Youth Initiative for Human Rights Kosovo (YIHR Kosovo) and Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR Serbia) strongly condemn the commemoration of the war criminal Haradin Bala at the Kosovo Parliament, the only KLA member convicted for war crimes at ICTY as well as the decision of the Serbian authorities to involve Vinko Pandurevic, convicted of war crimes committed in July 1995 in Srebrenica, in the internal dialogue on Kosovo.

To recall, in the first judgment pronounced on November 30th 2005, Bala was sentenced to 13 years in prison for torture, inhuman treatment and murders in connection with mistreatment of three prisoners in the Lapusnik camp. He had a role in “maintaining and enforcing inhumane conditions” in the camp, assisting in the killing of one prisoner and participating in the murder of nine prisoners from the camps that were taken to Berisha mountain and killed on 25th or 26th of July 1998. His sentence was confirmed on September 27th 2007 in the second instance verdict in Limaj et al. case, in which Fatmir Limaj and Isak Musliu were found not guilty.

Just two days ago, Vinko Pandurevic was invited as an expert at the round table in the framework of the internal dialogue on Kosovo with the invitation of the Kosovo Office of the Government of Serbia. Pandurevic is a former Brigade Commander of Army of Republika Srpska who was sentenced to 13 years in prison on the basis of command and individual responsibility for the killings, extermination and persecutions in and around Srebrenica in July 1995. These crimes are legally qualified as crimes against humanity and violation of the laws or customs of war.

Hence, we call upon the Government of Kosovo and the Government of Serbia to stop celebrating war criminals and instead focus in the process of reconciliation by working together with other countries of the region to establish a Regional Commission for the Establishment of Facts on War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the territory of the former Yugoslavia from January 1, 1991 to December 31, 2001, whose establishment is supported by the RECOM Initiative.

We also urge the authorities in Pristina not to hesitate when it comes to achieving justice for victims and not to hinder the work of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor’s Office. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the authorities in Serbia not to involve war criminals like Lazarevic, Sainovic and, in the last case, Pandurevic, within the internal dialogue on Kosovo and in any other public duty. The duty of the state of Serbia, after removing and condemning war criminals, is to prosecute those responsible for war crimes through the domestic judiciary, and use formal education system to foster the culture of remembrance for the victims of the war in Kosovo that ended almost 20 years ago.

We, as a generation of young people from Kosovo and Serbia, will always stand against the celebration of war criminals. We will continue to opposing dominant and biased narratives by educating young people in building peace between the two states. We urge both governments to make concrete steps in the reconciliation process instead of just giving declarative messages.

There is no such binding agreement on normalization of the relationship that can bring peace and development for both societies unless both Kosovo and Serbia do not gather strength to condemn war criminals from their own societies and pay tribute to all victims of the war.