The President of the Higher Court in Belgrade prohibited the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) from recording the public announcement of the first instance judgment in the Beli Manastir Case, without offering valid reasons for such a decision. This decision of the President of the Court represents a continuation of the practice of courts in Serbia of limiting public access to war crimes trials, thus significantly diminishing chances for a social dialogue and dealing with the crimes committed during 1990’s.
On April 23rd 2015 the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented the Model Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes Committed during and in relation to the Armed Conflicts in the Former Yugoslavia (Model Strategy).
On 6 April 2015, the Trial Chamber of the War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade (the Chamber) rendered a judgment finding Žarko Čubrilo not guilty of a war crime against civilians committed in the first half of July 1991 in Tenja (Republic of Croatia). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that the decision of the Chamber is based on an erroneous interpretation of key pieces of evidence and a disregard of the most important sections of the statements by eye-witnesses.
In an interview given on March 5, 2015 to the daily newspaper ‘Novosti’ [*available only in Serbian], the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia Vladimir Vukčević stated that Momir Stojanović, former Chief of Staff of the Military Security Department of the Priština Corps of the Yugoslav Army (VJ), does not appear as even a “possible perpetrator” of war crimes in the investigation into the crimes committed in Meje/Mejës (Kosovo) conducted by the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP). Referring to the arrest warrants issued by Interpol for 17 individuals suspected of having committed war crimes in the Đakovica/Gjakova municipality in Kosovo, Vukčević also claimed that the OWCP does not know what evidence the warrants were based on, but that he is ready to verify the evidence obtained by EULEX.
The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) informed the public on Friday, January 30th, 2015 that it has requested from the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) the „entire documentation relating to the Rudnica Case“. The OWCP stated that 53 bodies have been identified at the Rudnica location so far, on the basis of which pre-trial proceedings have been launched, adding that they are requesting the documents from the HLC for the purpose of gathering further information on the crimes, which were, according to the allegations of the HLC, committed by members of the Yugoslav Army and Ministry of the Interior in April and May 1999“. The OWCP also reminded the general public that in January 2012 they established, on the basis of an inspection of the HLC’s allegations, that there were no grounds for the suspicion that General Ljubiša Diković was responsible for the war crimes alleged in the Ljubiša Diković Dossier.
The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has modified the judgment rendered by the Higher Court in Požarevac, by which the accused, Boban Petković, was found guilty of a war crime against a civilian population and sentenced to five years of imprisonment, and decreased his sentence to three years of imprisonment. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) holds that three years of imprisonment is an inappropriately mild sentence and that the mitigating circumstances that the Court of Appeals considered in the case of the accused are unacceptable from the standpoint of justice for victims of war crimes.
The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented on 21st November 2014 the Analysis of media discourses on war crimes trials in Serbia 2003-2013 and the Analysis of political discourses on domestic war crimes trials in Serbia 2003-2013. The main findings of the analyses were presented by the author, Dr Katarina Ristić, a researcher at the University of Leipzig. Before that, HLC Executive Director Sandra Orlović in her introductory remarks stressed that the Serbian media reporting seldom represented the cathartic element that opens the broader social dialogue about the past, and that the institutions themselves also did not perceive the trials as something that can generate dealing with the past. Thus war crimes trials, the only functional mechanism of transitional justice in Serbia, are unable to fully contribute to dealing with the past in Serbia.
The fifth consultation session with regard to the production of a Draft Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes in Serbia was held on Friday November 21st, 2014, in the Media Centre in Belgrade. This meeting was dedicated to the presentation of war crimes trials in public.