Serbia and Bosnia to Sign War Crimes Protocol

After a year long delay Serbia and Bosnia should sign a protocol on cooperation in the prosecution of war crime cases in January next year.The protocol of cooperation in the prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide between the Serbian and Bosnian prosecutions should be signed on January 31, in Brussels, BIRN has learned from a source in the Serbian government.

The protocol should address the issue of parallel investigations in the two countries and facilitate the mutual transfer of evidence between Bosnia and Serbia. It would also regulate trials of suspects in their country of origin for war crimes committed in the other.

In an interview with BIRN in November, Barisa Colak, the Bosnian Minister of Justice, said that the agreement should be signed in the first half of December, after some suggestions by experts and representatives of the victims have been taken into account.

However, the signing was delayed due to public pressure after the recent Hague Tribunal acquittals of two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, and the former Kosovo Liberation Army commander, Ramush Haradinaj.

The protocol was supposed to be signed initialy last year but its signing was halted in November 2011, when the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina blocked it, stating that its prior consent was required for all international agreements.

This time, the Bosnian Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs circumnavigated the Presidency by stating that the protocol is not an international agreement.

In his recent bi annual report to the UN Security Council, the ICTY Chief Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, stated that he hoped that the signing of the protocol would take place the near future.

Speaking about the current agreement Colak said that war crime cases would not be transferred between the countries if the victims do not give their consent.

Colak expressed his hope that signing of the protocol would enhance cooperation between the two countries.

“The only way forward is to cooperate with our neighbours or exchange information; in that way we will not be in the position of neighbours issuing warrants for the arrests of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and vice-versa,” Colak said.

Serbia’s Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor had, in the past, issued warrants against several Bosnian nationals.

Most notably, at the request of Serbia and under suspicion that they had participated in crimes against the Yugoslav People’s Army during the Bosnian war, Ejup Ganic, a member of the wartime Bosnian presidency, was arrested in the UK, and the Bosnian army general, Jovan Divjak, in Austria, in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Courts in the UK and Austria decided not to extradite Ganic and Divjak to Serbia for further processing.

It is expected that the prosecutions of both countries will exchange at least hundreds of war crimes cases.

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