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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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Saša Cvjetan, convicted for murder of women and children in Podujevo, set free before sentence expires

Saša Cvjetan, convicted for murder of women and children in Podujevo, set free before sentence expires

Bogujevci-Deca

On March 8, 2018, the Higher Court in Belgrade issued a decision to release Saša Cvjetan, a former member of the „Scorpions” police unit, sentenced to twenty years in prison for killing fourteen Albanian civilians in Podujevo in March 1999. He has served over two thirds of the sentence to which he was convicted. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that, with the Higher Court granting Cvjetan’s request to be released early from prison, the sentence to which he was convicted for grave crimes committed against civilians loses its meaning, and the victims’ sufferings are being neglected.

On March 28, 1999, members of the Serbian police unit known as the “Scorpions”, among them Cvjetan, in the Gashi family yard in Podujevo shot fourteen Albanian civilians – seven children aged from two to fifteen, and seven women: Shpetim Bogujevci (10), Shpend Bogujevci (13), Sala Bogujevci (39), Nora Bogujevci (15), Shefkate Bogujevci (43), Shehide Bogujevci (67), Nefise Bogujevci Llugaliu (54), Fezdrije Llugialiu (21), Dafina Duriqi (9), Arber Duriqi (7), Mimoze Duriqi (4), Albin Duriqi (2), Fitnete Duriqi (36) and Isma Duriqi (69). Five children who survived the shooting suffered serious injuries – Saranda, Fatos, Jehona, Lirije and Genc Bogujevci.

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With Appeal Judgment on Vojislav Šešelj, Justice is Partially Achieved

With Appeal Judgment on Vojislav Šešelj, Justice is Partially Achieved

hrtkovci

On April 11 2018, the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague passed sentence with its final verdict on the President of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Vojislav Šešelj, and reversed his acquittal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Trial Chamber,  sentencing him to 10 years of imprisonment for encouraging persecution (forced displacement), deportation, and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer), as  crimes against humanity, and for committing persecutions in Hrtkovci in Vojvodina (violations of the right to security) as a crime against humanity. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers such a judgement  significant, since in this way the victims of deportation and persecution in Hrtkovci almost 26 years ago have received  judicial satisfaction; however, justice has only been partially satisfied, given the scope of the indictment against Šešelj, which encompasses the area of Sarajevo, as well as the municipalities of Zvornik, Nevesinje and Mostar in BiH, and Vukovar in Croatia.

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Regarding the presentation of the Prosecutorial Strategy for the Investigation and Prosecution of War Crimes in the Republic of Serbia in the period 2018 to 2023

Regarding the presentation of the Prosecutorial Strategy for the Investigation  and Prosecution of War Crimes in the Republic of Serbia  in the period 2018 to 2023

Tuzilacka strategijaOn Monday, March 12, 2018, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) presented the Draft Prosecutorial Strategy for the Investigation and Prosecution of War Crimes in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2018-2023 (Draft), in accordance with the obligations of the Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National War Crimes Prosecution Strategy (National Strategy). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the method of presenting the draft was not transparent, and that the draft strategy does not offer any solution to overcoming the key shortcomings in the previous work of the OWCP, and fails to determine adequate measures for achieving the primary goal the more efficient prosecution of war crimes.


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War crimes trials in light of constitutional amendments

War crimes trials in light of constitutional amendments

Logo FHP

On January 22, 2018, the Ministry of Justice published a working text that envisages amendments to the Constitution in the provisions governing the work of the judiciary. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) would like to point out that the proposed amendments to the Serbian Constitution reduce the currently attained level of independence of judges, as well as the autonomy of prosecutors, only to relocate the existing political influence on the judiciary from the National Assembly to the High Judicial Council, through the “distinguished lawyers” who  constitute this body and independently have the majority in making decisions, as well as the authority to introduce institutes and institutions through which the executive power can directly exercise political influence on the election of judges and prosecutors. Bearing in mind the previous work of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) and of the Special Council of the Higher Court in Belgrade regarding war crimes, characterized by the small number of indictments, the non-processing of medium and high-ranking members of the army and police, the absence of political support for trials and the delays in proceedings, the HLC considers that the proposed amendments to the Constitution will only contribute to the continuation of such a manner of working, owing to political pressure, which is bound to come from the change in the composition of the High Judicial Council and of non-judicial bodies that would be receiving quasi-judicial powers.


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Ovčara Case: 14 years waiting for justice

Ovčara Case: 14 years waiting for justice

post_apelacioni

After 14 years, the first war crimes case before specialized court councils in Serbia came to a close with the new final judgment for the crime at Ovčara near Vukovar. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that the trial in this case is one of the best indicators of the ineptitude of Serbian institutions in dealing with the obligation to approach the crimes from the past with responsibility and dedication.

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