Amnesty International’s human rights report for 2011 welcomed the arrest of the last two ICTY fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, but warned that many people across the region still wait for justice.
The annual report documents the state of human rights in 155 countries and territories. It describes 2011 as a turbulent year.
“Millions of people took to the streets to demand freedom, justice and dignity – some of them securing memorable victories,” the report states.
People on the move
According to the report, some states continue to send refugees and internally displaced people back to countries such as Iraq and Eritrea, despite the advice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Serbia, for example, forcibly returned Roma to Kosovo despite the risk of persecution and discrimination.
Across Europe, hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced by the conflicts that accompanied the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.
The displaced people are often unable to return due to their legal status and discriminatory practices against their rights and property ownership.
Previous judgments by the European Court for Human Rights, such as the ruling that the segregation of Roma children in schools is discrimination, were not implemented in several countries, including Croatia.
The report states, “legislation, policies and practices discriminating against Roma in the enjoyment of their right to housing remained on many statute books, and Roma communities continued to be forcibly evicted in several countries across the region including France, Italy and Serbia.”
Impunity in post-conflict situations
Despite the arrests of the two final suspects indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, there was a slow progress in addressing impunity for crimes committed during the wars of the 1990s. There was a lack of capacity and commitment, and some retrograde steps.
In Croatia, some efforts were taken by the President and judicial authorities to address the wartime past, but there was little action done by the government.
Key political figures engaged in attacks on international justice and the parliament passed the law on the annulment of indictments from Serbia that breached Croatia’s obligation to cooperate with Serbia in criminal matters.
Ten years after the 2001 conflict in Macedonia, war crimes cases returned from the Tribunal were annulled after parliament adopted a new interpretation of the Amnesty Law, which effectively ensured immunity from prosecution in domestic courts.
In the conclusion, the report notes that the arrests of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic sent a powerful message not only to affected individuals, but also across the region as a whole.
“It was a message of hope in the face of long years of waiting, but also a message of warning to all those who thought that influential friends, powerful neighbours or opaque vested interests would – or could – protect them from the reach of justice,” says the report.
“However, too many people across the region still fell through the gap between the rhetoric of human rights and the reality of their implementation... And individual states still failed in their primary obligation to uphold all human rights for all,” the report concluded.