One of the priorities of the OSCE Mission to Serbia and Montenegro is providing support to the capacity building of the national judicial and police institutions in conducting proceedings against war crimes perpetrators. Commitment to this goal resulted in the Memorandum on Cooperation, concluded in May 2004 between the OSCE Mission and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia.
The OSCE Mission encourages the establishment and work of specialized judicial institutions, giving particular support to the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office headed by an independent, Parliament-elected Prosecutor, such institutions being considered a prereqisite of addressing war crimes in accordance with international standards, as well as an additional guarantee of judicial independence in dealing with these delicate matters.
Monitoring of war crimes trials: Since early 2003, the OSCE observers have been involved in the regular monitoring of all war crimes trials held before courts in Serbia, thereby ensuring their compliance with the internationally recognized rules. In performing this activity within its mandate, the OSCE Mission relies on its regular communication with the Prosecutor's Office.
Regional cooperation: The OSCE Mission has initiated a number of activities directed towards the improvement of regional judicial cooperation in war crimes proceedings within the triangle embracing Serbia/Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The most important among these activities are regional meetings attended by high representatives of judicial institutions and competent ministries, aimed at looking into various forms of cooperation in war crimes proceedings, such as the advancement of the existing mechanisms regarding inter-state cooperation, access to witnesses, provision of evidence, exchange of professional tips and judicial experience. The first among these OSCE-organized meetings took place in November 2004 in Palic, whereas the process was continued by a regional conference held in June 2005 in the Brioni islands (Croatia).
The intensified regional contacts have contributed to the elaboration of concrete mechanisms for better cooperation, e.g. the Memorandum signed by the War Crimes Prosecutor and the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia on one side, and State Prosecutors of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other; these regional contacts have also traced a path to an increasing cooperation among these countries' Prosecutor's Offices in dealing with concrete cases.
Enhancement of professional competence: Through their aquaintance with the standards of international humanitarian law, judicial practices of international criminal tribunals and investigation techniques, judges and prosecutors receive additional tips for their efficient dealing with war crimes cases in accordance with international standards. Among other participants, representatives of the War Crimes Prosecutor's Office attended a seminar on the application of command responsibility in war crimes trials, which was held in March 2004. Since December 2003, intending to enhance the professional competence of prosecutors, investigating judges and police officers in dealing with war crimes investigations and witness protection issues, the Mission has organized a number of courses, seminars, expert meetings and study visits, including those to the Hague Tribunal.
Informing the public: Owing to the donations provided by the Government of Holland, the OSCE Mission is conducting a project aimed at informing the Serbian public on war crimes trials before national courts, mandate and work of the Hague Tribunal, as well as of other issues related to facing the past and reaching the truth and justice through war crimes trials. The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor (OWCP) is one of the key partners and beneficiaries of this project. The project framework has involved the broadening of the OWCP PR Service, organization of a number of lectures and round table meetings, as well as the realization of other activities intended to inform the public and create support for the sentencing of those responsible for the gravest atrocities committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The OWCP web site has been created as part of such public-related activities.
Legislation: In the ormer part of 2003, the OSCE Mission provided expert assistance to the creation of The Act on the Organization and Competence of Government Authorities in War Crimes Proceedings, which served as a basis for the OWCP inception. Further amendments to this Act, as well as the draft Act on Government Authorities in Charge of Criminal Offences against International Humanitarian Law, were created by the working group assigned by the Serbian Ministry of Justice, whereas the Mission provided logistic and professional assistance.