Dossier: Crimes against Croats in Vojvodina

Dossier: Crimes against Croats in Vojvodina

Dosije_Hrvati_u_Vojvodini_enIn the period 1991-1995, in the territory of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, there was a campaign of intimidation and pressure on Croatian civilians with the aim to force them to leave their homes, and Serbia as well. The campaign, the intensity of which changed and reached its highest peaks in the second half of 1991, from spring to autumn 1992 and in summer of 1995, resulted in the expulsion of several tens of thousands of Croats from Vojvodina. Violence against Croats in Vojvodina included attacks on their private property and religious buildings, as well as threats, physical attacks and murders.

Vojislav Šešelj and his Serbian Radical Party (SRS) were the main advocates and inspirers of the campaign of intimidation and pressure on the Croat population in Vojvodina. The persecution of Croatian families was carried out under the pressure of various groups close to the SRS, composed of the local population, a militant part of the Serbian refugees from Croatia, and of members of  volunteer units from Serbia who had participated in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This intimidation campaign took place with the awareness and tacit approval of the political structures of the Republic of Serbia. The evidence presented in this Dossier shows that in some acts of violence against Croats, persons from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) of the Republic of Serbia also took part. In addition, in the forced eviction of Vojvodina Croats, the State Security Department (RDB) of the MUP of the Republic of Serbia played a significant role.

In the period between the two population censuses of 1991 and 2002, the number of Croats and members of other non-Serb populations in the territory of Vojvodina was noticeably reduced. The number of Croats was reduced in 39 out of 45 municipalities in Vojvodina; and across the territory of the entire Vojvodina, the number of Croats decreased by 18,262, i.e. by 24.41%.

In this Dossier, evidence of events in certain Vojvodina municipalities (Ruma, Šid, Stara Pazova, Inđija, Petrovaradin and Apatin) has been presented, showing how strong the pressure on the Croats to emigrate was, and where the ethnic picture was changed the most. The Dossier is based on the testimonies of witnesses and families of victims given to the Humanitarian Law Center, RDB documents, judgments of the courts in Serbia, and documents presented to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as well as media reports.

Dossier: Crimes against Croats in Vojvodina is available here.

Share

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

The Negative Impact the Court of Appeal Judgment in the Skočić Case will Have on War Crimes Trials in Serbia

The Negative Impact the Court of Appeal Judgment in the Skočić Case will Have on War Crimes Trials in Serbia

Presuda Skočić - MC

With regard to the judgment rendered by the Court of Appeal in Belgrade in the case of the crime committed in July 1992 in the town of Skočić near Zvornik, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) held a press conference on July 6th, 2018. When deciding upon the appeal, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade upheld the acquittal of members of the „Sima’s Chetniks“ unit for the destruction of a mosque and murder of 27 Roma civilians committed in the village of Skočić in July 1992, but modified the judgment in the case of the accused Zoran Alić, Zoran Đurđević and Tomislav Gavrić, finding them guilty of inhumane treatment, violation of physical integrity, sexual humiliation and rape of protected witnesses.

Share

”Sima’s Chetniks“ acquitted of murder of Roma Civilians in Skočić

”Sima’s Chetniks“ acquitted of murder of Roma Civilians in Skočić

Skočić

Deciding upon appeal, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed the judgment of acquittal rendered in the case of members of the „Sima’s Chetniks“ unit, who were charged with the destruction of a mosque and murder of 27 Roma civilians in the village of Skočić (Zvornik, Bosnia and Herzegovina), crimes committed in July 1992; whilst the court modified the judgment in the case of the accused Zoran Alić, Zoran Đurđević and Tomislav Gavrić, and found them guilty of inhuman treatment, violation of physical integrity, sexual humiliation and rape of protected witnesses. Tomislav Gavrić and Zoran Đurđević were sentenced to 10 years in prison each, whereas Zoran Alić was sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment. The HLC holds that the Court of Appeal additionally aggravated the process of proving co-perpetration in cases of war crimes with the judgment at issue, by putting almost impossible conditions before the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), which it has to meet in the prosecution of complex cases of war crimes.

Share