Prosecutors without borders

09 July 2007 by Drago Hedl

Twelve persons were arrested on May 29 in Serbia for the murder of 22 civilians in Lovas on October 18, 1991, when members of the Yugoslavian army and Serbian paramilitaries forced some fifty civilians in the Croatian village to walk across a minefield. These arrests are the latest example so far of regional cooperation among prosecutors' offices in Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has made remarkable progress over the past few years.

For the past year, a Vukovar court has been trying defendants accused of committing the war crime in Lovas. None of the defendants has been present at the trial, as all of them live in Serbia. Amongst those being tried in absentia was Ljuban Devetak, the principal accused, who continued to live in freedom in a suburb of Belgrade. Since May 29, however, Devetak has been detained in a Serbian prison, and the Lovas victims now have some hope of seeing him appear before the court. "I never thought this would actually happen," says Berislav Filic, a resident of Lovas who was forced to cross the minefield, and who miraculously survived. "The fact that the accused weren't accessible for the trial in Croatia spurred the prosecution in Serbia and Croatia to find a way to speed up the Lovas case.

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