The following media round up on international, legal and foreign policy issues from around the Balkans for the period from 12 July to 23 July 2021.
The Guernica Group will provide bi-weekly media updates with a focus Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia . Should you wish to contribute or submit a media summary, opinion piece or blog, please send to Ned Vucijak at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Kosovo – 12 July 2021
Malcolm Simmons, a former head judge for the EU rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, told the Kosovo Parliamentary Commission on Legislation that the mission failed. It prioritised putting prominent wartime figures on trial despite having little evidence, and failed to protect witnesses and deliver justice.
Kosovo -13 July 2021
Former Judge Malcolm Simmons told MPs on Kosovo’s Parliamentary Commission on Legislation that he was pressurised to bring forward the prosecution of Oliver Ivanovic for political reasons, in order to prevent him from running for office. Ivanovic’s lawyer in the war crimes case, Nebojsa Vlajic, said he is “absolutely sure there is a lot of truth” in what Simmons said.
Croatia – 15 July 2021
A new legislation that will grant benefits to civilian victims of the 1991-95 war was adopted by Croatian MPs with 107 votes in favour, 16 against and five abstentions. It was passed after heated discussions in parliament about whether the law would also give benefits to people who were part of ‘enemy’ Serb forces during the war. The government expects there to be about 2,500 beneficiaries of the new law.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – 15 July 2021
The Bosnian state prosecution has only charged two people with wartime crimes, between January and June 2021, despite a backlog of cases related to the 1992-95 conflict that are yet to be prosecuted. The revised War Crimes Processing Strategy, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers in October last year, anticipates that the most complex and high-priority war crimes cases will be processed by the end of 2023.
Serbia – 19 July 2021
The Serbia-Kosovo talks continue in Brussels without success. The negotiations were headed by the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell who urged Serbia President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti before the meeting in Brussels to achieve a “comprehensive legally-binding agreement.” Serbia and Kosovo have been told that they cannot hope to move forward in their efforts to join the EU before resolving the decades-old rift that exploded in a conflict in 1998-99, leaving more than 10,000 people dead and triggering an intervention by NATO.
When the Croatian Justice and Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica was interviewed on Wednesday regarding the appointment of the Supreme Court President, he said that Croatia has not disgraced itself before Europe by failing to appoint a Supreme Court president, adding that he expected the best candidates to apply for the post and the president to recommend a new candidate as soon as possible.
Serbia – 22 July 2021
The Appeals Court in Belgrade has partially upheld an appeal from former Bosnian Serb Army soldier Dragomir Kezunovic and given him a lower sentence of five years in prison for crimes committed during the Bosnian war. Dragomir Kezunovic was originally sentenced to 14 years in prison for crimes committed during the Bosnian war.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – 23 July 2021
A session was held in New York where the UN Security Council rejected a China-Russia resolution calling for the abolition of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina – 23 July 2021
Valentin Inzko, Bosnia’s High Representative, announced that he has introduced an amendment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s criminal code. The amendment is to outlaw the public denial, condoning, trivialisation or justification of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes when this is done in a way that is “likely to incite to violence or hatred”. Offenders can be prosecuted and sentenced to up to 5 years imprisonment.