News 19 May 16

Serbia Accused of Not Cooperating with UN Court

A Serbian court decision not to extradite three Serbian Radical Party members who are wanted for alleged witness intimidation to the Hague Tribunal has sparked accusations of non-cooperation from Croatia.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. Photo: ICTY.

Croatian Vice Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko on Thursday accused Serbia of not cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY by refusing to extradite the three wanted members of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party.

Karamarko said Croatia had to extradite its generals Ante Gotovina, Mladen Markac and Ivan Cermak to the ICTY even though this caused “a pain in its heart”.

“Serbia can’t act in a way that violates EU standards,” he said.

He warned that Serbia “shouldn’t fail to resolve such issues” if it wants Croatia’s backing during its EU accession process.

Croatia last month blocked Serbia from opening negotiations with Brussels on chapters 23 and 24 of the EU legislation it needs to adopt during its European accession process, citing concerns about Belgrade’s record on war crimes.

The three Serbian Radical Party members - Vjerica Radeta, Jovo Ostojic and Petar Jojic - are accused of being in contempt of court for threatening witnesses at their leader Vojislav Seselj’s trial at the ICTY.

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

The Higher Court in Belgrade ruled on Wednesday that Serbia can only arrest people wanted by the ICTY who are charged with war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity.

The president of Serbia’s council for cooperation with the ICTY, Rasim Ljajic, said on Wednesday that the Belgrade court ruling could be used against Serbia when a report on its cooperation with the Hague war crimes court is presented to the UN Security Council next month.

“We will see what the Tribunal’s next step will be, whether they will continue to put pressure on Serbia [UN Security Council] using the UNSC and Brussels,” said Ljajic.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic responded to Karamarko’s comments on Thursday by saying that he would not be lectured on his country’s internal affairs.

“I will not intervene in the internal matters of Croatia so I would kindly ask that if they have to deal with matters in Serbia, [they should] at least be accurate,” said Vucic.

As well as accusing Belgrade of not cooperating fully with the ICTY, Zagreb wants Belgrade to change a law which gives Serbian courts the jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes committed anywhere in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s wars, which it fears could be used to target Croats.

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