With Appeal Judgment on Vojislav Šešelj, Justice is Partially Achieved


On April 11 2018, the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague passed sentence with its final verdict on the President of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Vojislav Šešelj, and reversed his acquittal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia Trial Chamber,  sentencing him to 10 years of imprisonment for encouraging persecution (forced displacement), deportation, and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer), as  crimes against humanity, and for committing persecutions in Hrtkovci in Vojvodina (violations of the right to security) as a crime against humanity. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers such a judgement  significant, since in this way the victims of deportation and persecution in Hrtkovci almost 26 years ago have received  judicial satisfaction; however, justice has only been partially satisfied, given the scope of the indictment against Šešelj, which encompasses the area of Sarajevo, as well as the municipalities of Zvornik, Nevesinje and Mostar in BiH, and Vukovar in Croatia.


Regarding the presentation of the Prosecutorial Strategy for the Investigation and Prosecution of War Crimes in the Republic of Serbia in the period 2018 to 2023

Tuzilacka strategijaOn Monday, March 12, 2018, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) presented the Draft Prosecutorial Strategy for the Investigation and Prosecution of War Crimes in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2018-2023 (Draft), in accordance with the obligations of the Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National War Crimes Prosecution Strategy (National Strategy). The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the method of presenting the draft was not transparent, and that the draft strategy does not offer any solution to overcoming the key shortcomings in the previous work of the OWCP, and fails to determine adequate measures for achieving the primary goal the more efficient prosecution of war crimes.


War crimes trials in light of constitutional amendments

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On January 22, 2018, the Ministry of Justice published a working text that envisages amendments to the Constitution in the provisions governing the work of the judiciary. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) would like to point out that the proposed amendments to the Serbian Constitution reduce the currently attained level of independence of judges, as well as the autonomy of prosecutors, only to relocate the existing political influence on the judiciary from the National Assembly to the High Judicial Council, through the “distinguished lawyers” who  constitute this body and independently have the majority in making decisions, as well as the authority to introduce institutes and institutions through which the executive power can directly exercise political influence on the election of judges and prosecutors. Bearing in mind the previous work of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) and of the Special Council of the Higher Court in Belgrade regarding war crimes, characterized by the small number of indictments, the non-processing of medium and high-ranking members of the army and police, the absence of political support for trials and the delays in proceedings, the HLC considers that the proposed amendments to the Constitution will only contribute to the continuation of such a manner of working, owing to political pressure, which is bound to come from the change in the composition of the High Judicial Council and of non-judicial bodies that would be receiving quasi-judicial powers.


Criminal complaint against Svetozar Andrić

Logo FHPOn March 2 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) submitted a criminal complaint against Svetozar Andrić, former commander of the Birač Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS), and later Chief of Staff of the VRS Drina Corps, to the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Serbia. The criminal complaint was filed for several crimes committed during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

On May 28, 1992, Svetozar Andrić ordered the “eviction” of the Bosniak population from Zvornik, as the then commander of the VRS Birač Brigade, in whose area of responsibility were the municipalities of Vlasenica and Zvornik, among others. This resulted in the departure of more than 10,000 Bosniaks to Mali Zvornik, Kalesija, and the villages of Snagovo and Kula Grad.


Criminal complaint for rape of Roma women in 1993

Fond_Logo_200_200On January 29, 2018, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) against several unidentified members of the Secretariat of the Interior (SUP) of Beli Manastir, for the rape of six Roma women (including one pregnant woman and three minors) in the basement of the SUP Beli Manastir, in the summer of 1993.


Ovčara Case: 14 years waiting for justice


After 14 years, the first war crimes case before specialized court councils in Serbia came to a close with the new final judgment for the crime at Ovčara near Vukovar. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that the trial in this case is one of the best indicators of the ineptitude of Serbian institutions in dealing with the obligation to approach the crimes from the past with responsibility and dedication.


The third acquittal for war crimes in 2017

Logo FHPOn December 25, 2017, the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade High Court delivered a judgment acquitting Marko Pauković and Dragan Bajić of charges for war crimes against a civilian population, owing to a lack of evidence. As members of the Military Police of the Sixth Brigade of the Republika Srpska Army, Bajić and Pauković were accused of murdering Hasan Rahić (aged 60), Minka Jusić (aged 70) Munira Hotić (aged 54), Đemila Behar (aged 54) and the then minor Safeta Behar (aged 12), in the town of Kamičak (Ključ municipality, Bosnia and Herzegovina), on October 10, 1992. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) notes that this is only the third verdict for war crimes cases that has been brought in Serbia in 2017; like the previous two, it is acquitting. In March, the Court of Appeal acquitted Goran Šinik of the murder of civilians in Gradiška (BiH) in 1992; and in April, Neđeljko Sovilj and Rajko Vekić were acquitted of the murder of civilians in the municipality of Bosanski Petrovac (BiH) in December 1992.


Presentation of the Initial Report on the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes and the Public Opinion Survey on Public Attitudes about the Wars of the 90s


The Initial report on the implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes, and the results of the opinion polls on „Awareness of the citizens of Serbia about the wars of the 90s, war crimes and war crimes trials“, were presented on Monday, December 18 2017, at a conference organized by the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) and the daily newspaper ‘Danas’.


Constitutional complaint in Trnje Case for violation of right to trial within reasonable time: Obstruction of war crimes trials without court reaction

Specijalni sudOn Tuesday, November 28, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a constitutional complaint on behalf of the victims in the Trnje Case for violation of their right to a trial within a reasonable time. This case is being processed before the War Crimes Department of the High Court in Belgrade. The trial in this case was from the beginning obstructed by the accused, who continued with impunity, and during the four years since the indictment was issued, only nine trial days have been held. The HLC considers this case to be a paradigm of war crimes trials in Serbia: all accused persons defend themselves undetained; hearings are scheduled with monthly intervals; a strategy of the defense has for its aim the constant delay of hearings, which is being tolerated; and the few victims who monitor trials believing that they may see justice, are being ignored and humiliated.