Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Belgrade Defends Cooperation Record

(TU No 436, 20-Jan-06)
By IWPR
The submission was originally filed to the court as part of the proceedings against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic on December 27 by the minister responsible for Serbia and Montenegro’s cooperation with The Hague, Rasim Ljajic.



The documents in question appear to relate mostly to events in Kosovo in 1999, including the alleged massacre of dozens of Albanians in the village of Racak in January that year and the supposed existence of a so-called joint command body which by-passed the usual military and police hierarchy.



If made available, the material might also be of value to Hague prosecutors mounting the case against four Serbian generals charged with crimes during the Kosovo conflict.



In his submission, Ljajic objects to prosecutors’ attempts to get tribunal judges to oblige the Belgrade authorities to hand over such documents and to sanction them for their alleged failure to comply with similar orders in the past.



Prosecutors also wanted representatives of Serbia and Montenegro to be asked to appear before the court to explain how it was that a number of the documents they wanted access to had apparently been “lost”.



Ljajic responds that a failure to follow the tribunal’s procedural rules means that statements made by judges in the past which the prosecutors had perceived as being court orders were not, in fact, technically binding.



He also says that the Belgrade authorities have done their best to search for the requested records and will continue to do so. But he goes on to say that many of the documents which prosecutors seek - the minutes of a given meeting, for instance, or combat reports from a particular army unit - in fact appear never to have existed in the first place.



In other instances, Ljajic blames “inactiveness” on the part of prosecutors for delays in the process of pinning down and sharing documents.



He also says that a number of documents which have in fact been found during the course of the investigations will be made available in due course. A senior source within the prosecution, however, told IWPR that this process alone can take months.