Serbian War Crimes Trials Undermined by Long Delays: Report

A new report by the Humanitarian Law Centre NGO in Belgrade, published on Wednesday, said war crimes proceedings in Serbia are subject to long delays and that justice is being further postponed when retrials are held.

"The lengthy duration of the proceedings, or their repetition, sends a negative and discouraging message to future witnesses and those who have been harmed - it is hard to get justice in Serbia," the HLC's report said.

The report also criticised the Serbian judiciary for prosecuting small numbers of suspects for crimes involving small numbers of victims - and in some cases, not prosecuting at all.

The HLC said that the lack of political support for such trials was also a problem, arguing that "the attitude of the current Serbian authorities towards the past and the issue of war crimes has directly influenced the outcomes of war crimes trials".

The report, which covers the years 2017 and 2018, shows that during the past two years, the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade Higher Court has passed first-instance verdicts in three cases, while the War Crimes Department of the Appeals Court in Belgrade issued four verdicts on appeals.

An interim convention was passed before the court of general jurisdiction, which was confirmed by the Appellate Court.

Meanwhile the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office issued a total of 14 indictments during the two-year period.

However, HLC analysis showed that these indictments were mostly filed against a small number of low-ranking people in the army or police and for crimes involving a small number of victims. Almost all of the indictments were actually cases transferred from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This goes against the criteria for processing crimes outlined by the...

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