Maintaining ICTY co-operation as a condition for SAA talks with Serbia
by Four Serbian NGOs
Belgrade, April 2, 2007
To: Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany and Presidency of the Council of the European Union
To: Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, Austria
To: Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium
To: Prime Minister Sergej Dmitrievič Stanišev, Bulgaria
To: President Tassos Papadopoulos, Cyprus
To: Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, Czech Republic
To: Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark
To: Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Estonia
To: Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, Finland
To: President Jacques Chirac, France
To: Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, Greece
To: Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, Hungary
To: Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, Ireland
To: Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Italy
To: Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis, Latvia
To: Prime Minister Gedimanas Kirkilas, Lithuania
To: Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg
To: Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Malta
To: Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, The Netherlands
To: Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland
To: Prime Minister José Sócrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa, Portugal
To: Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, Romania
To: President Robert Fico, Slovakia
To: President Janez Janša, Slovenia
To: Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain
To: Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden
To: Prime Minister Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Humanitarian Law Center
Youth Initiative for Human Rights
Women in Black
RE: Maintaining ICTY co-operation as a condition for SAAtalks with Serbia
We were deeply troubled by statements recently made by several representatives of the European Union (EU) which hinted that pressure Serbia had been exposed to with respect to its cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) should be eased. In May 2006 the European Commission (EC) called off Stabilization and Association (SAA) negotiations with Serbia due to its failure to fully cooperate with the ICTY, including through the arrest and transfer of former Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic. In November 2006 the EC reiterated this condition. Thereafter the ICTY chief prosecutor has reported that Serbia has not been cooperating, and none of the six remaining ICTY fugitives have been arrested. Nevertheless, the EC, the EU Presidency, and some EU governments have recently signaled the possible resumption of SAA negotiations with Serbia.
This is especially disturbing coming on the heels of a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that a July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica constituted genocide and that Serbia, violated its obligations arising from the Genocide Convention by failing to prevent this crime. The ICJ also ruled that Serbia is in standing violation of its legal requirement arising from the same Convention to arrest and surrender to the ICTY those accused of genocide. The German EU Presidency issued a statement expressing hope that the ICJ ruling will “help close a painful chapter of history in the region”. By contrast, Serbian officials celebrated the success of Serbia’s defense, which was based on hiding documents proving the direct involvement of Serbia’s institutions (police and the military), and laid blame for the genocide on Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity. The Serbian public remains unaware of Serbia’s continuing legal obligation to fully cooperate with the ICTY, including through the arrest of Ratko Mladic and other persons indicted by the ICTY who are in Serbia.
Supporters of democracy and human rights in Brussels and Belgrade should not accept that core principles can be bartered away in talks on the question of Kosovo’s status, or because some Serbian politicians complain that compliance with these principles complicate negotiations over the formation of a new government.
We would like to remind you that faced with intense pressure and receiving significant financial support from the international community, Serbia has begun dealing with its past through domestic war crimes trials. Domestic and international human rights organisations consider these credible domestic trials to have been instrumental for the public recognition of victims and for nascent acceptance of accountability for past crimes. If, however, the EU fails to maintain its insistence on Serbia’s full cooperation with the ICTY as a condition for resuming SAA talks, it will encourage extreme nationalists who adamantly and openly oppose trials for “Serbian heroes”.
Since the fall of the Milosevic regime in October 2000, the record shows that Serbian government cooperation with the ICTY strongly correlates to the international community’s willingness to apply strong and steady pressure. Domestic human rights organizations firmly believe that development of the rule of law in Serbia and the establishment of good relationships with the countries of the former Yugoslavia require the punishment of war crimes perpetrators. It is the only way for Serbia to distance itself from the legacy of the Milosevic regime, and accept the responsibility for injustices it caused to others.
We want to live in a Serbia that honestly faces the past, abides by the rule of law, and embraces international human rights norms—in short, a Serbia that deserves membership in the European Union.
As organizations advocating the rule of law and justice for the victims of past human rights abuses, we respectfully request your renewed resolve in bringing the final six ICTY fugitives to justice.
Humanitarian Law Center
CEO Natasa Kandic
Youth Initative for Human Rights
CEO Andrej Nosov
Women in Black
CEO Stasa Zajevic
CEO Miljenko Dereta