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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Presentation of the Initial Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes and the Public Opinion Survey on Public Attitudes about the Wars of the 90s

Presentation of the Initial Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes and the Public Opinion Survey on Public Attitudes about                 the Wars of the 90s

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The Initial report on the implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes, and the results of the opinion polls on „Awareness of the citizens of Serbia about the wars of the 90s, war crimes and war crimes trials“, were presented on Monday, December 18 2017, at a conference organized by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and the daily newspaper ‘Danas’.


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Constitutional complaint in Trnje Case for violation of right to trial within reasonable time: Obstruction of war crimes trials without court reaction

Constitutional complaint in Trnje Case for violation of right to trial within reasonable time: Obstruction of war crimes trials without court reaction

Specijalni sudOn Tuesday, November 28, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a constitutional complaint on behalf of the victims in the Trnje Case for violation of their right to a trial within a reasonable time. This case is being processed before the War Crimes Department of the High Court in Belgrade. The trial in this case was from the beginning obstructed by the accused, who continued with impunity, and during the four years since the indictment was issued, only nine trial days have been held. The HLC considers this case to be a paradigm of war crimes trials in Serbia: all accused persons defend themselves undetained; hearings are scheduled with monthly intervals; a strategy of the defense has for its aim the constant delay of hearings, which is being tolerated; and the few victims who monitor trials believing that they may see justice, are being ignored and humiliated.

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War Crimes Prosecutor drops the only investigation against a high-ranking military officer

War Crimes Prosecutor drops the only investigation against a high-ranking military officer

Tuzilastvo za ratne zlocine

On Friday, November 24, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), on behalf of the victims, filed an objection to the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor’s (OWCP) decision not to prosecute General Dragan Živanović, the former commander of the 125th Motorized Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia (125th mtbr VJ). The OWCP rendered this decision on March 1, 2017, and, contrary to the law, did not deliver it to the legal representative of the victims; however, the very next day, the prosecutor, Dragoljub Stanković, who conducted the investigation, informed Živanović and his defense attorney regarding the decision. The decision to drop the only investigation against a high-ranking officer of the VJ in secret, and thus to subvert the victims’ right to react in a timely manner, clearly shows that the OWCP, contrary to the obligations accompanying its process of EU integration, does not intend to abandon its habitual practice of guaranteeing impunity for high-ranking persons in the military, police and political structures.


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Military medical facilities in the service of obstructing justice in war crimes proceedings

Military medical facilities in the service of obstructing justice in war crimes proceedings

Visi_sud_beogradThe main trial before the War Crimes Department of the High Court in Belgrade in the Trnje case, which was scheduled for September 13 2017, was not held because the defendant Pavle Gavrilović did not appear before the Court, again, because he allegedly fell ill on the day of the trial. His absence was, as in previous occurrences, justified on the basis of medical records issued by the Military Hospital in Niš. The second defendant, Rajko Kozlina, used to use a similar tactics of absence from the trial, with the only difference that he received confirmation of hospitalization from the Belgrade Military Medical Academy. Both defendants are still members of the Army of the Republic of Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that this is a deliberate obstruction by the defense, with the complicity of military medical institutions, and calls on the court to, by at least placing the defendants in custody, put an end to an obvious obstruction of justice.

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Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes – dead letters

Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes – dead letters

ministarstvo_pravdeMore than a year after the adoption of the  Action Plan for Chapter 23 (Action Plan), the provisions of this document relating to the prosecution of war crimes are being carried out superficially, for merely ”cosmetic” purposes, and many of the prescribed activities are not being carried out at all. The situation is the same when it comes to the implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes (National Strategy). It must therefore be said that the state authorities responsible for the implementation of the above provisions of the Action Plan and  National Strategy are falsely informing the public about their work, and continually making it difficult for the civil society to access relevant information and monitor their work. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) believes that such behaviour is contrary to the obligations of the accession negotiations with the EU, and is an indicator of Serbia’s lack of commitment to the reform process, as well as sincere effort to prosecute war crimes more efficiently.

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State obstructing War Crimes Trials

State obstructing War Crimes Trials

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The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has dismissed (available in Serbian) the indictment filed against eight members of a Special Brigade of the Republic of Srpska Ministry of the Interior, accused of killing 1,313 civilians from Srebrenica in the Kravice hangar on July 14th, 1995 (Srebrenica – Kravica Case), with the explanation that the indictment was not filed by an authorized prosecutor. The Humanitarian Law Center thinks such a decision represents an inadmissible failure of the local judiciary, which will further jeopardize the process of war crimes trials, already deemed to be too slow.

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Are war crimes trials in Serbia dying out?

Are war crimes trials in Serbia dying out?

Milica_Kostic-Medija_centarOn Thursday May 18th 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its sixth report on war crimes trials in Serbia. The report includes an analysis of 28 cases that were conducted before the courts in Serbia in 2016, placing them in the socio-political context that affects their processing.

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Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016

Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016

Izvestaj_o_sudjenjima_za_2016_engThe Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has monitored all war crimes trials conducted in the territory of Serbia in 2016 – that is to say, a total of 26 trials conducted by the War Crimes Departments of the Higher Court or the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, or the courts of general jurisdiction.

The Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016 features a brief overview of all 26 cases observed and the HLC’s key findings on each case, which the public needs to be informed about. Given that a significant portion of the war crimes proceedings presented in the Report have been ongoing for a number of years, the previous annual HLC Reports on war crimes trials should also be consulted for a full appreciation of the course of the proceedings and the corresponding findings. The Report also covers trials for crimes that are not classified as war crimes by the relevant prosecutor’s offices of general jurisdiction; despite the fact that the circumstances of such cases indicate they do constitute war crimes.

The Report focuses particularly on the work of prosecutor’s offices and courts, notably in the analysis of indictments and judgments. 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 Protection Unit, etc.) could not be made within the context of each case as a result of the lack of publicly available information on their work.

The War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade handed down first-instance judgments in three cases over the reporting period, and a judgement accepting a plea agreement concluded between the OWCP and a the defendant. The War Crimes Department of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade has issued six rulings on appeals against judgments passed by the Higher Court in Belgrade. The courts of general jurisdiction handed down four judgments. Eight OWCP’s indictments were confirmed in the reporting period against 15 individuals accused of a war crime against a civilian population.

The analyses of the cases in the Report are preceded by an overview of the general findings on war crimes trials in 2016, and a summary of the significant social and political events that had a bearing on the war crimes trials.

The Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016 is available here.

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On the occasion of the election of the Prosecutor for War Crimes of the Republic of Serbia: No discussion on the future of war crimes prosecution

On the occasion of the election of the Prosecutor for War Crimes of the Republic of Serbia: No discussion on the future of war crimes prosecution

skupstina_srbijeOn Monday, May 15th 2017, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia elected Snežana Stanojković, former Deputy Prosecutor, as the new Chief Prosecutor for War Crimes in Serbia. This position has been vacant since January 1st 2016. Human rights organizations are welcoming the election of a new Head of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), primarily because of the importance of continuity in the domestic prosecution of war crimes, which was threatened with disruption because the appointment of a new chief prosecutor had been delayed for almost a year and a half; and also because this occasion should indicate the final start of the implementation of measures designed to increase the efficiency of this office.

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