Croatia and Serbia have formally agreed to co-operate in bringing war criminals to justice. Following two years of working together in certain cases, prosecutors from the two countries recently met in Zagreb to sign a deal aimed at overcoming obstacles to collaboration. The move is the latest sign of normalised ties.
In both countries, authorities are barred by law from delivering their citizens to another country. It is also impossible to transfer the prosecution of war crimes to another country. Due to these limitations, it was necessary to find another way to boost co-operation.
Under the new agreement, each side will notify the other within 30 days in the event that a wanted war crimes indictee is on its territory. The respective attorney generals will alert each other within three months of receiving information concerning a war crimes case.
“We will address the fact that in each country, war crimes were committed and those who did them live in the other country, where they didn’t commit war crimes, and are thus escaping justice,” said Croatian prosecutor Mladen Bajic. “We are positive that both sides will provide those cases for which they have enough material for prosecution in either country.”
Signing the agreement is the result of trust established between the countries’ institutions, said Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic.
“In this manner we will remove the barriers and borders for all who run from justice and law and who committed a war crime, “he said.
What used to be unimaginable is now becoming regular practice. The Croatian and Serbian attorneys general have already co-operated closely on several cases, including the Ovcara and Osijek cases. In the former case, the defendants are on trial in Serbia for massacring hundreds of Croats and other non-Serbs outside Vukovar in November 1991.
In the second, several people — including prominent politician Branimir Glavas — are under investigation in Croatia in connection with the torture and murder of Serbs in Osijek, also in 1991.