Regional Judicial Cooperation in the Prosecution of War Crimes: Analysis and Improvement Recommendations

Regional Judicial Cooperation in the Prosecution of War Crimes: Analysis and Improvement Recommendations

analiza-enIn consequence of the cross-border nature of the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, victims, witnesses, perpetrators and evidence are not for the most part located within the territory of a single state and do not fall within the competence of a single national judiciary. Additionally, due to the fact that almost all former Yugoslavia successor states ban the extradition of their own nationals to face trial in other countries, prosecution of war crimes is unthinkable without an effective cooperation among the countries in the region. Given the importance of the fight against impunity for war crimes, regional cooperation is among the key commitments that Serbia undertook as part of its European Union (EU) Accession negotiations.

However, cooperation among judicial institutions in the region has never reached its full potential, and has even been stagnating over the past few years. The major barriers to effective regional cooperation are as follows: the issue of universal jurisdiction, trials in absentia, lack of cooperation between the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of Serbia with Kosovo justice institutions, and the lack of trust between judicial institutions in the countries of the region.

This paper analyses the existing normative framework for regional cooperation, cooperation mechanisms and challenges hindering effective cooperation, with a view to proposing a set of recommendations for its improvement.

Regional Judicial Cooperation in the Prosecution of War Crimes: Analysis and Improvement Recommendations is available here.

Share

Third Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes

Third Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes

treci-izvestaj-enThe Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has been monitoring and providing support to war crimes trials ever since the first war crimes proceedings conducted in Serbia in 2002. The HLC is the only organization that has been continuously monitoring and analysing war crimes trials in Serbia and informing the public at home and abroad about them. It has been representing victims (injured parties) in war crimes cases through an Attorney, filing criminal complaints with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutors (OWCP) against suspected perpetrators, and sharing its documentation on war crimes. Also, the HLC has been identifying witnesses and victims and encouraging them to give evidence in court and thus contribute towards achieving justice for past crimes.

The National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes (hereinafter: the National Strategy) was adopted in February 2016. The HLC is the only non-governmental organisation that monitors and reports on its implementation with a view to assisting in a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the state of implementation of the measures and activities set forth in the National Strategy.

Share

Criminal charges for the murder of Matijević familly in April 1992

Criminal charges for the murder of Matijević familly in April 1992

Kukujevci-put2

On October 16, 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) of the Republic of Serbia against several unknown persons, for killing three members of the Matijević family in April 1992 in Kukujevci (Municipality of Šid, Serbia).

In the late evening hours of April 20, 1992, several unknown persons entered the courtyard of the Croatian family Matijević in Kukujevci. They took Ana, Joza and their son Franjo Matijević, a minor, from the house, and drove them to an unknown destination. Several years later, their mortal remains were exhumed from the cemetery in Mohovo (Municipality of Ilok, Croatia). To date, no one has been charged for this crime before the courts in Serbia.


Share

HLC presented the Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for War Crimes Prosecution and Policy Paper: Accounting for Missing Persons from the Armed Conflicts of the 1990s in the Former Yugoslavia

HLC presented the Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for War Crimes Prosecution and Policy Paper: Accounting for Missing Persons from the Armed Conflicts of the 1990s in the Former Yugoslavia

izvestaj-nac-strategija

On Friday, July 27, 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its second Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for War Crimes Prosecution. Opening the discussion on the report, Jelena Krstić from the HLC pointed to the fact that the problems that led to the adoption of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes are still current: a small number of indictments, the lack of criteria for prioritising cases, a slowdown in trials, an inadequate witness and victims protection system, as well as inefficient regional cooperation. At the same time, the precondition Serbia needs to fulfill in order to join the European Union (EU) is to make visible progress in the prosecution of war crimes before domestic courts. Bearing in mind the current dynamics of the trials, Serbia risks losing a historical opportunity to prosecute as many war crimes perpetrators as possible. Namely, as time goes by, victims, witnesses and perpetrators are coming closer to the moment of death, and their memories are becoming more and more unstable; everyday socio-economic problems are taking precedence over concerns regarding events that occurred several decades ago, and the perspective of the future is becoming more and more important in relation to the need to solve the heritage of the past. Krstić concluded that for a more effective processing of war crimes the political determination of the institutions of Serbia is crucial, but that strong support and encouragement by the EU is also still needed.


Share

Second Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes

Second Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes

Drugi_izvestaj-enThe Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has been monitoring and providing support to war crimes trials ever since the first war crimes proceedings conducted in Serbia in 2002. The HLC is the only organization that has been continuously monitoring and analysing war crimes trials in Serbia and informing the public at home and abroad about them. It has been representing victims (injured parties) in war crimes cases through an Attorney, filing criminal complaints with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutors against suspected perpetrators, and sharing its documentation on war crimes. Also, the HLC has been identifying witnesses and victims and encouraging them to give evidence in court and thus contribute to achieving justice for past crimes.

The HLC has been monitoring the implementation of the National Strategy in order to offer its independent assessment of and findings on the state of implementation of the National Strategy. This is the second report on the implementation of the National Strategy that the HLC is presenting. For complete insight into the implementation of the National Strategy, the First Report on the Implementation of the National War Crimes Prosecution Strategy, which was presented by the HLC in December 2017, is also relevant.

As shown by the HLC’s findings, no progress in war crimes prosecutions can be reported for the two years since the adoption of the National Strategy. The implementation of the National Strategy has been severely delayed, and 11 of the 12 indictments that have been issued since the adoption of the National Strategy were not the result of the OWCP investigation but transferred to the OWCP from BiH. War crimes trials continue to be unnecessarily protracted, the procedural rights of victims have not been strengthened, the number of missing persons is decreasing at a slower pace than foreseen in the National Strategy, and the relevant international governmental and non-governmental organisations have negative opinions about Serbia’s progress in the prosecution of war crimes.

The Second Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes  is available here.

Share

Policy Paper: Accounting for Missing Persons from the Armed Conflicts of the 1990s in the Former Yugoslavia

Policy Paper: Accounting for Missing Persons from the Armed Conflicts of the 1990s in the Former Yugoslavia

pp-k1-enThe wars fought in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s have left dire long-term consequences that the successor states of the former Yugoslavia will have to deal with for years to come. These states have yet to meet the challenge of dealing with systematic violations of human rights and of building democratic institutions, tasks that cannot be accomplished without taking a responsible approach towards dealing with the violent past. Such an approach is impossible without establishing the fate of the persons who are still unaccounted for as a result of the past armed conflicts.

The countries of the region still owe it to the families of 10,315 missing persons to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing or disappearance of their loved ones, and to punish those found responsible in a manner proportionate to the gravity of their crimes. Serbia’s legislative framework does not recognise the families of missing persons as civilian victims of war, as a result of which the domestic reparation system is flawed and discriminatory.

The search for missing persons is a difficult process which is dependent on the political situation in a given state in the region. Although there is a need to know the truth regarding the fate and whereabouts of persons gone missing during the armed conflicts – a need which is expressed primarily by their family members and included sporadically on the meeting agendas of statesmen in the region – in reality, the search process is hampered by many factors, such as the insufficient capacities and inadequate financial resources of the government bodies involved in tracing missing persons, and the absence of political will and of determination to enhance regional cooperation in order to make the search process more efficient and effective.

This policy paper provides an overview of the results achieved so far in addressing the missing person issue, identifies the challenges in the search for persons disappeared during the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s, and proposes a set of recommendations which may help make the search process more efficient.

Policy Paper: Accounting for Missing Persons from the Armed Conflicts of the 1990s in the Former Yugoslavia available here.

Share

Jović: The war in Yugoslavia was a war against minorities

Jović: The war in Yugoslavia was a war against minorities

jovic-rat_u_jugoslaviji

On June 15, 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its tenth Dossier: “The JNA in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina“. As the most extensive so far, this Dossier has been covering the period from the end of the 1980s up to May 1992. It explores how the JNA and the political leadership of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and of Serbia prepared for the wars, the JNA’s involvement in the conflicts, and its contribution to achieving the wartime goals of Serbia, the Republic of Serbian Krajina and Republika Srpska.

Nemanja Stjepanović from the HLC said that the goal of the Dossier was to point to the crimes committed during the armed conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to the responsibility of the perpetrators and initiators, as well as to place these events in a wider historical context for a better understanding of them. The Dossier illuminates the process of the restructuration of the JNA from the Yugoslav into the Serbian army, its transformation as the focus of its activities changed, the alterations of national structures within the JNA, and, finally, the partiality it showed in dedicating itself to the goal of “defending the Serb people”. A survey the HLC conducted, presented within this Dossier, showed that “defence” was reduced exclusively to the conquest of the territory.

Share

Dossier: The JNA in the Wars in Croatia and BiH

Dossier: The JNA in the Wars in Croatia and BiH

JNA_u_ratovima-enThe role of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and its transformation from the Yugoslav into the Serbian army, is the subject of this, the tenth Dossier of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC). It is the most extensive of the HLC Dossiers so far, covering the period from the end of the 1980s up to May 1992. It explores how the JNA and political leadership of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) and Serbia prepared for the wars, the JNA’s involvement in the conflicts, and its contribution to achieving the wartime goals of Serbia, the Republic of Serbian Krajina and Republika Srpska.

The introduction section of the Dossier presents facts about the development of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia and the steps undertaken by the leadership of the Republic of Serbia, headed by Slobodan Milosevic, to take control of the JNA, with a view to using it for achieving their own wartime goals. After that, the Dossier presents the role of the JNA in the war in Croatia, and in the BiH.

In each of the examples given of the JNA’s military involvement in Croatia and BiH, the pattern of attacks is described and the JNA units that took part in them are listed. Also, evidence on the identity of the perpetrators of crimes committed during the attacks, whether they were JNA members or members of Serb formations who participated in the actions alongside the JNA, is presented.

The Dossier also presents evidence on the JNA’s role in arming Serb formations in Croatia and BiH in the lead-up to the conflicts, and on the assistance and support it provided to Serb militaries in Croatia and BIH after having formally withdrawn from these republics.

Some of the examples given, which are substantiated by military documents, make clear that after a decision was issued on JNA’s formal withdrawal from BiH in May 1992, its units  remaining behind in BiH were simply renamed, to become units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS). The VRS retained the command structure of the JNA and its manpower, and took possession of its weaponry. This gave the newly established army of the Bosnian Serbs a head start over all other armed formations in BiH.

The Dossier: The JNA in the Wars in Croatia and BiH is available here.

Share

(srpski) Prenosimo izvestaj FHP Kosovo: Bivši srpski policajac oslobođen optužbi za ratne zločine po jednoj od optužnica

(srpski) Prenosimo izvestaj FHP Kosovo: Bivši srpski policajac oslobođen optužbi za ratne zločine po jednoj od optužnica

Sorry, this entry is only available in Shqip and srpski.

Share