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War Crimes Prosecution, Human Rights in Serbia Focus of Helsinki Commission Briefing

WASHINGTON– The United States Helsinki Commission will hold a briefing on Serbia’s cooperation with the international community in prosecuting war crimes and the prospects for human rights and democratic development in Serbia since the lifting of a state of emergency imposed after the March assassination of reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

Democracy, Human Rights and Justice in Serbia Today
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon
334 Cannon House Office Building

Panelists:
Ivan Vujacic, Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro to the United States
Nina Bang-Jensen, Executive Director and General Counsel, Coalition for International Justice
Elizabeth Anderson, Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

The briefing will examine the human rights situation in Serbia today, the prospects for democratic development and the degree of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), located in The Hague, Netherlands. This cooperation is key to a June 15 deadline for a U.S. Government certification necessary for bilateral assistance to Serbia to continue. Improved cooperation with The Hague is also a prerequisite for the union of Serbia and Montenegro to participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace.

The electoral ouster of Slobodan Milosevic and his regime in late 2000 ushered in a long-awaited period of reform, recovery and reconciliation in Serbia after a decade of conflict with neighbors, isolation from the rest of Europe and repression at home. Progress, however, has been stalled by vestiges of nationalism in Serbian politics and the entrenchment of organized crime in the economy.

The tragic March 12 assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, an advocate of reform, revealed the severity of the problem and the linkages between those involved in war crimes in the 1990s and criminal activity today. A subsequent state of emergency, which was lifted on April 22, marked the beginning of a more concerted effort to defeat criminal elements in Serbian society and work with the international community to that end, including improved ICTY cooperation. This task, however, remains daunting, and several persons indicted by the Tribunal are known or believed to remain at large in Serbia.

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