Open letter of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić

Dear Prime Minister,

We are addressing you with regard to the fact that on October 22, war diary of Lieutenant General Nebojša Pavković, convicted to 22 years in prison by the ICTY, had its presentation at the Defence Ministry stand at the Belgrade Book Fair. Moreover, Vladimir Lazarević, sentenced to 14 years for crimes in Kosovo at the same trial, will also present his memories at the Defence Ministry stand today.

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights is expressing deep concern regarding the message that is being thus sent – by the Government of Serbia and by you as Prime Minister – if you remain silent on such move of the Defence Ministry. The Defence Ministry promotes the participation in war of generals and military commanders whose actions are clearly described and characterised in their verdicts.

Let us remind you that Lieutenant General Nebojša Pavković was found guilty for deportations, other inhumane acts (forcible relocation), murder and persecution (crimes against humanity) and for the violation of the laws and customs of war. The verdict also states that each of the convicted in the case of Šainović et al. individually participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at changing ethnic balance in Kosovo in order to secure further control of the Serbian authorities. Besides general Pavković, one issue (“The Pristina Corps 1998-1999 – Testimonies of War Commanders”) within the said edition of the Ministry of Defence deals with the memories of brigade commanders under the leadership of the then commander of the Pristina Corps, general Vladimir Lazarević, who was also found guilty for aiding and abetting in deportations and other inhumane acts (forcible relocation and crimes against humanity).

The Youth Initiative for Human Rights sees this fact as the most evident support of state authorities to convicted war criminals so far in the course of your term as the Prime Minister.

War diaries and memoirs of persons convicted for war crimes which are printed, published and publicly presented by the Defence Ministry of the Government of Serbia are completely opposite to the proclaimed reform agenda of your Government.

When you addressed the Parliament upon your appointment, you stressed that one of the goals of the Government is to reach historical reconciliation with Albanian people in Kosovo. We reiterate that there is no reconciliation without assuming responsibility. If you expect all victims to be respected and wounds to be healed, and if you honestly wish reconciliation as a lasting process, you must not justify the presence of war criminals in public. This is a political issue and it is on you – whether this is a government which supports criminals or not. The rehabilitation of war criminals challenges both the European agenda of the Government and of the country as a whole, and any dialogue on the Kosovo issue.

We demand that you stop further activities of the Defence Ministry in terms of publishing and promoting the “Warrior” edition, which humiliates all victims of war in Kosovo. The next activity of the Defence Ministry of this sort is a promotion of the book titled “The Pristina Corps 1998-1999 – Testimonies of War Commanders” today at 16.00 at the Belgrade Book Fair, when the memories of the mentioned convicted war criminal Vladimir Lazarević will be presented, as well.

Defence Ministry’s activities relating to the publishing of the “Warrior” edition amount to essential renunciation of values that are in the fundament of the European Union. This act takes Serbia back among the countries that do not have the development of society and European orientation very high on their agenda, while regional cooperation at any level is made almost impossible. Serbia must have an active role in making a space for new memories and for building new relations in the Balkans instead of systemically supporting revisionist projects in favour of convicted war criminals.

For the sake of constructive dialogue, please find enclosed a detailed description of what the Defence Ministry did not tell the citizens of Serbia by promoting convicting war criminals.

Youth Initiative for Human Rights