[JURIST] With Serbia poised to assume the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe [official website] this week, several human rights groups have spoken out against the country's new role, asserting that a country in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention [text] should not be allowed to lead the European human rights watchdog. In February, the International Court of Justice ruled [JURIST report] that although the Serbian government was not directly responsible for genocide during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war [Wikipedia backgrounder], the country violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention by failing to prevent genocide and by failing to bring to justice former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder; BBC profile] and his military commander Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; JURIST news archive], both wanted on war crimes charges.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] director Richard Dicker submitted a letter [text; HRW report] Monday to the Council of Europe, urging reconsideration of Serbia's presidency. Dicker said:
Serbia is the only country [in the United Nations] ever judged to have violated the Genocide Convention, and it's persisting in that violation by not turning over Ratko Mladic. The Council of Europe, the 'human rights conscience of the European Union,' should insist that Serbia cooperates fully with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.Chief ICTY prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has also submitted a letter of protest, saying that Serbia's failure to arrest Mladic and Karadzic make the country unfit for Council leadership. The International Herald Tribune has more.