Facing the past: the coexistence challenges and prosecution of the war crimes in Serbia
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This study aims to examine Serbia’s capacities to face the past and prosecute war criminals as a necessary step toward achieving transitional justice and reconciliation. This is relevant because more than twenty years have passed since the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia ended, yet the region remains deeply unstable because of the gravity of crimes committed and lack of punishment for the perpetrators. For a long time, mechanisms to achieve justice, such as laws on war crimes, investigations, tribunals and commissions were underdeveloped and had no real political support. It was almost impossible to conduct fair trials because of the enormous public pressure and lack of training for court professionals. The justice mechanisms of the ICTY have played a major role in the prosecution of war criminals and have influenced the establishment of the War Crimes Chamber in Serbia. Nonetheless, aside from criminal court proceedings, there are other transitional justice approaches which are only being discussed and are not implemented in Serbia. This is because there is not enough support within the political and economic elites to fight denial and to face the past. Prosecution of persons accused of serious violations of international criminal law is particularly important now, at the moment when the ICTY is in the closing phase and the national courts are expected to continue this task. Therefore, Serbia requires a holistic approach towards transitional justice in order to have a chance to achieve reconciliation and coexistence.