Serbia made some progress in prosecuting war crimes in domestic courts. Discrimination against minority communities continued in both Serbia and Kosovo, where inter-ethnic violence persisted. A police and justice mission led by the European Union (EU) assumed responsibilities of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). More refugees were forcibly returned to Kosovo.
General political developments
In December the Chief Prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Tribunal) reported positively on Serbia's progress on cooperation with the Tribunal. The EU subsequently unblocked Serbia's interim trade agreement, and Serbia applied for EU candidacy status pending a decision on unfreezing a Stabilization and Association Agreement. Progress had previously remained dependent on the arrest of former Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladi and former Croatian-Serb leader Goran Had'i', indicted by the Tribunal.
In December the International Court of Justice considered submissions on the legality of Kosovo's 2007 unilateral declaration of independence, which 64 countries had recognized by the end of the year.
The Tribunal convicted five Serbian political, police and military leaders in February of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Former Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Šainovi?, Yugoslav Army (VJ) General Nebojša Pavkovi? and Serbian police General Sreten Luki? were convicted of the deportation, forcible transfer, murder and persecution (including rape) of thousands of ethnic Albanians during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, and each sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment. Former VJ Colonel General Vladimir Lazarevi? and General Chief of Staff Dragoljub Odjani? were convicted of aiding and abetting deportations, forcible transfer and other inhumane acts, and each sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. Former President Milan Milutinovi? was acquitted.
Proceedings opened in January against former Assistant Interior Minister Vlastimir ?or?evi?, indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kosovo. He was charged with responsibility for crimes by police under his command leading to the deportation of 800,000 Albanian civilians, the enforced disappearance of more than 800 ethnic Albanians, and leading a conspiracy to conceal their bodies which were transported to Serbia for reburial.
Proceedings were suspended in January against Vojislav Šešelj, Serbian Radical Party leader, indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). He was convicted in July for contempt of court for disclosing the identities of protected witnesses.
In October the Appeals Chamber considered the Prosecution's application for a retrial of Kosovo Albanian Ramush Haradinaj, acquitted of war crimes in 2008.
Justice system: war crimes
Proceedings continued at the Belgrade Special War Crimes Chamber in cases related to BiH, Croatia and Kosovo.
In April, four Serbian police officers were convicted and sentenced to between 13 and 20 years' imprisonment for the murder of 48 members of the Berisha family and Abdullah Elshani, in Suva Reka/Suharekë, Kosovo, in March 1999. Two senior commanders were acquitted.
In June, four members of the Scorpions paramilitary group were convicted of murdering 20 Albanian civilians in Podujevo/ë in March 1999, and sentenced to between 15 and 20 years' imprisonment.
In September, two former police officers were acquitted of the post-war disappearance of the Albanian-American Bytiçi brothers. The prosecution immediately appealed the verdict.
The trial continued of the ethnic Albanian Gnjilane/Gjilan Group accused of the imprisonment, torture and abuse (including rape) of 153 civilians, and the murder of at least 80 of them, in 1999; 34 individuals were still missing. Eight accused were tried in their absence.
In November, five men suspected of killing 23 Roma civilians in Sjeverin in BiH in 1992 were arrested. Allegedly the Roma were imprisoned and tortured, men were forced to sexually abuse each other and women were repeatedly raped.