Serbia and Kosovo*: End politicisation of transitional justice processes, says UN expert
02 December 2022
Serbia and Kosovo* must end politicised tactics that hamper truth, justice and reconciliation efforts aimed at addressing the legacy of grave human rights violations during the 1998-99 armed conflict in the region, a UN expert said today.
BELGRADE (2 December 2022) – Serbia and Kosovo* must end politicised tactics that hamper truth, justice and reconciliation efforts aimed at addressing the legacy of grave human rights violations during the 1998-99 armed conflict in the region, a UN expert said today.
At the end of an 11-day official visit to Serbia and Kosovo, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Fabián Salvioli, raised concerns about the lack of cooperation among authorities in Belgrade and Pristina in the transitional justice process.
The UN expert noted in his statement that questions about the fate and whereabouts of missing persons and the pursuit of criminal justice for war crimes have dominated the transitional justice process in Serbia and Kosovo since the end of the conflict. He welcomed initiatives adopted by relevant authorities for truth-seeking and justice, but noted that progress had been “alarmingly slow”.
“Lack of cooperation often driven by political agendas have brought progress to a halt,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Salvioli urged Serbia and Kosovo to intensify efforts to bring perpetrators of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law to justice, regardless of their ethnic affiliation. “The search for missing persons and cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo, including in the Working Group of Missing Persons, must be resumed without further delay,” he said. “The families of missing persons find themselves hostage to political interests and to the unwillingness of authorities, who fail to take steps to end their suffering.”
The UN expert also warned about restrictive legal frameworks in Serbia and Kosovo which hamper access to reparations by all victims of the conflict. “I call on relevant authorities in Belgrade and Pristina to improve their respective legal frameworks to ensure that all victims can access reparation without discrimination,” the expert said.
He expressed concern about the insufficient recognition and commemoration of the harm suffered by all victims to the conflict. “The acknowledgement of suffering and dignity of all victims is vital to an effective process of transition and reconciliation,” the UN expert said, urging authorities to ensure transmission of their stories to current and future generations through school curricula and textbooks, cultural activities and the media.
“The legacy of past violations with all its complexities must be adequately and comprehensively addressed to move the process of social reconciliation forward. Victims must be placed at the very centre of this process,” Salvioli said.
The Special Rapporteur observed the extensive use of ethnocentric, nationalistic and biased narratives about the conflict in fields of education, memorialisation, culture and the media in both Serbia and Kosovo. “The manipulation of past events and the concomitant exaltation of nationalistic and ethnic-related sentiments for political motivation, is short-sighted, ill-advised and an act of public irresponsibility which can lead to the recurrence of violence,” he said.
He urged authorities to ensure that narratives and history textbooks do not become sources of future conflicts.
Salvioli called on the authorities in Belgrade and Pristina to renew efforts to advance comprehensive transitional justice agendas in Serbia and Kosovo with a view to achieving effective reconciliation, sustaining peace and preventing a recurrence of violence.
During his visit, the UN expert met government officials, civil society and human rights representatives, survivors of war crimes, families of victims, and representatives of the international community. He also visited mass grave sites, former concentration camps, and memorials dedicated to remembering the past.
The Special Rapporteur will submit a full report on his visit to the Human Rights Council in 2023.
*All references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).
Mr. Fabian Salvioli (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 as the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. He is a human rights lawyer and professor. Fabián Salvioli is professor of International Law and Human Rights at the School of Law of the University of La Plata. He has lectured in many countries and universities across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. Mr. Salvioli has authored several books and articles on international human rights law. He was member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee between 2009 and 2016, and its President between 2015 and 2016. Mr. Salvioli served twice as member and three times as president of Ad-Hoc Arbitration Courts on Monetary Reparations, within the Friendly Settlement Mechanism of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He received several honorary titles in recognition of his work in the fields of human rights and education.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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