Acquittal in Gradiška Case: New Instance of Omissions in Work of Prosecutor’s Office and Court

Acquittal in Gradiška Case:  New Instance of Omissions in Work of Prosecutor’s Office and Court

Logo FHPThe Higher Court in Belgrade rendered a judgment in the Gradiška Case on October 13th, 2016, acquitting the accused Goran Šinik of charges that he had committed an act of war crime against a civilian population. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) emphasizes that this judgement is the outcome of an unfounded indictment filed by the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), as well as of inadequate control exercised by the Trial Chamber of the Higher Court in Belgrade in the phase of judgment confirmation; and that this case represents a paradigmatic example of how an image of productivity of the war crimes judiciary is being fabricated, by raising indictments which are doomed to failure.


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Radio Television of Vojvodina silences the victims of war

Radio Television of Vojvodina silences the victims of war

RTV-ucutkala_zrtve_rataOn July 24 2016, the broadcasting of the series “People and Memories Talk”, a documentary programme which recorded the testimonies of victims of all nationalities from the wars in the former Yugoslavia, was suddenly terminated, following a decision made by the new management of Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) believes that such a decision is contrary to the Law on Public Information and Media (available in Serbian) and the proclaimed mission of the RTV (available in Serbian), and that it is also an act of censorship and a missed opportunity for a public media service to make a contribution to reconciliation and the normalization of relations with neighbours in the region.

The series was co-produced by the human rights organizations Integra (Kosovo), Documenta (Croatia), HLC (Serbia), Association of of Concentration-camp Detainees “Prijedor ’92” (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the Center for Research and Policy Making (Macedonia). In the series, the victims of all nationalities speak about their sufferings and the fates of their family members who were killed in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo.

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Consequences of Political Tensions on Prosecution of War Crimes: For the first time, Serbia does not participate in the regional conference of war crimes prosecutors

Consequences of Political Tensions on Prosecution of War Crimes: For the first time, Serbia does not participate in the regional conference of war crimes prosecutors

Logo FHPAfter 12 years of contacts between prosecution offices in the region within the framework of cooperation in the prosecution of war crimes, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) of the Republic of Serbia for the first time did not participate in the regional conference of war crimes prosecutors, the tenth in the series, which began on the 5th September 2016 in Brijuni, Croatia. This is a dramatic change in long-standing practices, and it is happening at a moment of severely undermined bilateral relations (available in Bosnian) between Serbia and Croatia, and a political crisis (available in Serbian) in the region. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) feels that this is an alarming indicator of political influence being exerted on the judiciary, and points out that the decision on non-participation by the OWCP at the conference is in direct conflict with the obligations which the Republic of Serbia committed itself to with the Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes.

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Ending the silence surrounding secret mass graves and the fates of the missing

Ending the silence surrounding secret mass graves and the fates of the missing

fhp_fhpk_recom_200x200At least 130,000 people lost their lives in the wars following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.  The fates of at least 13,000 individuals remain unknown.

The majority of them disappeared in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina – around 10,000 persons.As of today, the Republic of Croatia is searching for the mortal remains of 930 of its nationals, and holds Serbian institutions and the high command of the former JNA responsible for their disappearance and the subsequent cover-up.


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Regarding statements by Ministers in the Serbian government Ivica Dačić and Aleksandar Vulin: Instead of “exonerating” Milošević, better to Establish the Facts about the Past

Regarding statements by Ministers in the Serbian government Ivica Dačić and Aleksandar Vulin: Instead of “exonerating” Milošević, better to Establish the Facts about the Past

kucaUplamenuResponding to the claims of certain analysts and bloggers, according to whom the former president of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) Slobodan Milošević was „exonerated“ of the charges for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the ICTY judgment rendered in the case of Radovan Karadžić,  Serbian government ministers Ivica Dačić and Aleksandar Vulin have rushed to accept such a view and to conclude that „the ICTY has confirmed the legitimacy of Milošević’s policy“. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) strongly condemns statements the purpose of which is to deny the facts about the wars in the former Yugoslavia and to restore Milošević’s policy. The HLC demands that the state authorities of Serbia start a broad social debate on the past and initiate setting up the Regional Commission for the establishment of the facts about war crimes and other serious violations of human rights committed in the former Yugoslavia from January 1, 1991 until December 31, 2001 (RECOM).

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On the occasion of 21 years since Operation “Storm”: Serbia to demonstrate care for victims through actions

On the occasion of 21 years since Operation “Storm”: Serbia to demonstrate care for victims through actions

Oluja 21. godisnjica

The 4th and 5th of August 2016 mark the 21st anniversary of Operation “Storm”, which will be commemorated this year in both Croatia and Serbia with state-sponsored events: in Croatia with a victory celebration and gratitude to its veterans, and in Serbia with a church service for the victims. Despite the declared commitments to victims of the “Storm” by Serbian state leadership ahead of each anniversary, these victims in Serbia have now remained completely deprived of their rights. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) uses this opportunity to call upon competent institutions to comprehensively resolve the issues of compensation and support to their citizens who have suffered, as civilians, grave violations of their basic rights during the armed conflicts of the 1990s.


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Ministry of Defence withholding information on active-duty members of Army of Serbia indicted of war crimes

Ministry of Defence withholding information on active-duty members of Army of Serbia indicted of war crimes

Ministarstvo odbrane

On 18 July 2016, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (Commissioner) sent a request to the Government of the Republic of Serbia to ensure the execution of his decision of May 2014, which ordered the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) with information as to whether two officers of the Army of Serbia (VS) – Pavle Gavrilović and Rajko Kozlina – remained in active service after an indictment was raised against them for a war crime. The HLC believes that complying with the request of the Commissioner and ordering the MoD to communicate the information requested should be a priority for the Government, in order to make it clear that state authorities may not violate the public’s right to know the facts about past crimes and the role played by the state in these crimes, especially where people who are still in the public office have been involved in them.

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Office of Public Prosecutor Instrumental in Shielding Government Institutions from Responsibility: Claims against Commissioner for Information of Public Importance

Office of Public Prosecutor Instrumental in Shielding Government Institutions from Responsibility: Claims against Commissioner for Information of Public Importance

Vojni arhivIn April and May 2016, the Office of the State Public Prosecutor (SPP) lodged two claims with the Administrative Court seeking the annulment of the decisions of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection (Commissioner), by which the Commissioner had ordered the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) information of public importance concerning the professional engagement of two officers of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) during the Kosovo conflict. The HLC considers that the SPP has abused its legal powers in order to shield individuals and institutions from responsibility for past crimes to the detriment of the public’s right to know, and that these claims constitute in effect an open attack on the office of the Commissioner.

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More efficient prosecution of war crimes and respect for rights of civilian victims of war – condition for EU membership

More efficient prosecution of war crimes and respect for rights of civilian victims of war – condition for EU membership

CoEU

An intergovernmental conference of representatives of EU member states and Serbia was held in Brussels on 18 July 2016, marking the opening of Chapter 23 (Judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, freedom and security) within the negotiations for Serbian accession to the EU. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) welcomes this step in the European integration of Serbia, but also points out that the institutions of Serbia still have a lot of work to do in applying the mechanisms of transitional justice and dealing with the legacy of the recent past.


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With regard to the decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia to reject the appeal of victims’ family members

With regard to the decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia to reject the appeal of victims’ family members

Sjeverin mapaCase analysis: Republic of Serbia exempt from any responsibility for the crime against the inhabitants of Sjeverin

The Constitutional Court of Serbia has rejected an appeal made by the family members of sixteen Serbian citizens of Bosniak nationality from the village of Sjeverin, near Priboj, who were kidnapped and murdered on 22nd October 1992 by members of the Bosnian Serb unit called “Avengers” (Osvetnici). With this decision, the Republic of Serbia has put an end to requests by family members of the victims to be paid compensation. By acting in this way, Serbia has underlined its denial of responsibility for this crime. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which has represented the victims’ family members from Sjeverin in these proceedings, will address the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on their behalf.


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