Serbia refuses to apply provisions of Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions

8th of June 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the adoption of Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions, which prescribes the responsibility of a commander to prevent the commission of crimes and punish the perpetrators.

Article 87, paragraph 3 of the Protocol: „The High Contracting Parties and Parties to the conflict shall require any commander who is aware that subordinates or other persons under his control are going to commit or have committed a breach of the Conventions or of this Protocol, to initiate such steps as are necessary to prevent such violations of the Conventions or this Protocol, and, where appropriate, to initiate disciplinary or penal action against violators thereof.” Protocol I had been incorporated into national military legislation already back in 1988. Although there is legal basis, no one has ever been prosecuted for command responsibility in Serbia for crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

The Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a number of criminal complaints against commanders in whose areas of responsibility crimes had been committed. Apart from opening an investigation in the case of Dragan Živanović, HLC’s criminal complaints have been ignored. Not a single high-ranking person has been prosecuted by the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of Serbia in 13 years since the beginning of its work.


Are war crimes trials in Serbia dying out?

Milica_Kostic-Medija_centarOn Thursday May 18th 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its sixth report on war crimes trials in Serbia. The report includes an analysis of 28 cases that were conducted before the courts in Serbia in 2016, placing them in the socio-political context that affects their processing.


Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016

Izvestaj_o_sudjenjima_za_2016_engThe Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has monitored all war crimes trials conducted in the territory of Serbia in 2016 – that is to say, a total of 26 trials conducted by the War Crimes Departments of the Higher Court or the Court of Appeal in Belgrade, or the courts of general jurisdiction.

The Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016 features a brief overview of all 26 cases observed and the HLC’s key findings on each case, which the public needs to be informed about. Given that a significant portion of the war crimes proceedings presented in the Report have been ongoing for a number of years, the previous annual HLC Reports on war crimes trials should also be consulted for a full appreciation of the course of the proceedings and the corresponding findings. The Report also covers trials for crimes that are not classified as war crimes by the relevant prosecutor’s offices of general jurisdiction; despite the fact that the circumstances of such cases indicate they do constitute war crimes.

The Report focuses particularly on the work of prosecutor’s offices and courts, notably in the analysis of indictments and judgments. An analysis of the work of other institutions involved in war crimes prosecution (the War Crimes Investigation Service of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, the Protection Unit, etc.) could not be made within the context of each case as a result of the lack of publicly available information on their work.

The War Crimes Department of the Higher Court in Belgrade handed down first-instance judgments in three cases over the reporting period, and a judgement accepting a plea agreement concluded between the OWCP and a the defendant. The War Crimes Department of the Court of Appeal in Belgrade has issued six rulings on appeals against judgments passed by the Higher Court in Belgrade. The courts of general jurisdiction handed down four judgments. Eight OWCP’s indictments were confirmed in the reporting period against 15 individuals accused of a war crime against a civilian population.

The analyses of the cases in the Report are preceded by an overview of the general findings on war crimes trials in 2016, and a summary of the significant social and political events that had a bearing on the war crimes trials.

The Report on War Crimes Trials in Serbia during 2016 is available here.


On the occasion of the election of the Prosecutor for War Crimes of the Republic of Serbia: No discussion on the future of war crimes prosecution

skupstina_srbijeOn Monday, May 15th 2017, the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia elected Snežana Stanojković, former Deputy Prosecutor, as the new Chief Prosecutor for War Crimes in Serbia. This position has been vacant since January 1st 2016. Human rights organizations are welcoming the election of a new Head of the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP), primarily because of the importance of continuity in the domestic prosecution of war crimes, which was threatened with disruption because the appointment of a new chief prosecutor had been delayed for almost a year and a half; and also because this occasion should indicate the final start of the implementation of measures designed to increase the efficiency of this office.


“General Diković and 37th Brigade in Kosovo” Film

Dosije_Dikovic-thumb-enApproximately 1,400 civilians were killed in the area of responsibility of the 37th Brigade of the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo in 1999. The mortal remains of a number of victims were discovered in mass graves in Serbia. The present Chief of General Staff of the Serbian Army, Ljubiša Diković, was the Commander of the Brigade at this time. Neither he nor any members of his unit have been held accountable for these crimes.

 The evidence showing the presence and the role of the Yugoslav Army in the mass killings of civilians in Izbica, Čirez, Savarine, Rezala and other villages in the Drenica region is presented in the film titled “Ljubiša Diković and the 37th Brigade in Kosovo”, made by the Humanitarian Law Center. This evidence has already been presented in the “Ljubiša Diković” and “Rudnica” Dossiers.

 A number of TV services in Serbia, including the public broadcasters Radio and Television of Serbia and Radio and Television of Vojvodina, have refused or have not responded to the request that they screen the film. For this reason, the film will be posted on the HLC’s webpage and youtube channel on Tuesday, February 21st at 11:00 a.m.



Criminal Complaint for Crime at Golo Brdo in 1993

Logo FHPOn January 31st, 2017, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor for a crime against prisoners of war committed against members of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in July 1993, at Golo Brdo on Mount Igman in Bosnia.

The complaint was filed against the then Commander of the Republic of Srpska Army (VRS) Igman Brigade Quick Reaction Unit, Miroslav Škorić, and five identified and a number of unidentified members of the VRS.

After taking control of Golo Brdo on July 17th, 1993, members of the VRS Igman Brigade Quick Reaction Unit, under the command of Miroslav Škorić, detained four members of the Army of BiH in two bunkers. They immediately killed Robert Kahrimanović, and took the remaining three prisoners to the base of Mount Igman, not far from Blažuj, where they were met by the former Commander of the Quick Reaction Unit, Branislav Gavrilović. On Gavrilović’s orders, two of the prisoners, Živko Krajišnik and Rusmir Hamalukić, were killed, whilst the fourth prisoner, Perica Koblar, was taken to the Military Police HQ in Blažuj and handed over to members of the VRS. Koblar spent seven days in prison in Blažuj, where he endured torture on a daily basis. After seven days in prison, Koblar was released.

Perica Koblar testified about this event for two days before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in the Vojislav Šešelj case (Koblar testified in this case on June 10th and 11th, 2008). No one has been prosecuted in Serbia for this crime to date.


Unpunished Concealment of more than 900 Bodies in Mass Graves in Serbia

Predstavljanje_dosijea_skrivanje_telaOn Tuesday, January 31st, 2017, the HLC presented its eighth dossier in a row about unprosecuted crimes and possiblel perpetrators. The Dossier “The cover-up of evidence of crimes during the war in Kosovo: Concealment of Bodies Operation” shows how the operation of concealing the bodies of Albanians killed during the war in Kosovo in 1999 was planned and executed, and which civilian, military and police institutions were involved in it. The objective of the Dossier is to point to the perpetrators of the concealment of one of the most serious crimes in Kosovo, to enable the citizens of Serbia to hear about the crimes committed in their name, and to encourage witnesses to come out with their knowledge about these events and help the search for the more than a thousand bodies of Albanian civilians who were killed during the conflict in Kosovo and who are still reported as missing.


Dossier: “The cover-up of evidence of crimes during the war in Kosovo: THE CONCEALMENT OF BODIES OPERATION”

UklanjanjeDokaza-enSince 2001, mass graves containing the bodies of 941 Kosovo Albanians, mainly civilians killed outside combat situations in Kosovo during 1999, have been found on four locations in Serbia. 744 bodies of Kosovo Albanians have been discovered in Batajnica, on the outskirts of Belgrade, at least 61 in Petrovo Selo, and 84 at Lake Perućac. At least 52 bodies have been subsequently found in the mass grave at Rudnica.


Torture in Camps in Serbia Still Unpunished

Tortura_u_logorima_u_SrbijiOn December 22nd, 2016, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) presented its sixth dossier in a row on possible perpetrators of war crimes committed during the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. The “Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje” Dossier presents evidence on the treatment of Bosniaks, who sought shelter in Serbia following the fall of Žepa in late July 1995, and on the responsibility of members of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (MUP) for the crimes committed against the arrested and detained Bosniaks during their stay in Serbia. The Dossier is founded on statements given by surviving detainees, authentic documents of the Republic of Srpska Army, and military and police documents, which were admitted as evidence in a number of cases conducted before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), as well as on statements given by representatives of Serbian army and police and members of the international community, before the ICTY, the International Court of Justice and the First Basic Court in Belgrade.


Dossier „Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje“

Dosije-SljivovicaIMitrovoPolje-enAfter capturing Žepa in late July 1995 approximately 800 Bosniaks from Žepa crossed the River Drina and entered the territory of the Republic of Serbia, frightened for their lives after rumours had spread of the crimes committed by the Army of Republika Srpska in Srebrenica. Most of them were members of the Army of BiH, but there were also civilians, including dozens of underage boys. Almost immediately after crossing, the men were taken captive by border guards of the Yugoslav Army and members of Special Police Units.

After registration and interrogation, accompanied by ill-treatment, all detainees were taken to the Šljivovica camp in Braneško Polje, near Čajetina. As there was no room in Šljivovica for such a large number of people, a group of detainees was transferred to another camp, located in Mitrovo Polje (Aleksandrovac municipality). In both camps, detainees were subjected to torture, sexual violence, inhumane treatment, humiliation and starvation, and were robbed of their possessions. Three detainees died as a result of the torture.

The Mitrovo Polje camp was closed in February 1996. The camp in Šljivovica was closed in April 1996, when the last remaining detainees were freed.

To date, no one has been called to account for the torture, abuse and deaths of Žepa male detainees in the camps in Serbia. Although the names are known of the inspectors and guards who were in the camps, no proceedings have ever been brought before any domestic court to establish the criminal responsibility of these individuals for acting contrary to domestic and international law. Neither the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia nor the International Court of Justice has addressed the torture of the Bosniaks in Serbian camps, although both courts were presented with evidence concerning these crimes.

The dossier „Šljivovica and Mitrovo Polje“ is available here.