News 30 Oct 17

EU Raps Serbia for Giving War Criminal Teaching Job

The European Union condemned Serbia’s decision to name a convicted war criminal, general Vladimir Lazarevic, as a lecturer at the national military academy.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Lazarevic on trial in The Hague. Photo: Beta/Bas Czerwinski.

EU spokesperson Maja Kocijancic told BIRN on Monday that Serbia has “deviated” from the principles it needs to uphold as a candidate for EU membership by appointing general Vladimir Lazarevic, who served ten years in prison for war crimes during the Kosovo conflict, as a teacher at the Serbian Military Academy.

“We expect political leaders to honour the victims of past conflicts and sincerely promote reconciliation in the Western Balkans [which is] essential for stability, peaceful future and prosperity,” Kocijancic said in a statement.

She also said that political leaders have to lead efforts to overcome the difficult legacy of the past and constructively foster mutual trust, dialogue and tolerance.

“Serbia, as a candidate country, cannot deviate from these principles, while the appointment of a convicted war criminal to the Serbian Military Academy goes exactly against these principles,” she added.

Lazarevic, who was given a hero’s welcome upon returning from prison in 2015, delivered his first lecture on Thursday, on the subject of the “heroism and humanity” of Serbian soldiers during the “counterterrorist operations” in Kosovo in 1998-99 and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who called Lazarevic a “role model” when announcing that he would be given the post on October 18, has also said that other commanders from the 1990s wars will be appointed as lecturers.

Vulin’s praise for convicted war criminals was criticised by the US ambassador in Belgrade, Kyle Scott, who was in turn attacked by Serbian media.

According to the verdict in Lazarevic’s trial, he aided and abetted the deportation of Albanians from Kosovo and committed other inhumane acts by providing practical assistance to members of the Yugoslav Army.

As a result, some 11,000, Kosovo Albanians were killed and some 700,000 expelled to neighbouring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia.

The court ruled that Lazarevic was aware of the fact that criminal acts were being committed against civilians and civilian property during Yugoslav Army and Serbian interior ministry operations in Kosovo.

The Serbian authorities have welcomed several freed war criminals and helped them become active participants in public and political life.

Former Yugoslav Army officer Veselin Sljivancanin, who served in prison for war crimes related to the fighting around Vukovar, Croatia, is a frequent guest at events held by President Aleksandar Vucic’s Progressive Party.

Another convicted war criminal, former deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, was given an official position in the Socialist Party, which is the Progressives’ main coalition partner.

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