Serbia's ICTY co-operation removes EU accession obstacle

17/12/2013

ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz delivered a positive assessment of Serbia's co-operation with the tribunal, opening the doors of European integration to Belgrade.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 17/12/13

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ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Serbia's co-operation with the war crimes tribunal has been satisfactory. [AFP]

The positive assessment of Serbia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz presented to the UN Security Council, brought relief to many in Belgrade.

Prior to the Kosovo issue, co-operation with The Hague tribunal was the biggest obstacle facing Serbia in its European integration. Brammertz's December 5th report expressed his satisfaction with Serbia, lifting the obstacle for the country's EU accession.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic welcomed the report, and said at a December 6th meeting with the ambassadors of EU member states that Serbia has met all the requirements for the start of talks with the Union.

"We expect the beginning of the talks to take place no later than January 2014. Any possible setting of new conditions would have a negative impact on the hitherto process of European integration and on the citizens' attitude toward the European Union," Dacic said.

Rasim Ljajic, the head of the National Council for Co-operation with the ICTY, said that co-operation with the tribunal is important to Serbia's European integration, but also to the fulfilment of the state's moral and legal obligations.

Ljajic told SETimes that during a meeting with Brammertz in November he launched the initiative to have ICTY convicts serve their sentences in the states of the region.

"Serbia is ready to make such an agreement with the tribunal," Ljajic said.

Over the years of co-operation with the tribunal, Serbia has extradited 46 indictees, including two former presidents, cabinet members, three army chiefs of staff and several police and army generals.

Belgrade also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the founding of the state War Crimes Prosecutor's Office during the week of Brammertz's evaluation.

War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told SETimes that one of the biggest successes, aside from the processing of indictees, was the fact that the office's work showed that "war criminals are not representatives of Serbia."

"We showed that these are people who, under the pretence of defending Serbian interests, committed theft, tortured people, devastated them," said Vukcevic, who pressed charges against 161 individuals during his 10 years in office.

However, Vukcevic said his work is not done. There are 300 war crimes suspects still at large in Serbia, he said, stressing the necessity to intensify work on processing those cases.

"We will work hard on that," said Vukcevic, declining to specify when the remaining suspects might be processed.

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In his report on the prosecution's work, Brammertz noted that Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina's swift response to requests for the delivery of documents and access to witnesses has helped the on-going war crime trials before The Hague.

Brammertz added, however, that certain barriers to the regional states' mutual co-operation on war crimes cases should be removed, highlighting the ban on the extradition of citizens.

"Further reforms are necessary to remove those barriers," the chief prosecutor said.

How will Serbia benefit from the EU accession negotiations in January? Tell us below in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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