Key dates and events in transitional justice in Serbia.
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia officially ceased to exist. The declaration of a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), led by Slobodan Milosevic, was followed by military campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The objective was to unite ethnic Serbs in neighbouring republics into a ‘Greater Serbia’. Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia had already declared independence from the former Yugoslavia. As a result, Yugoslavia was removed from the United Nations; Serbia however continued its campaign until it signed the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995.
An ethnic Albanian insurgency in Kosovo was followed by a Serbian counterinsurgency, which resulted in killings and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) began bombing Serbia in order to end the Kosovo conflict.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Kosovo - the first indictment issued against a sitting head of state by an international court. The charges were later extended to crimes committed against non-Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo from 1991 to 1999. In the same indictment, charges were filed against Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Yugoslavia’s deputy prime minister Nikola Sainovic, the chief of staff of the Yugoslav Army Dragoljub Ojdanic, and the Serbian interior minister Vlajko Stojikljovic.
Serbia’s military and police forces finally withdrew from Kosovo.
Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, former commander of a Serbian paramilitary force known as Arkan’s Tigers, died in a mafia shootout in Belgrade. In 1999, the ICTY had indicted him for war crimes committed in 1995 in the Sanski Most area of Bosnia.
After a decade in office, Slobodan Milosevic lost power and the first ‘democratic’ government took over.
After the political changes in 2000, a moderate government led by Zoran Djinjdic had Milosevic arrested and transferred to the Hague Tribunal.
The first FRY Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica.
Milosevic’s trial began at the ICTY.
Zoran Djindjic, a pro-Western leader who helped the overthrow of the dictatorial regime of Slobodan Milosevic, was assassinated in front of the government building in Belgrade.
Veselin Sljivancanin, a Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) commander, was arrested in Belgrade and transferred to The Hague. He was accused of aiding and abetting the murders of prisoners of war after the fall of the town of Vukovar in Croatia. He was originally sentenced to 17 years in prison, which was later reduced to 10. He was released from prison in July 2011 after serving two-thirds of the sentence.
The Serbian parliament formed the Office for War Crimes Prosecution in Serbia and named Vladimir Vukcevic as chief prosecutor for war crimes. Later that year, the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation collapsed due to a lack of support from Montenegro, which was at the time part of a union with Serbia.
The first indictments for war crimes were filed in Serbian courts against 20 individuals. The accused were charged with crimes committed in Ovcara in Croatia, where the JNA killed between 254 and 264 non-Serbs. Fifteen people were found guilty and were sentenced to a total of 207 years in prison.
The Memorandum on the Realisation and Enhancement of Co-operation in Fighting All Forms of Grave Crimes was concluded between the prosecutors’ offices of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The trial of Milosevic was terminated after his death from natural causes at an ICTY detention unit.
Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia, marking the end of the joint Republic of Serbia and Montenegro.
The Agreement on Cooperation in Prosecuting Perpetrators of War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide was signed in Zagreb by Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor and Croatia’s state prosecutor.
A ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) stated that Serbia was not responsible for the genocide committed in Srebrenica by armed forces from Republika Srpska. But the ICJ found that Serbia violated the Genocide Convention by failing to use its full powers to prevent the genocide, making Serbia the first country ruled to have violated the treaty.
Vlastimir Djordjevic, a senior Serbian police officer, was transferred to the ICTY and indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against Kosovo Albanians in 1999.
The Kosovo assembly declared Kosovo an independent and sovereign state. Kosovo has since been recognised by several major powers, including the US and most EU states.
Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic and Montenegro’s supreme state prosecutor Vesna Medenica met in Podgorica to sign the Agreement on Cooperation in Prosecuting Perpetrators of Criminal Offences against Humanity and Other Assets Protected by International Law.
After evading capture for 13 years, Radovan Karadzic was arrested and transferred to The Hague. Karadzic was the former president of Republika Srpska, head of the Serbian Democratic Party and the supreme commander of the Bosnian Serb Army. He was found living in Belgrade under the name David Dabic. Karadzic was charged with genocide and a series of other crimes committed against non-Serbs during the Bosnian war.
The ICTY handed down its first judgment for crimes committed by Serbian forces against Kosovo Albanians during the 1999 Kosovo conflict. Nikola Sainovic, Nebojsa Pavkovic and Sreten Lukic were sentenced to 22 years in prison, Vladimir Lazarevic and Dragoljub Ojdanic were sentenced to 15 years and Milan Milutinovic, the former president of Serbia, was acquitted of all charges. The same year, Karadzic trial began at the ICTY.
Serbia filed a lawsuit at the ICJ accusing Croatia acts of genocide against Serbs committed between 1991 and 1995.
The Serbian parliament adopted the Srebrenica Declaration, which condemned crimes committed against the Bosniak population in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in July 1995.
Serbian President Boris Tadic attended a memorial service in Srebrenica, where the Bosnian Serb Army committed what has been internationally recognised as genocide against the Bosniak population.
President Tadic apologised for wartime crimes committed in Ovcara, near Vukovar in Croatia.
Humanitarian organisations from the former Yugoslavia filed an initiative to form a joint regional commission called REKOM to establish facts about the conflicts in the 1990s.
Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, was arrested in Vojvodina, Serbia, after 16 years in hiding. Mladic was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war for actions against Bosniaks, Bosnian Croat and non-Serb civilians in the Bosnian war. There is no official report detailing how long he was in Serbia and who helped him to hide. Serbia’s war crimes prosecution office is still conducting an investigation to determine who assisted him.
Serbia arrested the last major war crimes fugitive Goran Hadzic after he spent seven years in hiding, and transferred him to Hague Tribunal. Hadzic was the former leader of the self-declared Serbian Autonomous District Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem and later president of the Republic of Serbian Krajina. The ICTY accused Hadzic of participating in a joint criminal enterprise to forcibly and permanently remove a majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from approximately one-third of the territory of Croatia.
Momcilo Perisic, a former chief of the general staff of the Yugoslav Army, was convicted at the ICTY for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia and sentenced to 27 years in prison. It was Tribunal’s first judgment against an FRY official for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The presidents of Serbia and Croatia backed a regional agreement on the prosecution of war crimes, but Bosnia did not sign the document as its tripartite presidency was unable to agree on it unanimously.
The ICTY’s trial of Vojislav Seselj ended. Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, was accused of persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, as well as violating the customs of war during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 until 1993. The verdict is expected in 2013.
The Belgrade special court found four former policemen from the Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina guilty of killing five members of a Croatian family in 1991.
The trial of one of the most wanted ICTY fugitives, Ratko Mladic, started at the Hague Tribunal.The initial hearing started on May 16, but the actual trial started on July 9 with the witness testimony which was delayed several times due to problems with disclosure of evidence to the defence. Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, pleaded not guilty to genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war during the Bosnian conflict between 1992 and 1995.
Serbia elects Tomislav Nikolic, a former ally of convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, as its president. Nikolic caused controversy in the region with his statements that genocide didn’t take place in Srebrenica and that the Croatian town of Vukovar was actually Serbian.
Belgrade’s special court acquitted two former Serbian policemen charged with war crimes against the Bitici brothers, three Kosovo Liberation Army volunteers from the US.
Belgrade’s special court found 14 former members of the Serbian military forces guilty of committing war crimes in the Croatian village of Lovas. In the same month, four former police officers from Beli Manastir were found guilty of crimes against civilians in Croatia in 1991. Three members of a Serb volunteer unit were also convicted of war crimes against civilians in 1992 in the Bosnian town of Bijeljina.
A Belgrade court sentenced 11 former KLA fighters, members of the so-called Gnjilane Group, to a total of 116 years of prison for crimes against civilians during the Kosovo war.
The trial of the former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic started – the last trial to be held under the Hague Tribunal’s mandate.
Momcilo Perisic, the most senior officer of the former Yugoslav Army to be convicted of war crimes, appealed against his conviction by the ICTY.
The Hague Tribunal quashed the 2011 first-instance verdict that jailed two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, for 24 and 18 years respectively, for crimes against Serb civilians during the Croatian military operation ‘Oluja’ [‘Storm’] in the summer of 1995. Serbian officials condemned the acquittals, accusing the Tribunal of undermining its own credibility and offending the victims, but there were celebrations in Croatia when the returned.
The ICTY acquitted three former Kosovo Liberation Army commanders of war crimes committed in Kosovo in the late 1990s. Kosovo’s former prime minister Ramush Haradinaj, who was among those freed, got a hero’s welcome when he returned, but Serbia expressed anger at the verdict.
The Hague Tribunal’s appeals chamber upheld the life imprisonment sentence given to Serb paramilitary leader Milan Lukic for killings in in the Bosnian town of Visegrad but reduced the sentence handed down to his cousin, Sredoje Lukic, from 30 to 27 years. Eight days later, Zdravko Tolimir, a close wartime aide to the former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, was found guilty of the Srebenica and Zepa genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment.