Sentences for rape of Roma women from Skočić too mild

Sentences for rape of Roma women from Skočić too mild

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The Belgrade Court of Appeal rendered a third-instance verdict that reduced the sentences on members of the “Sima’s Chetniks” unit – Tomislav Gavrić, Zoran Đurđević and Zoran Alić – for the inhumane treatment, rape and sexual abuse of three Roma women in the village of Skočić during the second half of 1992. The HLC considers that the policy of lowering the penalty pursued by the courts in Serbia does not lead to just punishment and non-repetition of crimes, nor to justice or compassion for and solidarity with the suffering and pain of war crimes victims.

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Crime in Štrpci – 26 years, no justice for victims

Crime in Štrpci – 26 years, no justice for victims

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Crime in Štrpci – 26 years, no justice for victims

On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, it will be 26 years since the crime in Štrpci, when members of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS), gathered at the railway station in Štrpci (Bosnia and Herzegovina), abducted 20 passengers from a train operating on the Belgrade-Bar route, and then killed them. They were all non-Serb civilians. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), Women in Black, the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia, would like to remind the public that the families of these victims have been waiting 26 years for justice from the courts in Serbia, and for recognition of their status as families of civilian victims of war.

The victims of this crime were: Esad Kapetanović, Ilijaz Ličin, Fehim Bakija, Šećo Softić, Rifat Husović, Halil Zupčević, Senad Đečević, Jusuf Rastoder, Ismet Babačić, Tomo Buzov, Adem Alomerović, Muhedin Hanić, Safet Preljević, Džafer Topuzović, Rasim Ćorić, Fikret Memović, Fevzija Zeković, Nijazim Kajević, Zvjezdan Zuličić and one unidentified person.


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Husein Mujanović should be extradited to BiH

Husein Mujanović should be extradited to BiH

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At the end of July 2018, members of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MUP) arrested BiH citizen Husein Mujanović on the border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), for crimes allegedly committed in the Hrasnica camp (Sarajevo) in 1992. On December 24, 2018, The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) filed an indictment against Mujanović, who is still in custody in Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia believe that the obligation of the authorities in Serbia is to extradite Mujanović to the judicial authorities of BiH, whose citizen he is, and thus show their intention to promote good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation in the prosecution of war crimes.

Mujanović was arrested on the basis of a warrant that Serbia has issued, on the suspicion that in 1992, at Hrasnica, Sarajevo, as the guard at the camp, he abused Serb civilians. As Mujanović has been detained since July and the OWCP has filed an indictment against him, the Serbian judicial authorities have expressed the clear intention to try Mujanović before a court in Serbia. Although the Law on the Organization and Competence of Government Authorities in War Crimes Proceedings, from 2003, allows the OWCP to prosecute nationals of any country for crimes committed on the territory of the whole of the former Yugoslavia (the principle of universal jurisdiction), the HLC and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia believe that the OWCP should hand over all the evidence it possesses against Mujanović to the competent authorities of BiH, in order for him to be tried in BiH. Each country to have emerged from the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia should primarily prosecute its own citizens for war crimes committed, as it sends a message to the other countries of the region that it is ready to deal with crimes committed by its citizens and has the intention of normalizing relations in the region.

For this reason, the HLC and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia call on the competent institutions in Serbia to abandon the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, which deepens the distance and mistrust between the states in the region, thereby also further hindering the effective prosecution of war crimes.

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Comments of the HLC on the first draft of the Action Plan for Chapter 23

Comments of the HLC on the first draft of the Action Plan for Chapter 23

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On Friday, February 8, 2019, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) submitted to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) comments on the first draft of the revised Action Plan for Chapter 23 (draft of revised Action Plan), relating to jurisdiction. The HLC considers that, in the part relating to war crimes, the MoJ did not conduct a thorough analysis of the activities that the state authorities responsible for the processing of war crimes were obliged to implement on the basis of the existing Action Plan, and that the draft revised Action Plan does not reflect the real situation in the area relating to war crimes.


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Initiative for Assessment of the Constitutionality of the Law on Free Legal Aid

Initiative for Assessment of the Constitutionality of the Law on  Free Legal Aid

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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.


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Draft Law on War Veteran and Disability Rights retains provisions that discriminate against civilian victims of war

Draft Law on War Veteran and Disability Rights retains provisions that discriminate against civilian victims of war

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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.

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On the occasion of the judgement of the Higher Court in Belgrade in the case against Ranka Tomić

On the occasion of the judgement of the Higher Court in Belgrade in the case against Ranka Tomić

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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.

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After three and a half years, the Belgrade Court of Appeal has confirmed the indictment for the crime committed in Štrpci

After three and a half years, the Belgrade Court of Appeal has confirmed the indictment for the crime committed in Štrpci

Afstrpci-thumbter 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.

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Sjeverin, 26 years later: the search for truth, justice and recognition continues

Sjeverin, 26 years later: the search for truth, justice and recognition continues

sjeverin-thumbToday 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.

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Marking the 27th anniversary of the crime in Lovas

Marking the 27th anniversary of the crime in Lovas

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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.


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