Court’s Decision to Refuse Extradition of Three Members of Serbian Radical Party a Result of Political Calculations of Government of Serbia
The Chamber of the Department for War Crimes of the Higher Court in Belgrade rendered a ruling on May 18th, 2016, dismissing the request for the arrest and extradition of three officials from the Serbian Radical Party, namely Petar Jojić, Vjerica Radeta and Jovo Ostojić, to the International Criminal Tribunal For the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), to stand trial in the case of Contempt of Court, with the explanation that the legal requirements for granting this request have not been met.
The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) would like to remind the public of at least three similar cases in which ‘legal requirements’ did not represent an obstacle for the arrest and extradition of persons indicted by the ICTY for the same criminal act. The HLC would also like to point to the inconsistency in the actions undertaken by the government authorities in identical factual and legal situations, as well as in the statements given by representatives of the Government of Serbia with regard to the case at hand. All of this shows that Serbia’s cooperation with the ICTY is conditioned by the current political opportunism of the Serbian Government, which overlooks its obligation to stay committed to the rule of law and to justice for victims of the most serious crimes against international law.
On January 19th, 2015, the ICTY issued confidential arrest warrants charging Mr. Jojić, Mr. Ostojić and Ms. Radeta with Contempt of Court because they threatened two witnesses, intimidated them, attempted to bribe them and in other ways tried to persuade them to give up their cooperation with the ICTY Office of the Prosecutor or to become defense witnesses in the case of Vojislav Šešelj.
The Government of the Republic of Serbia did not act on these arrest warrants issued by the ICTY for an entire year, that is to say, it did not forward the warrants to the court in charge of further action, even though, according to the Law on the Cooperation of Serbia with the ICTY [available in Serbian], this type of procedure is considered urgent. After the ICTY came out in January 2016 with the information on the existence of the arrest warrants and ordered Serbia to send monthly reports and subsequently bi-weekly reports on their efforts to act in accordance with the warrants, representatives of the Serbian Government offered to the ICTY and the public poor and controversial explanations about their failure to act, whilst the official reports by the Serbian Government sent to the ICTY have been classified [available in Serbian] as confidential and, as such, they are not accessible to public.
The Representative of Serbia informed the Court during the main hearing sessions before the ICTY on February 10th and 25th, 2016 [available in Serbian] that the “responsible authorities of the Republic of Serbia are facing serious problems in the execution of the arrest warrants”, that these problems are of a confidential nature, and that Serbia follows “the political and security aspects” of cooperation with the ICTY. The ICTY Chamber, which is responsible for monitoring the actions undertaken by Serbia on the basis of the arrest warrants, dismissed the explanations given by the Representative of Serbia and demanded that Serbia cooperate with the ICTY. In a memorandum dated March 9th, the Representative of the Government of Serbia before the ICTY, Mr. Saša Obradović, informed the ICTY that the Ministry of Justice would however “urgently” initiate a procedure before the responsible court, and assessed that by this action “the procedure will […] again take its regular course”. Two weeks following this memorandum and 14 months following the issuing of the ICTY’s request, the Government of Serbia finally forwarded the warrant of the ICTY to the responsible Higher Court in Belgrade for further action.
Approximately two months later, the pre-trial judge in the Higher Court in the Belgrade Department for War Crimes, Milan Dilparić, rendered a ruling with regard to the extradition requests in the cases of Ms. Radeta, Mr. Jojić and Mr. Ostojić, in which he found that the formal legal requirements for further action upon these arrest warrants were not met. The ruling became final by the Chamber’s ruling dated May 18th.
On this occasion, the HLC would like to emphasize that it is hard to avoid the impression that the procedures and interpretations by the Government of Serbia with regard to the ICTY’s arrest warrant had a huge impact on the court ruling regarding the actions undertaken on the basis of the ICTY’s request. In a state in which the independence of the Judiciary has not yet been established, primarily because of the impact and power of the Executive branch of the Government, it is hard to expect courts to render a ruling which would depart from the publicly stated position of the Government of Serbia regarding a matter which it had previously marked as a matter of priority interest for the state. Hence, the Court rendered a ruling which is in violation of Serbia’s international obligation to cooperate with the ICTY, and in contradiction to earlier rulings rendered in identical legal and factual situations. In the ICTY cases of Contempt of Court referring to Jelena Rašić, Dragomir Pećanac and Ljubiša Petković, in which the Court applied the same law and found that the legal requirements for the extradition of the accused had been met, the state authorities of the Republic of Serbia executed the arrest warrants and extradited the three persons indicted for Contempt of Court to the ICTY.