Controversial promotion shows Serbia still has a long way to go

Robert Hardh’s Blog

The Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders about Human Rights

At the end of last year, Serbian President Boris Tadic announced he would be making Lieutenant General Ljubisa Dikovic Chief of Staff of the Serbian Armed Forces. The promotion is seen as controversial as Dikovic was a Commander when numerous war crimes were committed in Kosovo in 1999. The Serbian government stands by the decision to promote Dikovic and the debate over the controversy has been redirected to a discussion involving the prestigious organisation, the Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC) and its uncompromising director, Natasa Kandic.

Kandic has published reports and documentation of the Dikovic case and many other cases relating to war crimes committed in former Yugoslavia (much of this work has been done in collaboration with Civil Rights Defenders). The documentation that Kandic and HLC have published is to a large part based on publicly available information provided by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. However, this hasn’t prevented Serbia’s Defense Minister from pledging the documentation is built on “lies” and “propaganda”. He does not however wish to debate this question with Kandic publicly on television. Instead, there is a significant risk that a lawsuit against Kandic will be instigated, in which the statements made by her and the HLC are questioned.

In a democratic country with a functioning judicial system, transparent processes and where there is a genuine desire to come to terms with ones past, it goes without saying that you don’t promote someone who under reasonable suspicion can be charged with committing war crimes under his Commander’s Responsibility.

Once again, it is instead the messenger, Natasa Kadic, and the HLC, that are criticized and questioned for their legitimate demand to prosecute – instead of promoting – war criminals.

The wish for Serbia to move closer to the rest of Europe will be neglected as long as the Serbian regime favors nepotism and old loyalties before justice and freedom of expression.