Serbia must hold the Yugoslav People’s Army accountable for crimes committed at Ovčara

On 20 November 2007, it will be sixteen years since the war crime at the Ovčara farm near Vukovar was committed. Not a single person has been convicted for the commission of this crime and Serbian state institutions have not yet revealed the entire truth about the former Yugoslav Peoples Army’s (YNA) role in this crime.

On 21 November 1991, immediately after the fall of Vukovar, in eastern Croatia, Yugoslav People’s Army soldiers took more than 200 wounded and sick men, civilians and members of the Croatian armed forces from the hospital in Vukovar and transported them to Ovčara. During the night, members of the Serbian Territorial Defence and other volunteers took prisoners out of the hangars and executed them at the nearby location of Grabovo.

The retrial of 14 Serbs, members of the Serbian Territorial Defence and Leva Supoderica Volunteer Unit is underway before the Belgrade War Crimes Chamber. These men are charged with the execution of this crime. The War Crimes Chamber reached a verdict on 12 December 2005 convicting them to long-term sentences for the commission of the crime against prisoners of war. The Serbian Supreme Court, however, overturned the verdict on 14 December 2006 and ordered a retrial.

The HLC calls upon the state institutions to bring to justice not only the immediate perpetrators, but also their superiors – officers of the former Yugoslav Peoples Army – some of whom appeared as witnesses in the trial held before the War Crimes Chamber. The recent verdict reached in the Vukovar Three case before the Hague Tribunal contributed to minimizing the role of the former Yugoslav Peoples Army. It also discouraged the domestic Prosecutor’s Office in its effort to reveal the role of the Yugoslav Peoples Army in the crime committed at Ovčara.

State institutions have a moral obligation to help victims’ families determine the locations of mortal remains of their closest relatives and to inform the public about the whole truth regarding the crimes committed in the name of the Serbian people.