Belgrade war crimes court: a criticized success

11 June 2014 by Stephanie van den Berg, Belgrade (Serbia)

Prosecutors in Belgrade like to say that they have prosecuted more people than the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the past decade. In ten years, the Belgrade war crimes court convicted 56 people among 170 indictees – while the ICTY indicted 161 suspects over twenty years. Although they are low level military officials, paramilitaries and local officials no higher than the level of mayor, given the scant resources and often lack lustre political support for prosecutions, this is no mean feat.

“In a transitional society for an office like ours to exist for ten years is already a big success,” stresses Bruno Vekaric, deputy prosecutor and spokesman for Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor’s office. A decade after its first trial, started in March 2004, his office still suffers from the aftermath of a climate where war crimes were first hidden and later denied. “The public is still not ready to admit war crimes were committed and they do not see the importance of bringing perpetrators to justice for the sake of society as a whole,” Vekaric says.

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