Monitoring War Crimes Trials
Human Rights organizations - Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights Osijek; Documenta – Centre for Dealing with Past, Zagreb and Civic Committee for Human Rights, Zagreb; have been monitoring war crimes trials at the courts of the Republic of Croatia since 2005.
Since the very beginning, the project team is reporting on tendencies and offers recommendations for the improvement of the war crimes trial proceedings, stressing the importance of the efficient and just proceedings in the criminal law cases with the equal respect of both defendants and suspects, and the rights of victims and witnesses, as well as the work of the judicial system in general in relation to the right to a fair trial. Civil society organisations have pledged to implement this project expressing the full respect for the officials, judicial employees and other persons involved in the administration of justice, respecting the Croatian legal and judicial system.
Overall goal of the war crime trials monitoring is the strengthening the rule of law in the area of war crimes proceedings by increased efficiency and improved legal framework for the war crimes proceedings as well as the improvement of the victim’s status in the proceeding. At the same time, the goal is also to build a strong regional cooperation, to initialise a public debate on the reparation of victims of war, to create a public dialogue and an inter-sectoral cooperation as well as to have an impact on local /national /regional level and to proceed with the capacity building, partnership and human resources building.
The number of war crimes trials at the County courts in the Republic of Croatia is continuously high (23-34 trials which includes approximately 100 defendants per year). Statistical data for 2011 very well show the activities related to the war crimes trials proceedings: indictments have been raised against 29 persons, Documenta monitored 28 trials against 65 accused. Therefore, it is expected that in future years the war crimes trials monitoring will keep the same intensity and remain extremely important to achieve the set goals.
All war crimes trials at the courts of the Republic of Croatia are monitored, including the revisions of the previous proceedings conducted in absence of accused persons. We also monitor and encourage, within our capabilities and based on direct contact with victims and other available information, the processing of the war crimes trials against unknown perpetrators that are still in the pre-investigative stage. It is certainly our interest to monitor the war crimes trials that are dealt by the courts of the neighbouring countries, especially if the crime was committed on the territory of the Republic of Croatia, as well as to monitor the trials at the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) for the former Yugoslavia. The basic guidelines for the war crimes trials monitoring is the respect of the fair trial principle in criminal court proceedings as well as the respect of the parties in the proceedings.