April 19, 2024

Photo: The view of the burning city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, November 1991. The fires are the result of the air raid and artillery attack of the Yugoslav Federal Army. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2021/10/19/european-commission-raps-serbias-weak-war-crimes-case-record/

 

Photo: EU enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi launches the reports on Tuesday 19, 2021. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2021/10/19/european-commission-raps-serbias-weak-war-crimes-case-record/

 

By: Mariah Abdel Aziz

 

At the Center Stage:

 

The Serbian authorities have “a very weak track record in the processing of war crimes cases” and continue to “provide support and public space to convicted war criminals”, according to European Commission’s latest report on Serbia’s progress towards membership, which was published on October 19, 2021.

 

Decoding in detail:

 

The report notes that Serbia has not cooperated with the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague to arrest two nationalist Serbian Radical Party politicians who are wanted for trial after being indicated for contempt of the Hague war crimes court by pressuring witnesses during the trial of their leader, Vojislav Seselj.

 

On the issue of cooperation with other ex-Yugoslav states on war crimes prosecutions, the European Commission noted that “Serbia has yet to enforce the final judgment of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the case of Bosnian Serb General Novak Djukic , who fled to Serbia following his conviction for ordering the shelling of the town of Tuzla in 1995, when 71 people were killed.

 

The Commission also noted that the Serbian government has just adopted a new national strategy for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, saying that this is “an opportunity to realize commitments to the fight against impunity and reconciliation, notably to increase investigations and indictments in high-level cases and strengthen regional co-operation”.

 

The report also urged Serbia to “show a genuine commitment for investigating and adjudicating war crimes cases”, and to “prioritise complex cases and those involving senior ranking officials”. Serbia has so far shied away from prosecuting top-level figures for wartime crimes.

 

 

Photo: The view of the burning city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, November 1991. The fires are the result of the air raid and artillery attack of the Yugoslav Federal Army. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2021/10/19/european-commission-raps-serbias-weak-war-crimes-case-record/

 

The European Commission’s progress report urges Montenegro to step up its efforts to fight impunity and demonstrate a more proactive approach to effectively investigate, prosecute, try, and punish war crimes.

Too few war crimes cases are being prosecuted in the country, the European Commission cautions.

 

“There are currently five cases in the preliminary phase of investigation [in Montenegro] concerning war crimes committed on the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and of Croatia. One further investigation was opened in 2021, while one was closed for lack of grounds for prosecution,” the report says.

 

The European Commission meanwhile urges Kosovo to develop a broad strategy for transitional justice including “a comprehensive approach to addressing its past”.

 

It says that the future of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission initiated several years ago by former President Hashim Thaci, who is now facing war crime charges in The Hague, remains unclear.

 

The report notes that the Vetevendosje-led government, installed in March this year, has put forward measures to strengthen domestic institutional mechanisms dealing with war crimes by amending the Criminal Procedure Code to allow trials in absentia for war crimes.

 

However, the Commission says that the implementation of the national strategy on war crimes continues to be hampered by the political context, lack of resources and the lack of international and regional cooperation.

 

Few new cases have been launched, the report notes: “In the reporting period, the Kosovo Police arrested two persons suspected of war crimes and three new investigations were opened,” it says.

 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the report says that in order to fulfil the national war crimes strategy’s main target of completing all war crimes cases by 2023, the Council of Ministers must establish a supervisory body and ensure sufficient funding without further delay.

The report also says that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s judicial cooperation with other countries in the ex-Yugoslav region on war crime prosecutions remains ineffective.

 

Standpoint:

 

The European Commission says Montenegro needs to do more to combat impunity over war crimes and effectively investigate, prosecute, try to punish war criminals in line with international standards.

In its latest progress report, published on Tuesday, the Commission said Montenegro’s prosecution service needs to demonstrate a more proactive approach in following up allegations of war crimes.

“The judicial decisions reached so far have contained legal mistakes and shortcomings in the application of international humanitarian law,” the report reads.

 

References:

 

Stojanovic, M, & Kajosevic, S & Bami, X (October 19, 2021), “European Commission Raps Serbia’s ‘Weak’ War Crimes Case Record”. Balkan Insight.com. Retrieved from:

https://balkaninsight.com/2021/10/19/european-commission-raps-serbias-weak-war-crimes-case-record/