Report „The right to reparation in compensation lawsuits: the practice of Serbian courts 2017-2020“


In March 12th, 2021 the Humanitarian Law Center presented the report „The right to reparation in compensation lawsuits: the practice of Serbian courts 2017-2020“.

This report covers the analysis of cases which were active in the period between 2017 and 2020. Since the duration of most of these cases is longer than three years, for the ease of following the course of the proceedings, this report gives a brief overview of the course of the proceedings even before 2017.

The report is divided into three parts. First part analyzes the legal framework that regulates the victims’ right to reparation in Serbia. Second part analyzes individual cases where the HLC represented the victims, while third part deals with the main problems that the HLC has identified in its work as key obstacles hindering the victims from vindicating their reparation claims.

The report is available on this link


Draft Law on War Veteran and Disability Rights retains provisions that discriminate against civilian victims of war

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On Friday 21 December 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) submitted to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Veteran and Social Affairs (Ministry) its comments on the Draft Law on Veteran and Disability Benefits (Draft Law). In the comments the HLC points out that the public consultation process that preceded the preparation of the draft law was non- transparent and that the text of the Draft Law, instead of improving the position of civilian victims of war, maintains the discriminatory provisions contained in the law currently in effect, as a result of which civilian victims of war are put in an unfavourable position in relation to military victims of war.

In early August 2018, the Ministry established a working group to draft a law which would comprehensively regulate the rights of war veterans. Only members of war veteran and disabled servicemen associations were invited to participate in the working group. Associations of civilian victims, gathered around the Alliance of Serbian Associations of the Families of Missing Persons from the Territory of the former Yugoslavia, as well as interested experts in the field and other stakeholders were excluded from the process. Moreover, apart from announcing that the working group had been set up, the Ministry did not publish either of the two versions of the Draft Law on its website for comments. It was from the website of the Association of Disabled Wartime and Peacetime Veterans of Serbia that the HLC got hold of the Draft Law dated 9 December 2018. By not publishing the Draft Law on its website and not including associations of war-disabled civilians and civilian victims of war in the consultation process, the Ministry made it impossible for those interested parties to contribute their views on the proposed legislation.


Justice deprived of majority of victims


On June 28th 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its Report, “Circumventing Justice: The Statute of Limitation as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation”.  The Report analyses the practice of courts of the Republic of Serbia in proceedings for the compensation of damages which have occurred as a consequence of the conflicts during the 1990s, and the way in which the courts have interpreted the legal provisions that apply to the statute of limitation for damages arising from a criminal offence.


Circumventing Justice The Statute of Limitations as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation

zaobilazenje_pravde-enThe Republic of Serbia participated in all the armed conflicts that took place in the territory of the former Yugoslavia during the last decade of the twentieth century. A large number of people died, or disappeared, or became refugees, and very many suffered enormous material and non-pecuniary damage as a result of these conflicts.

The obligation of the Republic of Serbia to provide just compensation to victims of human rights violations arises not only from the substantial provisions of the Serbian Constitution and domestic regulations but also from the international conventions that Serbia has ratified.

In spite of the existence of clear provisions of both domestic and international law and the well-established case-law of international bodies, victims in Serbia find it virtually impossible to enforce their right to reparations before the domestic courts. The difficulties victims face in the process are varied. The standard of proof is set too high, court proceedings drag on for several years, courts do not believe the victims and their evidence, to name just a few. Provisions governing statutory-limitation periods for filing compensation claims – or rather, the way Serbian judges interpret them, is one of the major obstacles faced by victims.

The report Circumventing Justice: The Statute of Limitations as a Mechanism for Denying War Victims the Right to Compensation points out the marked tendency of the domestic judiciary to interpret statute of limitations rules in a manner that leads to the denial of the right to compensation for the victims of gross violations of human rights, by ruling their right to compensation time-barred. Such an arbitrary application of the statute of limitations for bringing compensation claims works against the interests of the victims and amounts to a grave violation of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by both domestic and international regulations.


25 years since the Kukurovići crime

Victims punished for unwillingness of State to prosecute those responsible for this crime


On February 18 2018, 25 years have passed since the Yugoslav Army (VJ)’s attack on the Sandžak village of Kukurovići. In this attack, almost the entire village was demolished, and three citizens of Bosniak nationality were killed. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and the Sandžak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (Sandžak Committee) would like to draw attention to the fact that even 25 years after this crime against civilians – citizens of Serbia, nobody has been found responsible, and the state of Serbia has not provided the victims with adequate recognition and reparations.


The European Court transfers the responsibility for the non-prosecution of crimes from the Prosecution to the Victims

imagesOne year after it rejected the application of former detainees from the Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje camps, the European Court of Human Rights issued a decision on October 19 2017 declaring the second application, submitted on behalf of family members of the killed camp detainees, inadmissible. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which represented the victims’ families in these proceedings, points out that the European Court re-used the same, factually unsustainable structure of reasoning in order to transfer the responsibility for the inactivity of war crimes prosecutions from the state to the victims themselves.


Ministry Stronger than Any Court or Law: Families of Victims from Sjeverin Still Deprived of their Legal Rights


On receiving the order of the Administrative Court to decide once more on the request filed by Rasim Pecikoza, the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs again refused to grant him, as a family member of a civilian victim of war, the right to a monthly cash benefit, and explained this decision by stating that this right cannot be granted to a victim who died outside the territory of Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which represents Rasim Pecikoza, holds that the Ministry has acted in violation of the law and contrary to the positions taken by the Administrative and Constitutional Courts, thus placing itself above judicial institutions, and has confirmed its earlier intention to deprive the greatest number of civilian victims of war in Serbia of their legally guaranteed rights. The HLC will again seek, in this case and in other similar cases, protection before the Administrative Court on behalf of the plaintiffs.


European Court of Human Rights Rejects the Application of Former Prisoners of Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje Detention Camps: Amnesty for the Prosecution, Disillusionment for Victims


On 27 October 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected the application lodged on behalf of 67 Bosniaks, who during 1995 and 1996 were detained in the Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje camps in Serbia, and consequently refused to determine whether the investigation of Serbian government bodies into their ill-treatment was adequate. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), who represented the former detainees in this case, considers that this decision of the ECtHR leaves thousands of victims of yet unprosecuted crimes without protection and offers the Serbian judiciary an excuse for their current and future inactivity when it comes to war crimes prosecution.


Council of Europe Concerned for the Position of Civilian Victims of War in Serbia

Logo_FHP The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights addressed a letter on September 12th, 2016 to the Minister of Labour, Employment, Social and Veterans Affairs in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Aleksandar Vulin, in which he is seeking information about the measures taken by Serbia in order to fulfil the recommendations on comprehensive and just reparations for civilian victims of war, which the Commissioner expressed in his Report on the visit to Serbia in July 2015.


With regard to the decision of the Constitutional Court of Serbia to reject the appeal of victims’ family members

Sjeverin mapaCase analysis: Republic of Serbia exempt from any responsibility for the crime against the inhabitants of Sjeverin

The Constitutional Court of Serbia has rejected an appeal made by the family members of sixteen Serbian citizens of Bosniak nationality from the village of Sjeverin, near Priboj, who were kidnapped and murdered on 22nd October 1992 by members of the Bosnian Serb unit called “Avengers” (Osvetnici). With this decision, the Republic of Serbia has put an end to requests by family members of the victims to be paid compensation. By acting in this way, Serbia has underlined its denial of responsibility for this crime. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), which has represented the victims’ family members from Sjeverin in these proceedings, will address the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on their behalf.