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EU Delegation to Serbia

EU Delegation to Serbia

The EU Delegation to Serbia monitors and supports the OWCP activities aimed at the enhancement of regional cooperation. Particular EU attention and support are given to the implementation of the Protocol on Cooperation with the BH Prosecutor in Prosecuting Persons Suspected of War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and Genocide, signed in Brussels on 31 January 2013. The EU Delegation has been involved in the monitoring of war crimes trials through its support to the OSCE Serbia's monitoring project. 

The OWCP has adopted the EU Expert Mission's recommendation to design and implement - without undue delay and at the soonest possible time in 2015 - its prosecutorial strategy in line with the following principles:

  • OWCP impartiality and independence;

  • Focused investigation and prosecution;

  • Investigation against and prosecution of the most responsible perpetrators;

  • Prosecution of lower-ranking perpetrators responsible for particularly serious and high profile cases;

  • Focus on victims' interests;

  • Protection of witnesses;

  • Investigation and, as applicable, prosecution of offences under article 304 of the Criminal Procedure Code, as well as of any breaches of protective measures;

  • Compliance with the criteria established through the domestic and - as applicable - international court practices in this area;

  • Determination of case prioritization criteria (criminal offence; suspect's role; number of victims; crime location; evidence; availability of responsible individuals; maximum effectiveness in terms of prevention/deterrence);

  • Short-term estimations and, as needed, adjustments/corrections.

OWCP needs calling for the EU assistance:

Expert mission: EU expert support would preciously contribute to the implementation of the War Crimes Prosecution Strategy. While the OWCP and OSCE Mission are jointly engaged on defining the case prioritization criteria, the EU expert support would be most welcome given that the Strategy implementation should coincide with the process of Serbia's accession to the EU.

Development of adequate training schemes in line with the needs perceived, including the 'transversal' training programmes for the OWCP representatives, defence lawyers and judges;

Support to the enhancement of cooperation between the OWCP and police (i.e. Protection Unit and War Crimes Identification Unit) through training programmes developed on the basis of the EU experience in the relevant area.

Support to the Witness Assistance/Support Unit in line with the prosecutorial investigation concept, which implies extensive engagement of the OWCP temporal, material and human resources in witness support programmes aimed at obtaining maximum evidence/information relevant to particular cases.

The OWCP is trying to secure software programmes for the storage and effective search of data/evidence. All OWCP case files will be electronically scanned and grouped according to categories and prosecuting priorities.

Improvement of judicial communication and PR strategies is indispensable for the creation of a desired judicial system based on the criteria of responsibility - in terms of institutions and individuals - for the quality, fairness, operational effectiveness and appropriate utilization of the public resources allocated.

Participation in the development of the action plan in the framework of preperations for Chapter 23 - Judiciary and fundamental rights

In its screening report for Chapter 23 - Judiciary and fundamental rights, the European Commission gave the Republic of Serbia's judiciary five recommendations relevant to the war crimes area.

The report specifies that particular attention needs to be given to the effects realized through war crimes trials. This implies the evasion of impunity by ensuring that all charges, after being fully investigated, are prosecuted and sanctioned as appropriate.

It is important to secure the following: proportionality of judgments and equal treatment for all suspects, including in cases of high-ranking army officers allegedly involved in war crimes; stronger safety measures for witnesses and informants; upgraded support services for witnesses and informants; higher level of confidentiality in investigations, including in witness/informant testimonies.

The OWCP and Ministry of Justice have closely cooperated in the designing of activities that should respond to the aforementioned EC recommendations. 

Envisaged by the Serbian Government's Action Plan are some of the major activities that should affect the OWCP performance in the future. These are the following:

  • Strengthening of the OWCP capacities through the recruitment of new deputy prosecutors and assistant prosecutors;

  • Creation of the OWCP Strategy in the light of the ICTY Completion Strategy;

  • Prescription of the case selection criteria and creation of a list of priority/major war crimes cases;

  • Ensuring full access to and search of the ICTY/MICT databases, and analysis of documents retrieved;

  • OWCP cooperation with the ICTY/MICT on concrete cases with a view to obtaining general and specific knowledge related to particular cases, as well as access to the ICTY/MICT expertise and strategies in the utilization of evidence collected;

  • Development of training schemes in the areas of international humanitarian law and criminal investigations in compliance with the new Act on Participants in War Crimes Proceedings.