War Crimes Prosecutor drops the only investigation against a high-ranking military officer

Tuzilastvo za ratne zlocine

On Friday, November 24, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), on behalf of the victims, filed an objection to the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor’s (OWCP) decision not to prosecute General Dragan Živanović, the former commander of the 125th Motorized Brigade of the Army of Yugoslavia (125th mtbr VJ). The OWCP rendered this decision on March 1, 2017, and, contrary to the law, did not deliver it to the legal representative of the victims; however, the very next day, the prosecutor, Dragoljub Stanković, who conducted the investigation, informed Živanović and his defense attorney regarding the decision. The decision to drop the only investigation against a high-ranking officer of the VJ in secret, and thus to subvert the victims’ right to react in a timely manner, clearly shows that the OWCP, contrary to the obligations accompanying its process of EU integration, does not intend to abandon its habitual practice of guaranteeing impunity for high-ranking persons in the military, police and political structures.


After the Ratko Mladic Judgment – Using the potential of the ICTY convictions for reconciliation in the region

srebrenica-press_logoOn 22 November 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague pronounced the first-instance judgment against Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS), sentencing him to life imprisonment. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) considers that the facts established, the findings of responsibility and the evidence presented encompass the judicial truth about the genocide in Srebrenica and other crimes committed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The findings of the judgment and the extensive documentation collected during the proceedings now represent valuable potential for a final and decisive step toward reconciliation and dealing with the past.


Criminal charges for crimes in Skabrnja and Nadin


On November 21, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor (WCP) against six identified and several unidentified members of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and Territorial Defense Unit (TO), for the killings of 48 Croatian civilians in the villages of Skabrnja and Nadin (Croatia) in November 1991.

Namely, on November 18, 1991, together with the Benkovac TO, the JNA entered the village of Skabrnja in the municipality of Zadar. After entering the village, they destroyed the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After that, 41 Croat civilians were killed in various locations in Skabrnja. The next day, in the nearby Nadin, seven more civilians were killed.

The killings at both locations were conducted to the same pattern: civilians who were found in their houses were brought outside with curses and insults, where JNA and TO members killed them from close-up. Most of the victims were elderly persons, among them 16 women, one of whom was disabled.

Milan Martic, the then Minister of the Interior of the Serb Autonomous District of Krajina (SAO Krajina), and Milan Babic, the then President of the SAO Krajina, were sentenced to several years in prison for crimes committed in the villages of Skabrnja and Nadin, before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Before the courts in Serbia, however, not one JNA or TO member has been found responsible for these crimes.


Military medical facilities in the service of obstructing justice in war crimes proceedings

Visi_sud_beogradThe main trial before the War Crimes Department of the High Court in Belgrade in the Trnje case, which was scheduled for September 13 2017, was not held because the defendant Pavle Gavrilović did not appear before the Court, again, because he allegedly fell ill on the day of the trial. His absence was, as in previous occurrences, justified on the basis of medical records issued by the Military Hospital in Niš. The second defendant, Rajko Kozlina, used to use a similar tactics of absence from the trial, with the only difference that he received confirmation of hospitalization from the Belgrade Military Medical Academy. Both defendants are still members of the Army of the Republic of Serbia. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) points out that this is a deliberate obstruction by the defense, with the complicity of military medical institutions, and calls on the court to, by at least placing the defendants in custody, put an end to an obvious obstruction of justice.


Report “Judging with impunity: The role of prosecutors and judges in show trials of Kosovo Albanians in the period 1998-2000” presented


On Tuesday, July 25th, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented the report “Judging with impunity: The role of prosecutors and judges in show trials of Kosovo Albanians in the period 1998–2000” . The Report points to a number of violations of fundamental human rights committed during criminal proceedings against Kosovo Albanians in the period 1998-2000, before district courts in Serbia.


Action Plan for Chapter 23 and the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes – dead letters

ministarstvo_pravdeMore than a year after the adoption of the  Action Plan for Chapter 23 (Action Plan), the provisions of this document relating to the prosecution of war crimes are being carried out superficially, for merely ”cosmetic” purposes, and many of the prescribed activities are not being carried out at all. The situation is the same when it comes to the implementation of the National Strategy for the Prosecution of War Crimes (National Strategy). It must therefore be said that the state authorities responsible for the implementation of the above provisions of the Action Plan and  National Strategy are falsely informing the public about their work, and continually making it difficult for the civil society to access relevant information and monitor their work. The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) believes that such behaviour is contrary to the obligations of the accession negotiations with the EU, and is an indicator of Serbia’s lack of commitment to the reform process, as well as sincere effort to prosecute war crimes more efficiently.


State obstructing War Crimes Trials


The Court of Appeals in Belgrade has dismissed (available in Serbian) the indictment filed against eight members of a Special Brigade of the Republic of Srpska Ministry of the Interior, accused of killing 1,313 civilians from Srebrenica in the Kravice hangar on July 14th, 1995 (Srebrenica – Kravica Case), with the explanation that the indictment was not filed by an authorized prosecutor. The Humanitarian Law Center thinks such a decision represents an inadmissible failure of the local judiciary, which will further jeopardize the process of war crimes trials, already deemed to be too slow.


Dossier: “Deportation of Srebrenica Refugees”

Dosije_Deportacije-logo-enAfter the fall of Srebrenica on 11 July, 1995, an estimated 7,905 persons disappeared, mostly men considered by the Army of Republika Srpska as “able-bodied”.  DNA analysis of the mortal remains of those found in mass graves, to date, has enabled positive identification of 5,977 persons killed in Srebrenica.

Most of these men were killed between 13 and 16 July 1995, in mass executions at several locations. A day before the fall of the enclave, between ten and sixteen thousand men fled into the forests around Srebrenica, intending to reach the “liberated territory” under the control of the Army of BiH. The search for, capture and killing of these men continued for weeks after the fall of Srebrenica.


Criminal charges against members of the Red Berets (“Crvene beretke”) for crimes committed in Doboj in 1992

Crvene beretke

On June 21st 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia (OWCP) against Radojica Božović, a former high-ranking member of the Red Berets, as well as against two other members of this unit, for crimes committed in Doboj (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in the period from May to August 1992.

The persons charged are suspected of the expulsion of several hundred Bosniaks from the village of Bukovačke Čivčije (Municipality of Doboj) in the period from May to August 1992, killing one member of the Croatian National Guard, robbing civilians, and abusing and torturing prisoners in the Doboj district prison.