Belgrade, 19 February - British Ambassador to Serbia, Her Excellency Sian MacLeod and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Serbia, Francine Pickup, met today with the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Snežana Stanojković, to whom they handed over the video-conferencing system for on line hearings in war crimes cases.
With the locations of crime sites, suspects, victims, witnesses, or other evidence often in different countries, many war crimes cases have a cross-border dimension. The donated video-conferencing system, comprising high-resolution camera, TV screen, microphones, and a signal distribution device, can link up to six participants from different locations into one conference call. This will allow the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor to hear the victims and witnesses of war crimes who live outside Serbia when they cannot be physically present and to increase the efficiency of investigations, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic made travel more difficult.
“Bringing justice for victims of war crimes is a fundamental element of reconciliation. We commend the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution Office for its efforts to continue this important work during the coronavirus pandemic. Even in such challenging circumstances it is important that evidence is gathered, that witnesses are heard, and that work continues on preparing indictments. Bringing those responsible for war crimes to account is not only an international obligation, it also demonstrates commitment to rule of law, to healing the wounds of the past, and to a stable future for the country and the region. The UK is committed to supporting these aims and to reconciliation across the Western Balkans”, said H.E. Ambassador MacLeod.
The video-conferencing equipment can also be used for teleconferences, which will help the Serbian Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor to maintain closer communication and work jointly on war crimes investigations with the prosecution offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro.
“Victims of war crimes deserve justice and truth”, said Snežana Stanojković, Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor.
In the last several years, in close partnership with the Government of United Kingdom, UNDP has been supporting the resolution of war crimes cases and the search for missing persons in the Western Balkans, in particular by organizing regional meetings of the prosecution offices and providing trainings for more efficient processing of war crimes. As a result, the number of cases in which prosecution offices in the region are cooperating with each other has increased.
“Ensuring that all victims have equal access to justice and that war crimes are investigated, with those responsible prosecuted is a universal international law obligation of national authorities and international community. We hope that, besides bringing those responsible for war crimes to justice, the cooperation between prosecution offices in the region may also lead to resolving the fate of some of the 10,000 people still missing as a result of the armed conflicts in the 1990s. Addressing these issues is fundamental for reconciliation, stability and rule of law in this region, as preconditions for its development and economic growth”, stated Francine Pickup, UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia.
The video-conferencing equipment was donated within the Regional War Crimes project, funded by the Government of the United Kingdom, and implemented by UNDP. This initiative aims to increase efficiency of processing war crimes and accelerate the search for missing persons from the armed conflicts of the 1990s in the Western Balkans.