Background Briefing


To the authorities in Serbia

o The government should make public and unequivocal its support for the work of the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office and the War Crimes Chamber. Without public support from government officials at the highest levels, the chamber will be hampered in its ability to function effectively.

o Serbia should ensure that there are sufficient resources for witness support and witness protection to enable the War Crimes Chamber to provide enhanced support and protection for witnesses. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice should increase funding to the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office to allow it to hire additional legal associates, conduct investigations abroad, and expand its outreach efforts.

o Serbia should pass legislation making it easier to allow television cameras in court. This would make trials much more accessible to the general population.

o Serbia should reform its legislation to remove the prohibition on extradition of nationals who are charged with war crimes.

o Serbia should make efforts to conduct additional joint investigations with Bosnia and Croatia and work out common standards for the collection of evidence to ensure that work done in each jurisdiction can be used elsewhere.

o Serbia should train prosecutors to prepare them to take over from investigative judges once the new criminal law reducing the number of investigative judges goes into effect in 2009.

o Compensation for members of the War Crimes Detection Unit should be set at a level appropriate to their assignment because of the sensitivity of the work and the need to attract more experienced police to the unit.

o The War Crimes Detection Unit should be placed directly under the authority of the War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office, or given its own directorate.

o Serbia should cooperate fully with the ICTY and surrender the remaining fugitives to The Hague.

To the European Union and its Member States

The European Union and its Member States should support the work of the War Crimes Chamber because it lays important groundwork for Serbia’s integration into Europe. However, only sufficient resources can ensure that the court is able to function effectively. The EU should therefore consider providing funds to support domestic war crimes prosecutions including for:

o The education and training of investigators, judges and prosecutors;

o Expanded outreach efforts;

o Access of victims and witnesses to trials (traveling expenses, accommodation);

o Witness support (psychological services); and

o Support for the Witness Protection Unit, including consideration of resettlement of witnesses and their families who take part in the witness protection program.

To the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

o Ensure that the monitoring of domestic war crimes trials remains a priority for the OSCE Mission to Serbia.