The role of victims in war crimes proceedings is irreplaceable, as their testimonies in these proceedings are often the key evidence that can support the allegations in the indictment. In order to ensure a smooth and efficient trial, it is crucial that victims have the support of the institutions responsible for prosecution, and that they are informed about court proceedings and their rights, so that their testimony is of as high a quality as possible, but the consequences for them in life afterwards as minimal as possible. The attitude of the competent judicial authorities towards victims greatly affects their decision to participate in criminal proceedings, as well as their sense of confidence in the judicial system. In view of the fact that giving testimony is very traumatic for many victims, it is vital that the judicial system recognises the needs and concerns of the victims and provides them with the support and necessary information to reduce re-traumatisation and, at the same time, prepare them for quality testimony.
Over the past 16 years, since the establishment and operation of the War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade, the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) has identified a number of deficiencies in the victim and witness support system in war crimes proceedings. Some of the shortcomings are: an inadequate normative framework governing the status of victims and witnesses; the insufficient capacities of the institutions in charge of assistance and support to victims and witnesses during all stages of criminal proceedings; and the insufficient training and sensitivity of employees in institutions competent for war crimes proceedings.
The Policy Paper: Improving the Status and Rights of Victims and Witnesses in War Crimes Proceedings in Serbia analyses the legal and institutional framework governing the rights of victims and witnesses, and identifies existing problems regarding the status of victims and witnesses, with the aim of proposing recommendations to the institutions of Serbia responsible for war crimes prosecutions for improving the conditions under which victims testify during criminal proceedings before the courts in Serbia.
The Policy Paper is available here.