News 05 Feb 15

Croatia Tells Serbia to Scrap 'Mini-Hague Tribunal' Law

Croatia's Prime Minister has warned that Zagreb may block Serbia’s EU negotiation procees if a law Serbia adopted on war crimes in 2003 is not withdrawn.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb

 

 

Croatian PM Zoran Milanovic warns Serbia.

A Serbian law on war crimes passed in 2003, claiming universal jurisdiction for the prosecution of war crimes committed on the whole territory of the former Yugoslavia, has become an object of criticism from Croatia.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic on Thursday said Serbia had to withdraw the law, as the EU works on the principle of judicial cooperation and joint arrest warrants.

“It is unacceptable to us, as it would be unacceptable to any other [country], if we had such a law,” Milanovic said.

He also said it made “common sense to say this immediately and send the message that with such a law, it [Serbia] cannot enter into the EU, because Croatia will not allow it.

“We’re not doing it to others [an attempt at universal prosecution], and we won’t allow others to do it to us,” he added.

“We are asking the neighboring country just to level with everyone else; nothing more, nothing less. If that's not fair, I'm waiting for counter-arguments,” Milanovic said.

Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Mljenic said it was clear Serbia wanted to set up its own“ mini Hague Tribunal, with Belgrade becoming the centre for prosecuting everything that happened on the territory of former Yugoslavia”.

Miljenic recalled the case of Veljko Maric, a Croatian war veteran sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Belgrade court in 2012.

Maric was found guilty of war crimes for killing a Serb civilian in the Croatian village of Rastovac in October 1991.

Under an international arrest warrant, he was arrested in 2010 after crossing the Serbia-Bulgaria border.

“I sent an official request for his transfer back in 2012, but it was rejected, while the last request in December last year wasn't yet replied to,” Miljevic said.

Milanovic said that if Croatia had “shortcomings on jurisdiction on this manner, I want to know precisely. Everyone needs to persecute its own criminals,” he concluded.

Serbia adopted the Law on the organization and jurisdiction of state authorities in war crimes procedure back in 2003.

Under the law, Serbia claims jurisdiction to prosecute all crimes committed in the 1990s conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia, regardless to the citizenship of either perpetrator or victim and regardless of the country in which the crime was committed.

Although the law has been on the statute books in Serbia for years, Croatia is only now using its position as an EU member to challenge it - at a time when Serbia is preparing to open EU negotiation chapters dealing with rule of law.

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