Sjeverin, 26 years later: the search for truth, justice and recognition continues

Sjeverin, 26 years later: the search for truth, justice and recognition continues

sjeverin-thumbToday we mark the 26th anniversary of the abduction and killing of 17 citizens of Serbia of Bosniak nationality from Sjeverin near Priboj, who were taken captive by members of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS) during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (Sandžak Committee) and Women in Black wish to remind the public that the long-standing search by the families for the mortal remains of the victims has not yet ended, and that it is unacceptable that the institutions of Serbia, even after 26 years, still persist in refusing to provide victims’ families with fair compensation, support and recognition.

On October 22nd 1992, members of the “Osvetnici” (“Avengers”; text available in Serbian), a paramilitary unit which operated under the auspices of the Republika Srpska Army, stopped a bus of the Užice-based company “Raketa” near the bridge over the River Lim in Mioče (BiH). The bus was travelling on its usual Priboj-Rudo-Priboj route. After the identities of every passenger had been checked, 16 Bosniaks were taken out of the bus: Mehmed Šebo, Zafer Hadžić, Medo Hodžić, Medredin Hodžić, Ramiz Begović, Derviš Softić, Mithad Softić, Mujo Alihodžić, Alija Mandal, Sead Pecikoza, Mustafa Bajramović, Hajrudin Sajtarević, Esad Džihić, Idriz Gibović, Ramahudin Ćatović and Mevlida Koldžić. They were taken by military truck in the direction of Višegrad, where they were brutally beaten, and then killed on the banks of the River Drina. The night before this event, Sabahudin Ćatović was abducted in front of his family house in Sjeverin. He has disappeared without a trace.

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Justice deprived of majority of victims

Justice deprived of majority of victims

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On June 28th 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its Report, “Circumventing Justice: The Statute of Limitation as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation”.  The Report analyses the practice of courts of the Republic of Serbia in proceedings for the compensation of damages which have occurred as a consequence of the conflicts during the 1990s, and the way in which the courts have interpreted the legal provisions that apply to the statute of limitation for damages arising from a criminal offence.


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Circumventing Justice The Statute of Limitations as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation

Circumventing Justice The Statute of Limitations as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation

zaobilazenje_pravde-enThe Republic of Serbia participated in all the armed conflicts that took place in the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the last decade of the twentieth century. A large number of people died, or disappeared, or became refugees, and very many suffered enormous material and non-pecuniary damage as a result of these conflicts.

The obligation of the Republic of Serbia to provide just compensation to victims of human rights violations arises not only from the substantial provisions of the Serbian Constitution and domestic regulations but also from the international conventions that Serbia has ratified.

In spite of the existence of clear provisions of both domestic and international law and the well-established case-law of international bodies, victims in Serbia find it virtually impossible to enforce their right to reparations before the domestic courts. The difficulties victims face in the process are varied. The standard of proof is set too high, court proceedings drag on for several years, courts do not believe the victims and their evidence, to name just a few. Provisions governing statutory-limitation periods for filing compensation claims – or rather, the way Serbian judges interpret them, is one of the major obstacles faced by victims.

The report Circumventing Justice: The Statute of Limitations as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation points out the marked tendency of the domestic judiciary to interpret statute of limitations rules in a manner that leads to the denial of the right to compensation for the victims of gross violations of human rights, by ruling their right to compensation time-barred. Such an arbitrary application of the statute of limitations for bringing compensation claims works against the interests of the victims and amounts to a grave violation of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by both domestic and international regulations.

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The Global Reparations Summit

The Global Reparations Summit

gr-2018On 25-26 March 2018, the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR), of which the Humanitarian Law Center is a member, organized the Global Reparations Summit in Belgrade, Serbia.

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25 years since the Kukurovići crime

25 years since the Kukurovići crime

Victims punished for unwillingness of State to prosecute those responsible for this crime

kukurovic

On February 18 2018, 25 years have passed since the Yugoslav Army (VJ)’s attack on the Sandžak village of Kukurovići. In this attack, almost the entire village was demolished, and three citizens of Bosniak nationality were killed. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (Sandžak Committee) would like to draw attention to the fact that even 25 years after this crime against civilians – citizens of Serbia, nobody has been found responsible, and the state of Serbia has not provided the victims with adequate recognition and reparations.

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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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Report presented: The legal and institutional framework in Serbia regarding the rights and needs of civilian victims of war

Report presented: The legal and institutional framework in Serbia regarding the rights and needs of civilian victims of war

1On Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented the report The legal and institutional framework in Serbia regarding the rights and needs of civilian victims of war. This report provides a brief overview of the existing system in Serbia in terms of the rights and needs of civilian victims, and it seeks to ascertain its key shortcomings and identify recommendations for its amendments and improvements.


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The legal and institutional framework in Serbia regarding the rights and needs of civilian victims of war

The legal and institutional framework in Serbia regarding the rights and needs of civilian victims of war

AThe legal and institutional freds of civilian victims of war 1rmed conflicts in the territories of the former Yugoslavia lasted from 1991 to 2001. The wars in Croatia (1991-1995), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and Kosovo (1998-1999) resulted in the mass murders of civilians, ethnic cleansing and persecution of hundreds of thousands of people, but also a large number of grave crimes unseen in Europe since World War II. Serbia had an active and involved role in these conflicts. In the context of the armed conflicts, the authorities in Serbia during this entire period were responsible for serious violations of the fundamental rights of its own citizens from the ranks of national minorities, as well as of some members of the majority Serbian population. In Serbia today there are a significant number of citizens who came to Serbia as refugees owing to the wars in other countries of the former Yugoslavia, and most of them have remained in Serbia permanently. Among them are a fair number who survived crimes, whose physical and psychological consequences they suffer to this day, as well as many of those who lost one or more family members in the war.


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The initiative for assessing the constitutionality of the Law on the Rights of Civilian Invalids of War dismissed: The Constitutional Court does not recognize discrimination against civilian victims of war

The initiative for assessing the constitutionality of the Law on the Rights of Civilian Invalids of War dismissed: The Constitutional Court does not recognize discrimination against civilian victims of war

Ustavni sudThe Serbian Constitutional Court has adopted a conclusion dismissing the initiative for assessing the constitutionality of the Law on the Rights of Civilian Invalids of War that the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed in May 2016. The HLC states that the formalistic argument rendered by the Constitutional Court was not a thorough constitutional assessment of this disputed Law, but a decision reduced to an insufficiently reasoned reproduction of the provisions of the Law, which placed the highest judicial institution in the country on the same side as the other government bodies that maintain this discriminatory legislation, which disenfranchises most of the civilian victims of war in Serbia.

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