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Serbian Assembly finally deciding on a new War Crimes Prosecutor

Serbian Assembly has finally put on the agenda the election of the new War Crimes Prosecutor after having no one at that position for a year and a half.

Special Court for war crimes
Special Court for war crimes

Discussion about new Prosecutor was put on the Assembly’s agenda on 11 May, but it is still uncertain whether the new Prosecutor will be elected. Since 31 December 2015, when the former Chief Prosecutor for War Crimes Vladimir Vuckovic ended his mandate, Serbia has been without the Chief Prosecutor. Vuckovic’s deputy, Milan Petrovic, is performing the duties of the Prosecutor but, formally, he has not even been appointed as the Acting Prosecutor.

It took Serbian Government eight months to send suggestions for the candidates from the State Prosecutor’s Council to the Assembly. Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic and Minister of Justice Nela Kuburovic announced on numerous occasions the appointment of the new Chief Prosecutor but no one has been appointed.

In late November, PM Vucic announced that the new Prosecutor will be appointed in three weeks, but later admitted that it is the Government’s fault that this important position remains unoccupied.

The first attempt to appoint the new Prosecutor failed in the end of 2015, because none of the candidates managed to get simple majority in the Serbian Assembly which has 250 seats.

Serbian Government received suggestions in September

In September 2016, the State Prosecutor’s Council sent the Government the list of candidates for the new War Crimes Prosecutor together with the list of candidates for all prosecutors in Serbia who hold the “acting duty” position.

Since the election of new prosecutors was not put on the Assembly’s agenda for months,in November, the State Council asked the Government to put into consideration the list of candidates on the first session, and then send the list to the Assembly. However, the Government sent a list of two candidates to the Assembly on 24 April.

Election of the War Crimes Prosecutor is hindering the EU integration

Election of the War Crimes Prosecutor is important not only for the continuation of prosecutions for war crimes but also for its connection with opening and closing Chapter 23 in the EU accession.

The process of Serbia’s EU accession started with implementation of the Action plan for negotiation on Chapter 23, justice and law. However, the progress could be in jeopardy due to further delays of the election of the Prosecutor. Namely, Serbia lags behind with implementation of the new strategy for prosecution and activities envisaged by the Action plan.

The Chief Prosecutor of The Hague Tribunal, Serge Brammertz, talked about this problem in addressing the Security Council of the UN in December 2016.

Brammertz said to the SC UN that he is concerned about Serbia’s slow implementation of the national strategy for prosecution of those guilty for war crimes, and about Serbia’s lack of the new Prosecutor for war crimes.

“During my last visit to Belgrade, authorities were convincing me da they would take necessary steps. However, none of the promises is fulfilled,” stated Brammertz in his report.

Who are the new candidates for the War Crimes Prosecutor?

Two names are on the list of candidates for the War Crimes Prosecutor, Milan Petrovic and Snezana Stanojkovic. Petrovic is the Deputy Prosecutor in the Department since November 2003.

Before that, from 2000 to 2003, he was the Deputy of the State Prosecutor. Stanojkovic was elected the Deputy Prosecutor in Belgrade’s First Basic Court in 2009. In 2010, she was apointed in the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office.

Irena Stevic

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