Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia

Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia

izvestaj_o_SZRZ-2019-enThis is the seventh report of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) on war crimes trials in Serbia. The HLC has monitored all war crimes trials conducted in the territory of Serbia during 2017 and 2018, a total of 20 trials, conducted by the War Crimes Departments of the Higher Court in Belgrade or the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, including one trial conducted by a court of general jurisdiction. A brief overview of all cases observed, and the HLC’s key findings on each case of interest to the public, are provided in the Report.

A significant portion of the war crimes proceedings presented in the Report have been ongoing for a number of years. Therefore the previous annual HLC Reports on war crimes trials may also be consulted for full appreciation of the course of the proceedings and the corresponding findings. The Report also includes a trial for a criminal offence that the competent prosecutor’s office of general jurisdiction did not classify as a war crime, despite all the circumstances of the case indicating otherwise.

The Report focuses particularly on the work of the War Crimes Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) and of the courts (in the parts of the proceedings which are open to the public), and analyses the indictments and judgments in each individual case. An analysis of the work of other institutions involved in war crimes prosecution (the War Crimes Investigation Service of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, the Witness Protection Unit, et al.) could not be made within the context of each case because of the lack of publicly available information about their work.

The War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade handed down first-instance judgments in three cases over the reporting period. The War Crimes Department of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade handed down four rulings on appeals against judgments passed by the Higher Court in Belgrade. One interim judgment was handed down by a court of general jurisdiction, and was subsequently confirmed by the Court of Appeal. The OWCP issued a total of 14 indictments over the reporting period, three in 2017 (against four individuals), and 11 in 2018 (against 15 individuals), as indicated in the information supplied to the HLC by the OWCP.

The Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia 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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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.

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”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.

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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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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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The third acquittal for war crimes in 2017

The third acquittal for war crimes in 2017

Logo FHPOn December 25, 2017, the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade High Court delivered a judgment acquitting Marko Pauković and Dragan Bajić of charges for war crimes against a civilian population, owing to a lack of evidence. As members of the Military Police of the Sixth Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, Bajić and Pauković were accused of murdering Hasan Rahić (aged 60), Minka Jusić (aged 70) Munira Hotić (aged 54), Đemila Behar (aged 54) and the then minor Safeta Behar (aged 12), in the town of Kamičak (Ključ municipality, Bosnia and Herzegovina), on October 10, 1992. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) notes that this is only the third verdict for war crimes cases that has been brought in Serbia in 2017; like the previous two, it is acquitting. In March, the Court of Appeal acquitted Goran Šinik of the murder of civilians in Gradiška (BiH) in 1992; and in April, Neđeljko Sovilj and Rajko Vekić were acquitted of the murder of civilians in the municipality of Bosanski Petrovac (BiH) in December 1992.

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