Include victims’ rights to reparation in Chapter 23
The European Commission (EC) Screening Report for Chapter 23 – Judiciary and Human Rights, does not contain information on the rights of victims of the war crimes and of mass violations of human rights committed during the 1990’s to material compensation and other types of reparation. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) calls upon all participants in Serbia’s European Union (EU) accession negotiations to include all norms and international standards relating to the rights of victims of human rights violations, including the requirements of the EU Acquis, into the process of the harmonization of domestic regulations with EU law.
On July 30th, 2014, the EC published the Screening Report for Chapter 23, which encompasses an analysis of the existing legal framework in the field of the judiciary and human rights and a set of recommendations for its harmonization with the EU regulations. A special part of the report is dedicated to war crimes. However, none of the recommendations in this field relate to the rights of victims to material compensation or medical, psychological, social, legal, and other types of assistance, to be provided by the state. The rights of victims are mentioned only in relation to their position in court proceedings.
The lack of recommendations relating to the human rights of victims of war crimes is somewhat surprising, particularly in view of the fact that victims’ right to reparation was a subject of the explanatory screening, as may be seen in the screening agenda (pp. 7-8). Namely, the EC explicitly included the European Council Directive relating to compensation to crime victims in the screening process; however, this Directive is not mentioned in the Screening Report. This topic attracted observations of a critical nature in the Serbia Progress Reports by the EC. In the 2013 Report, it was highlighted that “assistance to victims [of war crimes] has not improved”; and the 2009 Report stressed, in the context of war crimes, the “denial of justice to victims and families”.
The HLC would like to remind the public that, according to the findings of the Council of Europe (Point 2.b) and the UN Committee Against Torture (Point 18), Serbia is violating the victims’ right to compensation and to other types of reparation. According to the applicable law, the right to assistance and support by the state has been denied to those victims who endured suffering on the territory of another country or as a result of crimes committed by Serbian armed forces, and to all families of missing persons, victims of sexual violence, victims who are suffering psychological consequences of violence endured, and victims with physical disabilities at under 50%. Since the aforementioned law cannot be applied in these cases, victims of crimes committed by Serbian forces, who are citizens of other post-Yugoslav countries, are trying to attain their right to material compensation in court proceedings against the Republic of Serbia. However, in most cases the courts dismiss victims’ compensation claims on the grounds of an alleged statute of limitations, whilst in the rare cases in which the claims are granted, they result in humiliating compensation sums.
Today, the HLC has addressed recommendations for the drafting of an Action Plan for Chapter 23 to the Government of the Republic of Serbia, which, among other elements, contains recommendations for measures aimed at the realization of the right to reparation of victims of human rights violations committed during the 1990’s.