OSCE: Serbia war crimes prosecutions inadequate, incomplete

OSCE: Serbia war crimes prosecutions inadequate, incomplete

Serbia has yet to completely investigate and adequately prosecute war crimes that occurred in the 1990s conflict, according to a report [text, PDF] released [press release] Tuesday by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) [official website]. The report, which details the OSCE’s mission to Serbia [materials] and the 2003-2014 war crimes proceedings, states that the number of investigations are decreasing and a high ranking official has yet to face prosecution for acts committed in the conflict. The report also states that the Serbian people have little faith that the government is independent and effective enough to prosecute alleged war criminals. The Serbian Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor [official website] has only indicted 162 individuals accused of war crimes against citizens and prisoners. The main issue affecting continued prosecutions is that most of the necessary evidence and witnesses are outside of Serbia’s jurisdiction, requiring international cooperation that is not always available. According to the report, the WCPO contributed to the delay in prosecutions by making judicial errors:

The concern is that Serbian prosecutors and judges have failed to take a clear stance on the applicability of international law rules on command responsibility in Serbia. Similarly, there is no pronouncement on a possible affirmation of superior responsibility through domestic provisions on “commission through omission.” Whatever legal solution the Serbian judiciary decides to embrace, a clear stance on this point is long overdue.

The OSCE indicated that the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor will be able to increase their investigations with the help of the legislature and other government officials if they follow their recommendations and ensure that high-ranking officials are held responsible for their actions.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] and the Balkan States continue to prosecute those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity that left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. In July Serbian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] former Bosnian Army general Naser Oric [JURIST news archive] with war crimes against prisoners of war in 1992. In April the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina indicted [JURIST report] 10 former Bosnian-Serb soldiers for war crimes committed during the Balkans conflict.