In a report published Monday, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights said that no less than four war criminals have taken part in political campaigning ahead of Serbia’s parliamentary and presidential elections on 3 April.
According to the NGO, convicted war criminals Vladmir Lazarevic, Veselin Sljivancanin and Nikola Sainovic have all placed their support behind candidates from the Serbian Progressive Party or the Socialist Party of Serbia- the main parties in Serbia’s governing coalition.
Retired general Lazarevic commanded the Pristina Corps of the Yugoslav Army during the 1998-99 Kosovo war, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague in connection with the murders, deportation and inhuman treatment of Kosovo Albanians during the conflict.
A former Yugoslav People’s Army officer, Sljivancanin was sentenced by the Hague Tribunal to ten years in prison for his connection to the torture of prisoners, and complicity in the murder of 260 captives during the Croatian war.
Sainovic was the Yugoslav deputy prime minister during the Kosovo war. He was sentenced by the Hague tribunal to 18 years in prison over the murders, deportations and inhumane treatment of Kosovo Albanians during the war.
In addition to these three war criminals, the nationalist Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj is himself in the running for a parliamentary seat, despite the fact that his war crime conviction should legally bar him from sitting as an MP.
In 2018, Seselj was sentenced to ten years in prison by the Hague tribunal for inciting war crimes against ethnic Croat people in the Serbian village of Hrtkovci in 1992. Due to the years he had already spent in custody, he did not have to serve this sentence.
Also named in the report are two other convicted war criminals, Dragan Vasiljkovic and Vinko Pandurevic. The two men have been interviewed by media outlets in relation to the elections, and have been critical of opposition presidential candidate Zdravko Ponos.
“I think it is important and indicative that we have six convicted war criminals who support the electoral lists and candidates of the ruling coalition of the SNS [Serbian Progressive Party] and SPS [Socialist Party of Serbia],” warned Marko Milosavljevic, one of the report’s authors.
Two members of the Serbian Radical Party, Vjerica Radeta and Petar Jojic, are standing for parliament in the coming elections despite being wanted for arrest by The Hague for threatening and bribing witnesses during Seselj’s trial.
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