The UN Human Rights Committee: Serbia to prosecute war crimes, determine the fate of missing persons and compensate the victims
At the meeting held on March 23rd 2017, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted the Concluding Observations on the Third Periodic Report on Serbia. The Concluding Observations contain the Committee’s overview of the situation in Serbia regarding human rights, as regards the Third Periodic Report that Serbia submitted in September 2015. As being the most problematic areas, the Committee has identified the rights and position of the Roma people, the LGBTI community, people with disabilities, women, children, refugees and asylum seekers, victims of trafficking and forced labour, as well as victims of the war-related crimes committed during the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
In relation to the application of transitional justice mechanisms, the Committee expressed concern about the limited progress in the search for missing persons, the low-scale war crimes trials, the narrow definition of a victim and an injured party, and the legal requirement that families declare their missing members deceased before qualifying to exercise the right to compensation. The Committee pointed to the inadequate capacity of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor, including the nonexistence of a Chief Prosecutor and the pressures exerted by government.
In order to eliminate these shortcomings, the Committee has recommended the following measures to Serbia:
- Investigate all unresolved cases of disappeared persons in order to clarify their fate and whereabouts;
- Ensure that victims and their relatives are informed of the outcome of the investigation;
- Prosecute all perpetrators of war crimes, including middle and high-ranking officials;
- Amend the Law on Civilian Invalids of War and the Criminal Procedure Code to expand the definition of a victim and an injured party;
- Ensure that all victims of enforced disappearance have an effective right to full reparation in conformity with human rights standards;
- Ensure that the Office of War Crimes Prosecutor has sufficient resources, appoint without delay a new War Crimes Prosecutor and ensure its independence so that it can effectively discharge its mandate.
As positive developments, the Committee pointed to the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2011) and the signing of the Protocol with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Cooperation in the Search for Missing Persons (2015).
The Concluding Observations reflect the suggestions submitted to the Committee by the Humanitarian Law Center in early February 2017.