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On June 20, 2019, the Higher Court in Belgrade issued a verdict in which it found the eight indictees guilty of a war crime committed in October 1991 in Lovas (Croatia), and sentenced them from four to eight years in prison. Sentences for five indictees were reduced in relation to those imposed in the first instance trial, while for three other indictees the sentences remained the same. Milan Devčić was sentenced to eight years in prison, Saša Stojanović to seven years in prison, Zoran Kosijer, Željko Krnjajić and Jovan Dimitrijević to six years in prison, Darko Perić and Radovan Vlajković were sentenced to five years in prison, and Radisav Josipović was sentenced to four years in prison. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that owing to failures in the work of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), only a few perpetrators have been convicted for the crime in Lovas and many victims have been omitted, and that the sentences imposed are too light in relation to the gravity of the crime committed.
The Higher Court in Belgrade on 16 April 2019 handed down a verdict in the case against Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina, for a crime committed in the village of Trnje/Terrnje, Kosovo, on 25 March 1999. Pavle Gavrilović was acquitted,but Rajko Kozlina was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the Court has erred in their assessment of the evidence against Pavle Gavrilović and in finding him not guilty, and that the sentence passed on Kozlina is too light for the severity and consequences of the crime he committed.
On Sunday, March 24, it was 20 years since the systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing and violence against Kosovo Albanians, carried out by the armed forces of the Serbian army and police during the NATO intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), began. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) calls on the institutions of the Republic of Serbia to ensure justice for victims of crimes in Kosovo, prosecuting all those responsible, regardless of their position at the time of the commission of the crime, or within the current hierarchy of power. And it calls for public recollection of their suffering.
According to the HLC and the HLC Kosovo data, between March 20 and June 14 1999, Serbian forces killed 6,872 Albanians in Kosovo. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) established that over 800,000 Albanian civilians were deported, that an unspecified number of people were subjected to torture and sexual abuse, and that a significant part of Kosovo Albanian property and religious buildings – were destroyed.
Due to the frequent removal of the content from the official website of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) wishes to point out a tendency to put at risk the public’s right to know about the war crimes trials taking place in Serbia. Namely, over the past few weeks, the contents of the war crimes cases that have been processed or are still being prosecuted before the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade High Court have been removed from the official website of the OWCP.
During previous years, the website of the OWCP was a rare example of the well-designed and satisfactory page of a state body full of content, where the public was able to become acquainted with documentation of cases that had been prosecuted or whose prosecution was ongoing. However, instead of the different sections of this webpage being updated with new content in a timely manner, it is now no longer possible to find submissions of even elementary information regarding previous statistics, cases, indictments, closing arguments or complaints. By removing the stated content, the public’s right to be informed in a continuous and timely manner about the indictments, as well as about the phases of individual war crimes proceedings, has been endangered.
In early March 2019, Zoran Tadić, whom the Croatian authorities suspect of having committed a crime in the Croatian village of Škabrnja in November 1991, fled from Australia, where he had been living since 1992, to Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) demands that the Office of War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) act on the criminal charges filed by the HLC in 2017 for the crime committed in Škabrnja, and conduct an efficient and effective investigation regarding Tadić’s involvement in this crime.
The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) dismissed the criminal charge filed by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) at the beginning of February 2019, for the crimes against humanity committed in October 1991 in Morović (Šid). It was then that members of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) took the Abjanović brothers from their house, after which every trace of them was lost. The criminal charge was dismissed because, in the interpretation of the OWCP, the prosecution of crimes against humanity violates the principle of legality. With this explanation, the OWCP continues its practice of failing to process crimes against humanity committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, thus denying the right of a large number of victims to finally receive justice.
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.
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.