Serbia and Montenegro: Failure to deal with legacy of war crimes condemned in new report
While welcoming steps towards fulfilling some of SCGâ€™s human rights commitments, Amnesty International is concerned that limited progress in many areas such as full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Tribunal) in The Hague and investigation into allegations of police torture and ill-treatment has been stalled or even reversed in the last year, especially in Serbia.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"Many of those responsible for the gravest human rights violations during the armed conflicts after Yugoslaviaâ€™s break-up are still at large.
"The authorities of Serbia and Montenegro refuse to arrest and transfer people indicted by the Hague Tribunal despite their obligations, relying instead on voluntary surrenders. Such crimes are rarely prosecuted domestically.
"The climate of impunity surrounding these crimes is mirrored by the lack of will to investigate allegations of possible unlawful killings, deaths in custody, and police torture and ill-treatment."
The report Serbia and Montenegro, A wasted year: The continuing failure to fulfil key human rights commitments made to the Council of Europe, lists the commitments that SCG has failed so far to implement and gives numerous examples as illustrations:
- The Serbian authorities have continued to refuse to transfer to the Tribunal former Serbian Assistant Interior Minister and former Kosovo police chief Sreten Lukic and former Yugoslavia Army chief Nebojsa Pavkovic. Both of them are indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kosovo in 1999. Both are openly residing in Serbia. Despite the recent voluntary surrender and transfer to the Tribunal of six people, a number of suspects indicted by the Tribunal are believed to remain at large in SCG.
- To date there have been no trials in SCG of senior military or political officials for war crimes or crimes against humanity in connection with the Yugoslav conflicts. Many of those responsible for abductions and murders of Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians remain unpunished. The practice of putting on trial only low-level perpetrators encourages impunity for the military and political leadership.
- No-one has yet been charged in connection with the hundreds of Kosovo Albanians buried in secret mass graves on Serbian Ministry of the Interior property.
- Potential witnesses to the alleged incinerations of Kosovo Albanian bodies in Serbian industrial furnaces in 1999 have allegedly been intimidated by security officials to prevent the facts emerging.
Kate Allen said:
"The SCG authorities must bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. Victims of the crimes should receive adequate reparation. The authorities must also take urgent measures to resolve the hundreds of cases of enforced â€˜disappearancesâ€™ and abductions and to alleviate the suffering of relatives."
Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the authorities have failed to resolve murders believed to be political assassinations carried out by state agents, such as those of journalists Slavko Curuvija and Milan Panic.
Despite official admission of police torture during Operation Sabre in Serbia in 2003, no proceedings are known to have been initiated against those responsible who remain in the police force.
In the case of Montenegro, Amnesty International raised again the case of alleged complicity in the cover-up in the trafficking for forced prostitution and severe torture of the Moldovan woman known as SC.
Amnesty International calls on Serbia and Montenegro to seriously address past abuses, to promote and protect human rights, and to fulfil its obligations to the Council of Europe.
The organisation also calls on the Council of Europe to use its influence to help SCG fulfil its human rights commitments.