BELGRADE -- Wednesday – The Serbian Government has approved financial assistance of almost half a million euros the former commander of the Yugoslav Army’s Pristina Corps, Vladimir Lazarevic, in return for his surrender to the Hague Tribunal, the Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights has revealed.
The Committee for Human Rights Lawyers’ Milan Antonijevic said today that the information on the payment earmarked for Lazarevic had been obtained from the Ministry of Finance under the Freedom of Information Act.
“On the basis of this information, the committee has asked the Finance Ministry where the resources for paying assistance to Hague Tribunal indictees and their families comes from and how much as been allocated, but not yet paid, for this during 2004 and to July 2005 for voluntary surrenders to the Hague Tribunal,” said Antonijevic.
“The committee received a reply, signed by Minister Dinkic, that funds had not been planned for the assistance of indictees in the 2004 and 2005 budgets, but that on the basis of Decision 06-621/2005 of February 2005, Government Ruling 401-685/2005, funds of 40 million dinars (about 500,000 euros) had been allocated from current budget reserves for securing the needs of assistance to General Vladimir Lazarevic on the occasion of his voluntary surrender to the Tribunal in The Hague,” he said, adding that the funds had not yet been paid.
“The committee was surprised by this reply from the Finance Ministry and we believe that it is our responsibility to inform the public,” said Antonijevic.
Lazarevic is charged with war crimes against Kosovo Albanians.
Following a number of “voluntary” surrenders to the tribunal at the beginning of the year, unconfirmed reports emerged that each surrender had involved major compensation for the indictees’ families. At the same time there were several cases of Bosnian Serb indictees choosing to surrender from Serbia rather than from the Republic of Srpska. Unofficial sources said at the time that, depending on their rank and the significance of their surrender, some of these indictees received assistance of hundreds of thousands of euros.
In a statement released after a meeting between Lazarevic and the government at the end of January, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said that he personally, the Cabinet and the state greatly respected Lazarevic’s patriotic, moral and honourable decision to surrender. The government also described the decision as an act of patriotism.
Lazarevic himself said at the time that his decision to surrender had been motivated by his desire to honour his country, the Serbian people and Kosovo.
The mayor of the former general’s home town of Nis, Smiljko Kostic hosted a reception for Lazarevic prior to his departure, describing him as a “Serbian hero” and presenting his family with the gift of a motor vehicle.