Constitutional Appeal against excessive length of proceedings in Sjeverin Case

On 19 August 2013, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) lodged an appeal with the Serbian Constitutional Court on behalf of 22 family members of victims of the war crime in Sjeverin, because of violation of their right to trial within a reasonable time. Even though six years have passed since the filing of a compensation lawsuit against the Republic of Serbia in 2007, this case has not yet resulted in a final judgment.

  In June 2007, the HLC brought civil proceedings to the First Municipal Court in Belgrade against the Republic of Serbia because of its responsibility for the abduction of 16 Bosniaks from Sjeverin in October 1992, and seeking compensation for non-pecuniary damage on behalf of the family members of the killed and missing in Sjeverin. The final judgment rendered by the District Court in Belgrade in the Milan Lukić and others Case established that the Bosniaks from Sjeverin were abducted and killed by members of the paramilitary formation going by the name of Osvetnici (Avengers). However, the HLC holds that the responsibility of the Republic of Serbia stems from the fact that Serbian institutions continually provided financial support, personnel and other forms of assistance to the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS), and the fact that the Republic of Serbia failed to meet its legal obligation to protect the lives of its citizens who travelled to the war zone.   The proceedings only commenced in June 2008, a year after the filing of the lawsuit and following a HLC lawyer’s written intervention. In February 2009, the First Municipal Court rendered a judgment rejecting as unfounded the claim by family members of the abductees from Sjeverin. The HLC lodged an appeal against the judgment with the District Court in Belgrade in May 2009. Following the judicial reform in 2009, the case came within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals in Belgrade.   Because of Court of Appeals’ failure to act upon the appeal, an HLC lawyer on two occasions urged the panel assigned to the case (presided over by Judge Melanija Santovac)  to hear the appeal and eventually filed a complaint with the President of the Court. Responding to the complaint, the Deputy Acting President of the Court, Milica Popović-Đuričković, informed the HLC in October 2013 that she had ordered the panel to reach a decision on the HLC’s appeal within one month.  More than 10 months have passed since then.   In its Constitutional Appeal, the HLC requests that the Constitutional Court establish that the undue delay in the judicial proceedings in the case brought by the family members of these war crime victims constitutes a violation by the Republic of Serbia of the right to a fair trial, as guaranteed by Article 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and therefore award them a total of RSD 22 million in compensation.   The HLC would like to draw attention to the fact that family members of the victims from Sjeverin applied for recognition of their war victims status with the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Policy, and that the Ministry rejected their applications.