the Draft Law on Veteran and Disability Benefits (Draft Law). In the comments the HLC points out that the public consultation process that preceded the preparation of the draft law was non- transparent and that the text of the Draft Law, instead of improving the position of civilian victims of war, maintains the discriminatory provisions contained in the law currently in effect, as a result of which civilian victims of war are put in an unfavourable position in relation to military victims of war.
In early August 2018, the Ministry established a working group to draft a law which would comprehensively regulate the rights of war veterans. Only members of war veteran and disabled servicemen associations were invited to participate in the working group. Associations of civilian victims, gathered around the Alliance of Serbian Associations of the Families of Missing Persons from the Territory of the former Yugoslavia, as well as interested experts in the field and other stakeholders were excluded from the process. Moreover, apart from announcing that the working group had been set up, the Ministry did not publish either of the two versions of the Draft Law on its website for comments. It was from the website of the Association of Disabled Wartime and Peacetime Veterans of Serbia that the HLC got hold of the Draft Law dated 9 December 2018. By not publishing the Draft Law on its website and not including associations of war-disabled civilians and civilian victims of war in the consultation process, the Ministry made it impossible for those interested parties to contribute their views on the proposed legislation.
On November 26, 2018, the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade Higher Court issued a judgment finding Ranka Tomić, the leader of the “Petrovac Women’s Front” unit which was under the command of the Petrovac Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS), together with other members of the unit she was captain of, guilty of the torture and inhumane treatment of the war prisoner Karmena Kamenčić in mid-July 1992 in the village of Radić (Bosanska Krupa), and sentenced her to five years in prison. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the court rendered the right decision by convicting Ranka Tomić, but found that the sentence imposed was too mild, bearing in mind the manner in which Karmena Kamenčić was tortured and later killed.
After three and a half years, the Belgrade Court of Appeal has finally confirmed the indictment of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) against five members of the Višegrad Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS) for the crime committed in Štrpci. In this crime, 20 non-Serb civilians were kidnapped from a train travelling from Belgrade to Bar, and later killed. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) urges the institutions of Serbia to approach the processing of this crime seriously and responsibly, and without any delay, and thereby restore the trust of the victims and public in the institutions responsible for the prosecution of war crimes.
Today we mark the 26th anniversary of the abduction and killing of 17 citizens of Serbia of Bosniak nationality from Sjeverin near Priboj, who were taken captive by members of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS) during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (Sandžak Committee) and Women in Black wish to remind the public that the long-standing search by the families for the mortal remains of the victims has not yet ended, and that it is unacceptable that the institutions of Serbia, even after 26 years, still persist in refusing to provide victims’ families with fair compensation, support and recognition.
On October 22nd 1992, members of the “Osvetnici” (“Avengers”; text available in Serbian), a paramilitary unit which operated under the auspices of the Republika Srpska Army, stopped a bus of the Užice-based company “Raketa” near the bridge over the River Lim in Mioče (BiH). The bus was travelling on its usual Priboj-Rudo-Priboj route. After the identities of every passenger had been checked, 16 Bosniaks were taken out of the bus: Mehmed Šebo, Zafer Hadžić, Medo Hodžić, Medredin Hodžić, Ramiz Begović, Derviš Softić, Mithad Softić, Mujo Alihodžić, Alija Mandal, Sead Pecikoza, Mustafa Bajramović, Hajrudin Sajtarević, Esad Džihić, Idriz Gibović, Ramahudin Ćatović and Mevlida Koldžić. They were taken by military truck in the direction of Višegrad, where they were brutally beaten, and then killed on the banks of the River Drina. The night before this event, Sabahudin Ćatović was abducted in front of his family house in Sjeverin. He has disappeared without a trace.
October 18, 2018, will be 27th anniversary of the crime committed in the village of Lovas (Croatia), when around 70 people from Lovas, mostly of Croatian nationality, were killed in October and November 1991. For this crime, a criminal proceeding has been conducted before the domestic courts for more than 10 years, which has not been finalized to this day. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that the unreasonably long duration of this procedure has, for the families of the victims, created distrust in the institutions of Serbia, and doubts that they will ever be able to receive justice for the suffering they have endured.
On October 10, 1991, an artillery attack on Lovas began at the orders (available in Serbian) of the Commander of the Second Proletarian Elite Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA 2nd PEMBR), Dušan Lončar. In the following month, until mid-November 1991, members of the Serbian forces – including members of the civilian government, the Territorial Defense (TO), the Tovarnik militia and the “Dušan Silni” volunteer unit, killed about 70 inhabitants of Lovas at various places in the village; at the same time, most of the houses were looted and set on fire. The most massive crime was committed on October 18, 1991, when members of the TO and the “Dušan Silni” unit, forced 51 persons from Lovas to clean the local minefield from the mines previously set up by the JNA, using them as a live shield. From the mine explosions, about 20 people were killed, while the majority were wounded.
On October 16, 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) of the Republic of Serbia against several unknown persons, for killing three members of the Matijević family in April 1992 in Kukujevci (Municipality of Šid, Serbia).
In the late evening hours of April 20, 1992, several unknown persons entered the courtyard of the Croatian family Matijević in Kukujevci. They took Ana, Joza and their son Franjo Matijević, a minor, from the house, and drove them to an unknown destination. Several years later, their mortal remains were exhumed from the cemetery in Mohovo (Municipality of Ilok, Croatia). To date, no one has been charged for this crime before the courts in Serbia.
After Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has accepted a request for retirement by the Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces, Ljubiša Diković, on Friday, September 14, 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) reaffirms its belief that Diković should have been replaced earlier, since the HLC submitted serious allegations that the 37th Motorized Brigade of the Yugoslav Army (37th Mtbr VJ), commanded by Diković during the Kosovo conflict, killed about 1,400 Albanian civilians, while thousands of others were expelled. Only two days after the HLC published its Dossier “The Ljubiša Diković File”, the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office (OWCP) informed the public that it had investigated the HLC’s allegations and found no basis for accusations of Diković’s criminal responsibility. Since it was not realistic that the findings from the Dossier could have been be investigated in just two days, the HLC demanded from the OWCP that it proceed with a comprehensive investigation into the allegations regarding Diković’s responsibility for the said crimes.
The HLC has described the operations of the 37th Mtbr in two Dossiers – “ Ljubiša Diković” and “Rudnica”, in which evidence was provided concerning the killing, rape, robbery and expulsion of Albanian civilians in 10 different locations (Staro Čikatovo, Ćirez, Baks, Izbica, Šavarine, Vrbovac, Donja Sudimlja, Rezala, Donji Zabelj, Gladno Selo) – crimes that were committed during the Kosovo conflict. To this day, the OWCP has not filed an indictment for any of these crimes, and the HLC has no data on whether the OWCP has initiated investigations into these crimes.
Awarding him the Order of Karađorđe’s Star – 1st class, while also bearing in mind the claims of the President of Serbia that Diković was an honourable and committed officer, and his always taking Diković’s side when “they falsely accused him and wanted to put a seal of shame on his forehead”, represents an insult to all victims of the conflict in Kosovo, and a slight to their sufferings. The intention was to reduce the extent of the crimes committed, which were confirmed in the two judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the Šainović and al. and Vlastimir Djordjević Cases).
The HLC points out that the OWCP’s obligation is to investigate all allegations of potential perpetrators of war crimes, and that Ljubiša Diković, as the former commander of the unit that participated in the conflict in Kosovo, must in no way be an exception to that OWCP obligation.
On June 7, 2018, the High Court in Belgrade issued a judgment, obliging the Republic of Serbia (RS) to pay compensation for non-pecuniary damages to the total amount of 3.050.000 Serbian dinars (RSD), to the sisters Saranda, Jehona and Lirie Bogujevci (Sisters Bogujevci), severely wounded in the crime committed by the “Scorpions” unit in Podujevo on March 28, 1999. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the trial in this case lasted for an intolerable length of time, and that the amount of compensation awarded was inadequate in relation to the serious injuries sustained by the sisters Bogujevci in this crime. On 28 August 2018, with the HLC’s support, the Sisters Bogujevci filed an appeal with the Appellate Court in Belgrade, within the statutory deadline of 15 days after the judgment was received.
On March 28, 1999, members of the “Scorpions” unit shot and killed 14 Albanian civilians in the Gashi family’s backyard in Podujevo – seven children aged two to 15, and seven women. Five children from the Bogujevci family – Saranda, Lirie, Jehona, Genc and Fatos – survived the shooting, although severely wounded. For this crime, five members of the “Scorpions” unit were sentenced to multiple years of imprisonment before a domestic court. The “Scorpions” unit was part of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia (MUP), and according to the Law on Obligations, the Republic of Serbia was responsible for the damage that its state authorities (in this case the MUP) did in the course of its work.