News 09 Feb 18

Kosovo, Serbia Criticised for Honouring War Crimes Convicts

Human rights activists criticised the Kosovo Assembly for holding a minute’s silence to commemorate the death of the country’s only Hague Tribunal war crimes convict, Haradin Bala.

Perparim Isufi
BIRN
Pristina
Haradin Bala in court in The Hague. Photo: ICTY.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights on Friday urged both Pristina and Belgrade to stop honouring war crimes convicts after a commemoration was held for Kosovo’s only Hague Tribunal convict in the Kosovo Assembly and a convicted Bosnian Serb officer participated in a state-sponsored event in Belgrade.

“There is no such binding agreement on normalisation of the relationship that can bring peace and development for both societies unless both Kosovo and Serbia do not gather strength to condemn war criminals from their own societies and pay tribute to all victims of the war,” the YIHR said in a statement.

Kosovo Assembly members held a minute’s silence on January 31 to commemorate the death of Kosovo’s only Hague war crimes convict, Haradin Bala.

Bala, a former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrilla, died at the age of 60 after being granted early release in 2013.

The minute’s silence was proposed by MP Milaim Zeka from the governing coalition party NISMA (Initiative for Kosovo).

“All people in the world honour their values, their people, their heroes. Last night, a great man passed away, a man that has made a great contribution to this country, this nation, and thanks to him, we are sitting now in the parliament of Kosovo. I am speaking about Haradin Bala,” Zeka said.

The YIHR also said that the recent participation of former Bosnian Serb Army officer Vinko Pandurevic, who was convicted of wartime crimes in Srebrenica, in a state-sponsored discussion in Belgrade about Serbia-Kosovo relations, was an insult to the victims of the 1990s wars.

“We call upon the government of Kosovo and the government of Serbia to stop celebrating war criminals and instead focus on the process of reconciliation,” the YIHR said.

In November 2005, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found Haradin Bala guilty of torture, cruel treatment and murder, and sentenced him to 13 years of imprisonment.

Bala was found responsible for mistreating prisoners at the Llapushnik/Lapusnik prison camp during the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

Vinko Pandurevic, a former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Zvornik Brigade, was sentenced to 13 years for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacres. He was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.

Following his early release in 2015, he now lives in Belgrade with his family.

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