Criminal charges for crimes in Skabrnja and Nadin

Criminal charges for crimes in Skabrnja and Nadin

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On November 21, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor (WCP) against six identified and several unidentified members of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and Territorial Defense Unit (TO), for the killings of 48 Croatian civilians in the villages of Skabrnja and Nadin (Croatia) in November 1991.

Namely, on November 18, 1991, together with the Benkovac TO, the JNA entered the village of Skabrnja in the municipality of Zadar. After entering the village, they destroyed the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After that, 41 Croat civilians were killed in various locations in Skabrnja. The next day, in the nearby Nadin, seven more civilians were killed.

The killings at both locations were conducted to the same pattern: civilians who were found in their houses were brought outside with curses and insults, where JNA and TO members killed them from close-up. Most of the victims were elderly persons, among them 16 women, one of whom was disabled.

Milan Martic, the then Minister of the Interior of the Serb Autonomous District of Krajina (SAO Krajina), and Milan Babic, the then President of the SAO Krajina, were sentenced to several years in prison for crimes committed in the villages of Skabrnja and Nadin, before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Before the courts in Serbia, however, not one JNA or TO member has been found responsible for these crimes.

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Role of the State in hiding Ratko Mladić – State Secret

Role of the State in hiding Ratko Mladić – State Secret

Prvo osnovno JT

In response to a request from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) to provide a copy of the indictment against 11 people for helping hide the then fugitive Ratko Mladic, the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office responded that the indictment had been declared a state secret and that the public could not be informed. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the decision to proclaim this document a state secret is illegal, and aimed at concealing the role of state organs in hiding war crimes indictees.

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25 years since the crime in Sjeverin It is our duty to remember and respect the victims of war crimes

25 years since the crime in Sjeverin   It is our duty to remember and respect the victims of war crimes

ne_zaboravimoSjeverin

On Sunday, October 22nd it will be exactly 25 years since the kidnapping and murder of 17 Serbian citizens of Bosniak ethnicity near Sjeverin, in the Priboj municipality. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and the Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (Sandzak Committee) reiterate that the Serbian authorities, even after 25 years, have not undertaken any action to fulfill their moral and legal obligations towards the victims’ families, neither in terms of finding the victims’ mortal remains, nor in providing a fair compensation.


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The European Court transfers the responsibility for the non-prosecution of crimes from the Prosecution to the Victims

The European Court transfers the responsibility for the non-prosecution of crimes  from the Prosecution to the Victims

imagesOne year after it rejected the application of former detainees from the Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje camps, the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision on October 19 2017 declaring the second application, submitted on behalf of family members of the killed camp detainees, inadmissible. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which represented the victims’ families in these proceedings, points out that the European Court re-used the same, factually unsustainable structure of reasoning in order to transfer the responsibility for the inactivity of war crimes prosecutions from the state to the victims themselves.

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Military medical facilities in the service of obstructing justice in war crimes proceedings

Military medical facilities in the service of obstructing justice in war crimes proceedings

Visi_sud_beogradThe main trial before the War Crimes Department of the High Court in Belgrade in the Trnje case, which was scheduled for September 13 2017, was not held because the defendant Pavle Gavrilović did not appear before the Court, again, because he allegedly fell ill on the day of the trial. His absence was, as in previous occurrences, justified on the basis of medical records issued by the Military Hospital in Niš. The second defendant, Rajko Kozlina, used to use a similar tactics of absence from the trial, with the only difference that he received confirmation of hospitalization from the Belgrade Military Medical Academy. Both defendants are still members of the Army of the Republic of Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that this is a deliberate obstruction by the defense, with the complicity of military medical institutions, and calls on the court to, by at least placing the defendants in custody, put an end to an obvious obstruction of justice.

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Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes – dead letters

Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes – dead letters

ministarstvo_pravdeMore than a year after the adoption of the  Action Plan for Chapter 23 (Action Plan), the provisions of this document relating to the prosecution of war crimes are being carried out superficially, for merely ”cosmetic” purposes, and many of the prescribed activities are not being carried out at all. The situation is the same when it comes to the implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes (National Strategy). It must therefore be said that the state authorities responsible for the implementation of the above provisions of the Action Plan and  National Strategy are falsely informing the public about their work, and continually making it difficult for the civil society to access relevant information and monitor their work. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) believes that such behaviour is contrary to the obligations of the accession negotiations with the EU, and is an indicator of Serbia’s lack of commitment to the reform process, as well as sincere effort to prosecute war crimes more efficiently.

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State obstructing War Crimes Trials

State obstructing War Crimes Trials

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The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has dismissed (available in Serbian) the indictment filed against eight members of a Special Brigade of the Republic of Srpska Ministry of the Interior, accused of killing 1,313 civilians from Srebrenica in the Kravice hangar on July 14th, 1995 (Srebrenica – Kravica Case), with the explanation that the indictment was not filed by an authorized prosecutor. The Humanitarian Law Center thinks such a decision represents an inadmissible failure of the local judiciary, which will further jeopardize the process of war crimes trials, already deemed to be too slow.

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Criminal charges against members of the Red Berets (“Crvene beretke”) for crimes committed in Doboj in 1992

Criminal charges against members of the Red Berets (“Crvene beretke”) for crimes committed in Doboj in 1992

Crvene beretke

On June 21st 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia (OWCP) against Radojica Božović, a former high-ranking member of the Red Berets, as well as against two other members of this unit, for crimes committed in Doboj (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in the period from May to August 1992.

The persons charged are suspected of the expulsion of several hundred Bosniaks from the village of Bukovačke Čivčije (Municipality of Doboj) in the period from May to August 1992, killing one member of the Croatian National Guard, robbing civilians, and abusing and torturing prisoners in the Doboj district prison.

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Serbian authorities urged to abandon revision of history and denial of court-established facts

Serbian authorities urged to abandon revision of history and denial of court-established facts

ICTY buildingThe Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Serge Brammertz, in his regular six-month address to the UN Security Council on 7 June 2017, presented a report in which he warned of a growing trend of denial and revisionism of court- established facts in Serbia and  the entire region, as well as of the burning issue of the slowdown in the process of war crimes trials before Serbian courts, and the difficulties of regional cooperation between specialized prosecution offices. At the same session of the UN Security Council, the Serbian representative Čedomir Backović rejected any words of criticism and opposed Brammertz’s substantive objections by presenting the supposed statistical successes of the Serbian government that he represents. The signatories to this appeal demand that the Serbian authorities consider carefully the objections addressed to Serbia during the UN Security Council session, and deal with problems that have in recent years resulted in the growth of nationalism in society and a drastic deterioration in relations with the countries of the region.


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On the occasion of the election of the Prosecutor for War Crimes of the Republic of Serbia: No discussion on the future of war crimes prosecution

On the occasion of the election of the Prosecutor for War Crimes of the Republic of Serbia: No discussion on the future of war crimes prosecution

skupstina_srbijeOn Monday, May 15th 2017, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia elected Snežana Stanojković, former Deputy Prosecutor, as the new Chief Prosecutor for War Crimes in Serbia. This position has been vacant since January 1st 2016. Human rights organizations are welcoming the election of a new Head of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), primarily because of the importance of continuity in the domestic prosecution of war crimes, which was threatened with disruption because the appointment of a new chief prosecutor had been delayed for almost a year and a half; and also because this occasion should indicate the final start of the implementation of measures designed to increase the efficiency of this office.

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