City: Belgrade

25. March 2020.
The Serbian war crimes prosecution only issued three indictments in 2019, two of which were in cases transferred from Bosnia and Herzegovina, said a new report by the Humanitarian Law Centre.

The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre NGO said in a report published on Wednesday that Serbian war crimes prosecutors are continuing to issue only a small number of indictments, most of them in cases transferred from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and none of them charging high-ranking suspects.

“Bearing in mind that according to the War Crimes Prosecution Office’s data from November 2019, 2,557 cases are in the preliminary investigation stage, but only 15 cases are in the [active] investigation stage, such a work rate will solve a negligible percentage of war crimes cases in the coming period,” the report said.

The Humanitarian Law Centre noted in the report that prosecutors issued three indictments in 2019, two in cases from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The third indictment charges a suspect with war crimes in Kosovo as part of a case that is already ongoing in court.

All three indictments issued in 2019 are related to direct perpetrators of war crimes, not ranking officers.

“This continued the practice of non-prosecution of perpetrators in senior positions in the former military, police and political hierarchy of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” the report said.

“Non-prosecution of high-ranking perpetrators is contrary to the adopted National Strategy for War Crimes Prosecution, which states that the Republic of Serbia has decided that ‘cases against suspects of high rank, de jure or de facto, should be given priority in the work of prosecutors in the period 2016-2020’,” it added.

The Humanitarian Law Centre also noted that in 2019, prosecutors did not issue a single fresh indictment for crimes against ethnic Albanian civilians in the Kosovo war.

“Since the beginning of 2013, the HLC has filed nine criminal complaints about crimes committed in Kosovo; in Pec, Mala Krusa, Savine Vode, Vucitrn, Goden, Kraljani, Landovica, Poklek and Djakovica. However, up until the end of 2019, the Prosecution Office did not start an investigation into a single one of the listed suspects,” the report said.


26. February 2020.
Prosecutors in Belgrade charged Osman Osmanovic with committing war crimes against Serb civilians and prisoners of war held at the Rasadnik prison camp in Brcko in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution told BIRN that it has charged Osman Osmanovic with committing war crimes against civilians and prisoners of war at the Rasadnik camp in Gornji Rahic in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Brcko area during the summer of 1992.

The indictment was issued on Friday and has yet to be confirmed by a court.

After he was arrested on the Serbia Bosnia border in November, the prosecution said that Osmanovic, “as a member of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), and later of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with several members of his unit, inflicted bodily injuries, tortured, abused and intimidated civilians and captured members of the Army of Republika Srpska [Bosnian Serb Army]”.

Osmanovic is a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has asked for his extradition. Belgrade Higher Court rejected the extradition request and Osmanovic remains in custody in Serbia.

Osmanovic’s lawyer, Mirsad Crnovrsanin, told BIRN in December that the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution had no basis for conducting an investigation into Osmanovic, as he is a Bosnian citizen and allegedly committed the crime in Bosnia, and that the only witness and victim also lives in Bosnia.

“The crime under investigation in Serbia is the same as the one investigated in Bosnia, so all conditions for referring the case against Osmanovic [to Bosnia] have been met,” Crnovrsanin said.

The Appeal Court in the Brcko District of Bosnia sentenced ex-fighters Galib Hadzic and Nijaz Hodzic to two years and ten months and one year in prison respectively in 2015 for torturing prisoners at the Rasadnik jail camp during wartime. Osmanovic was a witness at the trial.


6. February 2020.
Serbian Radical Party members threw anti-war activists out of a building in Belgrade where a book by convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj denying the Srebrenica genocide was being launched.

Ultranationalist politician and war criminal Vojislav Seselj and members of his Serbian Radical Party on Wednesday evening physically forced anti-war activists out of a building in Belgrade’s Stari Grad municipality where Seselj was promoting his new book denying that the Srebrenica massacres were genocide.

“They pushed us and threw us out,” Ivana Zanic, the director of the Humanitarian Law Centre, wrote on Twitter after the altercation.

Zanic posted a video that showed people not allowing Humanitarian Law Centre activists to enter the hall. It also showed Seselj insulting HLC founder Natasa Kandic and ordering his supporters to “throw them out”.

Veteran anti-war activist Kandic told Radio Free Europe’s Serbian service that Radical Party members physically attacked her and other activists and knocked them to the ground.

“It was not just me on the floor, but two other girls from the [Humanitarian Law Centre] and one young man was kicked out as if they wanted to kick him. Seselj appeared and said ‘throw her out!’ Immediately there was a push came, and we found ourselves on the floor as a result of these heavy blows. Then they kicked us out,” Kandic said.

Seselj is still a member of Serbia parliament despite being convicted of wartime crimes by the Hague Tribunal in 2018. He was found guilty by the UN court of inciting deportations, persecution and other inhumane acts against Croats, such as crimes against humanity, in a speech that he made in the village of Hrtkovci in northern Serbia in May 1992.

He was also found guilty of the persecution of Croats living in Hrtkovci by “violating their right to security”. He was sentenced to ten years in prison but was not jailed because of the time he had already spent in custody.

Zanic said that the activists had hoped to hand out copies of the Humanitarian Law Centre’s dossier on crimes against Croats in Serbia during the 1991-95 war – issues that were at the centre of Seselj’s trial in The Hague.

The event promoting Seselj’s new book was held in a municipality building in Belgrade’s central Stari Grad neighbourhood.

The Humanitarian Law Centre, peace group Women in Black and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights NGO criticised the municipality for allowing the Serbian Radical Party to hold such an event on its property.

But Stari Grad municipality president Marko Bastac said that because the party has both MPs in parliament and councillors in the municipality, it has the right to book the hall.

“We really cannot control what they will do at their party gathering. Basically, they are legally allowed to use the hall,” said Bastac.