The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has affirmed the judgment of the First Basic Court ordering the Republic of Serbia to pay a total of 1.3 million RSD to Kosovo Albanians Tahir Bytyqi, Smajl Gashi, Rrahman Elshani, Hysni Podrimçaku and Bekim Istogu, in compensation for the torture they were subjected to by members of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MUP) during their unlawful detention in 1999 and 2000. While being one of the few final judgements that have recognised the right to compensation of victims of the Serbian security forces, the HLC considers that the sums awarded to each of the victims – 200,000 or 300,000 RSD – do not contribute to ensuring justice for misdeeds committed during the 1990s.
Higher Court in Belgrade: State of Serbia Responsible for War Crimes in Kukurovići Committed in 1993
The Higher Court in Belgrade rendered a judgment establishing the responsibility of the State of Serbia for the war crime committed in the village of Kukurovići (the Municipality of Priboj) on February 18th, 1993. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) would like to stress that this is the first judgment to establish the responsibility of the state for a war crime committed by members of Serb forces on the territory of Sandžak during the nineties.
The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has delivered a judgement ordering the Republic of Serbia to pay 200,000 RSD to Sylejman Bajgora from Podujevo/Podujevë, in compensation for torture he endured in 1999 at the hands of members of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia (the MUP of the RS). In the same judgment, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court judgment turning down the compensation claim by Ekrem Nebihu from Glogogovac/Glogoc.
The Committee against Torture, the United Nations treaty body entrusted with monitoring compliance with the Convention Against Torture as well as the interpretation of its provisions, adopted the General Comment No. 3, which defines the obligations of States towards torture victims. These include states obligation to ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible, guarantees of non-repetition, and right to truth. Although general comments are not legally binding, they exceed the advisory nature when dealing with the interpretation of international norms, and when determining the scope and content of certain articles of the Convention.
The anniversary of the suffering of the victims from Sjeverin was observed on Monday, October 22nd in Priboj.
The Municipal Administration in Priboj has dismissed the requests of three families of kidnapped residents of Sjeverin to be officially recognized as families of civilian victims of war in Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families of the kidnapped Sjeverin residents, filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, and Social Policy on October 17th, 2012 against the Administration’s decision, noting that it was in violation of the Constitution, laws, and international conventions protecting human rights and pointing out that claims filed by family members of the war crime victims from Sjeverin had been dismissed on the basis of criteria that are not applied in cases of victims of Serbian nationality. The HLC filed its complaints with the Ombudsman, Saša Janković.
The First Basic Court in Belgrade delivered a judgment declaring the Republic of Serbia responsible for torture and inhuman treatment committed by members of the Serbian Ministry of interior (Serbian MUP against Mustafa Kolgeci, a Kosovo Albanian from Suva Reka/Suhareke while he was in detention between September 1998 and January 2000. The Court ordered the Republic of Serbia to pay 380,000 Serbian Dinars in non-material damages but rejected his compensation claim for unlawful detention, noting that it was invalid because of the statute of limitations. The HLC believes that the court decision is unjust and inappropriate when compared to the suffering that Kolgeci was continuously exposed to during the 16 months he was in detention and is a continuation of the Serbian courts’ practice of putting the interests of the government and its budget ahead of justice for victims of serious human rights violations committed during 1990’s by Serbian troops.
The compensation lawsuit that the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) initiated in August 2008 against the Republic of Serbia on behalf of sisters Saranda, Jehona and Lirie Bogujevci, who were seriously injured in the war crime committed in Podujevo/Podujevë on March 28th, 1999 by members of the Scorpions unit, which is a reserve unit of the Serbian Ministry of Interior, continued before the Higher Court in Belgrade.
A First Instance Court in Belgrade has delivered a judgment requiring the Republic of Serbia to pay the sum of RSD360,000 (Serbian Dinars) to Sead Rovčanin, a Bosniak from the village of Gračanica, in the municipality of Prijepolje. The court found the state responsible for the torture inflicted on Mr. Rovčanin in October 1993 by members of the Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Interior (MOI). The Humanitarian Law Center believes that this judgment, should it become final, will bring only partial satisfaction to Mr. Rovčanin as he has waited 19 years for recognition of the injustice that he suffered and because the perpetrators have have yet to be punished and are still working as police officers.
On August 7, 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision according to which the ICC Trust Fund for Victims would secure reparations for the victims of Thomas Lubanga, aconvicted leader of the militia of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the first decision of its kind since the establishment of the ICC in 2002. The Court has recommended a set of reparative measures and delegated their application to the Fund for Victims, which will perform this task in collaboration with victims’ associations.