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Serbian War Crimes Officials Visit Law Class
Aleksandar Kostic, chief of the Serbia's War Crimes Investigating Service (right), with a UCLA law student. (Photo by Gohar Grigorian)

Serbian War Crimes Officials Visit Law Class

Top officials in the Serbian Interior Ministry's War Crimes Investigating Service take questions from law students in a clinic on international justice in the Balkans.

Kevin Matthews Email KevinMatthews

Many perpetrators of these crimes don't look the way they did 15 years ago.

As part of a State Department–sponsored trip to the United States, Aleksandar Kostic and Goran Markovic, leaders of the Serbian Interior Ministry's War Crimes Investigating Service, visited UCLA on Nov. 24, 2008. They took questions from law students in Professor David Kaye's two-semester seminar on international justice in the Balkans, before a lunch with faculty members. Kaye directs the Sanela Diana Jenkins Clinic on International Justice at the law school.

Markovic is the chief of the Serbian police unit that is chasing Ratko Mladic, the former head of the Bosnian Serb army, and a Croatian Serb also wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

"I don't think there's any doubt now that we will get them," he told students.

In July, Serbia caught former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and handed him over to the Hague tribunal, as it has done with other fugitives.

Kostic, the chief of the war crimes investigating service, explained that Serbia established the service in 2001 to handle a welter of cases arising from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, to search for missing persons, and to work with the ICTFY, Interpol, and regional authorities.

The visitors said that Serbian public opinion was solidly behind their efforts to bring war crimes defendants to justice. Some Serbian politicians want Hague indictees to be processed in Belgrade instead, said Kostic, but "no political party in Serbia is against processing war crimes."

The service faces many challenges, including a volume of accusations that is far larger than the 20 cases per year actually taken up by Serbian courts. Only those cases involving the most victims ultimately get prosecuted, Kostic said. Meanwhile, there is a separate police unit to protect and relocate witnesses.

For cases in which the perpetrators cannot be found, the service attempts to prosecute military officers with a command responsibility for the crimes.

"Many perpetrators of these crimes don't look the way they did 15 years ago, and the victims can hardly identify these perpetrators," Kostic said.

This visit was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and facilited by the UCLA International Visitors Bureau.

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