Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has promised that all will be done to identify persons who committed war crimes against non-Serb prisoners of war held at five POW camps in Serbia in the 1990s, the chairman of the lawyers' association Vukovar 1991, Zoran Sangut, said after the first meeting with the Serbian authorities on this issue in Belgrade on Tuesday.
Members of the Croatian association met with the Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor and former Minister of Justice, Snezana Malovic, demanding legal action based on criminal charges brought on 22 May 2008 against unidentified perpetrators of war crimes in the POW camps at Sremska Mitrovica, Stajicevo, Begejci, Nis and the military prison in Belgrade.
Sangut said that so far there had been no political will in Serbia to allow judicial authorities to take action on this issue.
Later on the representatives of the Vukovar association met with Prime Minister Vucic, who promised that all the necessary legal steps would be taken to identify the war criminals, Sangut told Croatian Television (HTV) in the evening.
"This is the first time that someone has received representatives of a Croatian association for talks on Serbian POW camps, and at the highest level. This happened on the initiative of the Bundestag, namely Josip Juratovic, and following the meeting between Prime Minister Vucic and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic," Sangut said.
Juratovic, a member of the lower house of the German parliament, attended the meeting and welcomed it as "constructive and positive".
"The meeting was very constructive. The representatives of the association said that their interest was also to strengthen cooperation with the judiciary about the camps, the torture and whatever happened there, to take action," Juratovic said, as quoted by media in Belgrade.
Juratovic warned that the procedure in this case was not simple, but that problems needed to be dealt with "for the benefit of Croatia and Serbia" and for the purpose of restoring trust in the region.
The Serbian authorities will allow all former camp inmates and their families to visit the former Stajicevo camp in September to lay wreaths and light candles, Sangut said. He added that the idea of erecting a monument there would be discussed and that the entire process would be monitored by German diplomats.
Sangut said he expected that all the perpetrators who "beat, maltreated and killed" the prisoners would be identified because the prisoners knew them only by their nicknames. "All the people who beat us and who committed murders wore JNA (Yugoslav People's Army) uniforms and were regular soldiers. We believe that both the camp commanders and the perpetrators can be identified based on documents and files," he said.
Sangut told the press in Belgrade that he personally had witnessed four murders in the camps, one in Sremska Mitrovica and three in Stajicevo. "We want to put up a memorial plaque that will say when they were held there and commemorate all the wounded people, civilians and defenders of Vukovar who were killed," he said.
Vucic's office did not issue a press release about the meeting.