The ruling by a Belgrade court to uphold the acquittal of sentenced war criminals will have a negative impact on other war crimes trials, human rights activists warned on Friday.
The Belgrade Appeals Court on June 26 confirmed a lower court ruling to free members of a paramilitary formation who killed 27 Roma civilians in the village of Skocic during the war in Bosnia. The members of the Simini Chetnici paramilitary also destroyed the mosque in the village in July 1992. The Appeals Court overruled the rulings for three of the indicted men and sentenced them to prison terms for the rape and inhuman treatment of three female witnesses.
The ruling to free the men sentenced for the crimes in Skocic will have a negative effect on current and future war crimes trials, representatives of the Humanitarian Law Fund (FHP) told a news conference.
FHP legal team coordinator Ivan Zanic said the main problem was the fact that the manner of proving complicity in the mass killings had been changed drastically. According to Zanic, other problems in war crimes trials include overly long proceedings and the fact that no indictments have been raised against high-ranking officers
The only survivor of the killings in Skocic, Zijo Ribic said he couldn’t believe that the men who killed his family have gone unpunished. “I thought the first court ruling brought justice but I changed my opinion after the second ruling. The court sent the message that no one should be held accountable for crimes committed against the Roma population,” he said.