World Report 2011 - Serbia
|Publisher||Human Rights Watch|
|Publication Date||24 January 2011|
|Cite as||Human Rights Watch, World Report 2011 - Serbia, 24 January 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d3e80243.html [accessed 27 January 2015]|
Events of 2010
In March the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and apologizing to its victims and their relatives. However the resolution and the parliament's continuing domestic efforts to tackle war crimes were overshadowed by the government's ongoing failure to arrest Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs' wartime military leader. The European Union nevertheless took steps to strengthen ties with Serbia by unfreezing a trade agreement, relaxing its visa regime, and asking the European Commission to begin assessing Serbia's application for EU membership. These steps were prompted in part by a shift in the Serbian government's stance on Kosovo. Acts of intimidation of independent journalists persisted, along with discrimination against the Roma minority.
War Crimes Accountability
At this writing Serbia has failed to arrest Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, the two remaining fugitives wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In a June briefing to the United Nations Security Council, ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz noted Serbia's cooperation with requests for assistance, but indicated that efforts to arrest the fugitives "have thus far produced few tangible results." In September Brammertz reiterated his dissatisfaction with Serbia's efforts to secure the arrests of fugitives and called on the EU to press Serbia for cooperation. On a more positive note, Serbian authorities recovered Mladic's wartime notebooks during a search operation in February and provided them to the ICTY, which will likely introduce them as evidence in several trials.
The trial of Zdravko Tolimir, the last suspect in custody of the ICTY to face prosecution, began in February. Tolimir faces charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity related to 1995 events in Srebrenica and Zepa.
The Serbian War Crimes Chamber convicted a total of five suspects in three war crimes trials in 2010 the Malic case, the Banski Kovacevac case, and the Medak case, and acquitted a sixth. The Appellate Court of Belgrade reached final decisions in two cases, the Ovcara case and the Podujevo case. There were eight first instance trials ongoing at the chamber during 2010, and a further 10 cases subject to ongoing appeal.
In September the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor indicted nine men in connection with killings of ethnic Albanians in the village of Cuska (Qyshk in Albanian) in May 1999, during the war in Kosovo. In total, 26 men are currently being investigated for murder and theft in Cuska.
In May the prosecutor indicted six Serbs for war crimes against Croat civilians in Licki Osik, Croatia, in October 1991.
In August the prosecutor indicted Veljko Maric, a former member of the Croatian Armed Forces, for the wartime killing of Serb civilians in the Croatian village of Rastovac. Maric was arrested in April at the Serbian border with Bulgaria. He is the first ethnic Croat to face war crime charges in a Serbian court.
Treatment of Minorities
Throughout the month of June Roma residents of an informal settlement in the village of Jabuka, north of Belgrade, were harassed by local Serbs after a Roma teenager killed a 17-year-old Serb boy and protests escalated into stone-throwing and threats to destroy Roma homes. At this writing, the Roma neighborhood remains under 24-hour police protection. The Serbian local and central level authorities condemned the violence.
In May the Serbian authorities and the European Investment Bank reached an agreement committing the City of Belgrade to provide sustainable housing by the end of 2010 for Roma evicted from an informal settlement under the Gazela Bridge in August 2009. The evicted residents are currently living in metal containers in various municipalities outside Belgrade. In October Belgrade's development agency, with the help of police, demolished a separate Roma informal settlement and evicted its 36 residents without offering them any alternative accommodation, despite interventions from NGOs, Roma political representatives, and the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights.
In February an ethnic Albanian police officer in the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley was injured when a bomb planted under his police vehicle exploded, fracturing his legs and ribs and hurting his wife and two other female passers-by. At this writing no group has claimed responsibility and no one has been charged for the attack.
Integration of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
As of September 2010 there were 82,699 refugees registered in Serbia, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and around 225,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly from Kosovo, according to the Serbian authorities. Refugees and IDPs continued to face problems throughout 2010 obtaining personal documentation and accessing sustainable housing and social services. According to UNHCR, 3,500 remain in collective centers. Roma IDPs from Kosovo face particularly difficult economic and social conditions.
Deportations to Serbia from Western Europe continued in the absence of assistance programs, with 637 persons (around half of them Roma) deported in the first 9 months of 2010, according to the Serbian Comissariat for IDPs and Refugees.
In July Teofil Panic, a political commentator for the Serbian weekly Vreme, was beaten by two men with metal bars on a packed bus in Belgrade. The reason for the attack remains unclear. Panic suffered a concussion and injuries to his entire body. The perpetrators fled the scene and currently remain at large, despite a criminal investigation.
In February Serbian minister for infrastructure Milutin Mrkonjic assaulted Milan Ladjevic, a journalist at the daily Kurir, slapping him across the face and using obscene language after Ladjevic pursued him for an interview. Mrkonjic subsequently apologized publicly for his behavior.
In December 2009 reporter Brankica Stankovic and her staff from the B92 TV channel received repeated death threats after airing a program about football hooligans. In August the Higher Court of Appeal jailed one suspect over the threats and ordered the first instance court to look again at charges against five other suspects, reversing an April ruling by the lower court dismissing charges against all six.
In June the Serbian Parliament adopted a new Electronic Communication Law, which permits the creation of a national database of personal email and internet communication and allows police to view its contents. Serbian and international media organizations argued that the law is unconstitutional and could jeopardize the confidentiality of journalists' sources.
Human Rights Defenders
A June event organized by the Queeria lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organization to collect 10,000 signatures in support of a Belgrade Pride Parade in 2010 was dispersed after a bomb threat, which proved to be false. The 2009 pride event was cancelled over security concerns.
The interior minister and the human rights minister publicly stated their support for the Pride Parade, which took place in October. A few hundred LGBT demonstrators and their supporters marched through the streets of Belgrade, heavily guarded by police and security forces. Violent counterdemonstrators shouting homophobic language attacked police and wounded many officers, but failed to disrupt the parade. The counterdemonstrators also attacked the Democratic Party headquarters and destroyed many shops and vehicles.
In March the Serbian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy denied the NGO Mental Disability Rights International-Serbia access to monitor social care institutions for persons with disabilities, on the grounds that the institutions were too busy implementing reforms. The group had previously had informal access. The ministry promised access at a later unspecified time once reforms were implemented, but at this writing, despite further requests, at this writing the group has yet to gain access.
Key International Actors
In December 2009 the Council of the EU decided to unfreeze implementation of the Interim Trade Agreement with Serbia and to lift visa requirements for all Serbian citizens. The Serbian government submitted its formal application for EU membership the same month. In October the Council asked the European Commission to begin considering Serbia's application, despite Belgrade's failure to hand over Mladic. In November the European Commission published its annual progress report on Serbia, highlighting the continued liberty of Mladic and Hadzic. The report noted the lack of progress on prison reforms and widespread employment discrimination against women, while marking improvements to media freedom and progress on domestic war crimes trials.
In July the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion in a case brought by Serbia and stated that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence did not violate international law. Serbia's initial response was a draft UN General Assembly resolution condemning Kosovo's declaration of independence, but after significant diplomatic pressure by the EU and the United States, Serbia agreed to a joint UN General Assembly resolution with the EU calling for negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo that would allow them to normalize their relations. The General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution in September.