Belgrade NGOs urge continued EU pressure on Serbia for cooperation with war crimes tribunal

Yesterday four Serbian  human rights organizations sent a letter to all 27 heads of government in the European Union to express deep concern at recent signals of retreat from insistence on Serbia’s concrete cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a pre-condition to resuming talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).  The European Commission suspended those talks in May 2006 over Serbia’s failure to cooperate with the ICTY, specifically citing the failure to arrest former Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic.

In February the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Serbia guilty of failure to prevent genocide in Srebrenica and in standing violation of its legal obligation to punish the perpetrators.  Following this ruling, an EU retreat from full support of the ICTY would be particularly damaging. Contrary to the hopes of the German EU Presidency that the ICJ ruling could “help to close a painful chapter of history in the region”, the Serbian government celebrated the decision, and continues to refuse to arrest war crimes fugitives implicated in the genocide, including Mladic.

The letter to the EU heads of government argued that Brussels should reject the temptation to barter away core principles in talks on Kosovo’s final status. Doing so would strengthen extreme nationalists, hinder reformers’ attempts to distance their country from the legacy of the Milosevic regime, and impede the development of a democratic Serbia deserving of EU membership.

The letter was signed by the Humanitarian Law Center, Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Women in Black, and the Civic Initiative.