Thursday, May 12, 2005

Serbia not ready to judge war crimes cases: US diplomat

BELGRADE, May 12 (AFP) - Serbia is not yet ready to prosecute its own war crimes cases and is in denial of the atrocities committed by Serbs in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, a US diplomat said Thursday.

"I do not believe that the political climate in Serbia is really favourable for equitable war crimes trials before local courts," US charge d'affaires Roderick Moore told a seminar here. "I do not believe that your society has accepted the magnitude of the crimes committed by the Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo."

Moore was speaking at a round-table discussion of war crimes issues organised by the US embassy and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Participants included judges, prosecutors, lawyers and non-governmental organisations.

But Anton Nikiforov, an advisor to chief UN prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, said the UN tribunal at The Hague was bogged down and would have to transfer some of its caseload if it was to meet its completion deadline of 2010.

"We are not convinced that we can finish all cases by 2010. ... The current plan is that some 10 cases or possibly more be transferred to the national courts," he said, adding that these would not be high-profile cases.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has long argued that Belgrade is ready to handle war crimes cases currently before the UN court, and trials should be transferred to local jurisdictions.

However Serbia's failure to fully cooperate with the UN tribunal is a persistent obstacle to its closer integration with Europe and NATO.

Moore cited opinion polls showing that some 50 percent of Serbians did not believe that the Srebrenica massacre -- when some 8,000 Muslims were murdered by Serb forces in Bosnia in 1995 -- really happened. Another 38 percent believed that former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who has been indicted for genocide but remains on the run allegedly in Serbia, had no case to answer to.

"Your police, prosecutors and judges are the image of society. Can they be impartial, ready to find, charge and convict Serbs who have committed war crimes if your society doubts that those crimes were committed?" Moore asked.

Serbia has refused to arrest fugitive indictees but has delivered about a dozen mainly low-level suspects to The Hague in recent months through a programme of voluntary surrender, negotiated behind closed doors.

"We congratulate your government for the actions taken in recent times to obtain the voluntary surrenders of indictees, but the manner in which these surrenders were obtained was inappropriate," Moore said.

Judge Omer Hadziomerovic, president of the Association of Serbian Judges, identified a lack of political will to prosecute war crimes cases and the possible involvement of investigating police in the crimes.

"In recent years there have been problems to collect evidence and find witnesses for war crimes trials throughout the region," he said. "But there have also been subjective problems, meaning a lack of political will which can be seen in the strong propaganda that our side never committed crimes. "The problem also is that among those who have committed crimes are our police and soldiers, who now should be collecting evidence."


Anonymous said...

It is amazing to see how far criminals have seeped into serbian society. To know that you may work with or live next to someone that has masacred numerous people should be a frightening situation for any serb. Harboring those that have committed crimes only makes one an accomplice. The state of Serbia is knee deep in criminals.

Anonymous said...

Yes the article is right about Serbian war criminals...It also should be known that Haradinaj, Balaj and others face the same charges.

Anonymous said...

Yet they voluntarly surrendered and no Albanian government official was helping them hide. You have people who are not afraid of justice and have a clear conscience and then you have diabolic criminals who are afraid of justice cause they've killed thousands of people. You have a state who helps them, fearing the maccabre and barbaric murders organized by the state will involve a great number of peole that are today in your institutions, and act as the founding fathers of democracy and fanatic protectors of human rights.

Anonymous said...

The reason for not bringing more Albanins to the Hague is their friendship with America pariculary George W. Bush. However, I know a nation which sang "Danke Deutschland" and thought that it was saved from the justice and protected and now faces the blocade from entering into EU. Do not be so sure that another nation who sings now "Thank you America" will not experience the same, for there are terrorists also living among Albanians and protected by the new Kosovo government!