News 01 Nov 17

Hague Tribunal President Raps Serbia During Belgrade Visit

The president of the UN war crimes court told Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that Belgrade’s decision to allow freed war criminal Vladimir Lazarevic to lecture at the Serbian Military Academy was “unacceptable”.

Filip Rudic
Agius meeting with Vucic. Photo:

Carmel Agius, the top judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia who was visiting Belgrade on Wednesday, criticised the appointment of a convicted war criminal, general Vladimir Lazarevic, to the post of lecturer at Serbia’s Military Academy.

“The engagement of general Lazarevic at the Military Academy is unacceptable for the international community,” Agius told President Aleksandar Vucic, according to a press release about the meeting from the Serbian presidency.

Lazarevic, who served ten years for crimes during the war in Kosovo, delivered his first lecture last Thursday, on the subject of the “heroism and humanity” of Serbian soldiers during what he called the “counterterrorist operations” in Kosovo in 1998-99 and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Serbia’s decision to allow a convicted war criminal to be a lecturer at the national military academy has also been criticised by the European Union.

During his meeting with Vucic, Agius also complained about Belgrade’s reluctance to extradite to The Hague two Serbian Radical Party members who are wanted for contempt of the UN war crimes court.

Meanwhile Vucic expressed concern to Agius about the treatment of Serbian war crimes convicts and the health of the defendants who are being held in the Hague Tribunal’s detention centre.

Ahead of her own meeting with Agius on Wednesday, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic criticised the tribunal for what she said was its bias against Serbs.

“Nobody can say that the Hague Tribunal was objective to all sides from the conflicts of the 1990s and I think Serbia fared the worst,” Brnabic told media.

Belgrade has been asked repeatedly by the tribunal to extradite the two members of Vojislav Seselj’s ultra-nationalist Radical Party, Vjerica Radeta and Petar Jojic, who are charged with contempt of court for threatening witnesses at Seselj’s trial at the UN court.

Radeta and Jojic are also accused of blackmailing protected witnesses and offering them bribes of 500 euros not to testify at Seselj’s trial.

The Hague Tribunal ordered Serbia to detain and extradite all three Radicals and Interpol issued ‘red notices’ for their arrest in March this year.

But Serbia refused, citing a ruling last year by the Belgrade Higher Court, which said that the Serbian authorities can only arrest people wanted by the Hague Tribunal who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

Seselj himself is awaiting the prosecution’s appeal in the case against him for wartime crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian region of Vojvodina after the tribunal acquitted him on all counts in March last year.

He was found not guilty of persecution, deportation, torture, wanton destruction and plunder in the period from August 1991 to September 1993.

Seselj was granted temporary release from detention in 2014 for cancer treatment, but has vowed never to return to The Hague.

He has since even mocked the tribunal on Serbian television, by donning a judge’s robe and ‘mediating’ between participants in a reality TV show.

The Hague Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, will also visit Belgrade on Thursday.

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