EU kicks against Serbia’s decision to honour generals convicted of war crimes with teaching jobs

October 31, 2017, 5:40 pm

The European Union on Monday warned member candidate Serbia that appointing a general who was convicted for war crimes as a lecturer at the Balkan country’s military academy goes against the EU’s principles.

Retired Gen. Vladimir Lazarevic was sentenced to 14 years in prison by a U.N. war crimes tribunal for atrocities committed by Serb troops in Kosovo during the 1998-99 war. He was released in 2015 after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

EU spokeswoman Maja Koncijancic said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press that “we expect political leaders to honour the victims of the past conflicts and sincerely promote reconciliation in the Western Balkans.”

“Political leaders have to lead all efforts in overcoming the difficult legacy of the past and constructively foster mutual trust, dialogue and tolerance,” she said. “Serbia, as (an EU) candidate country, cannot deviate from these principles. The appointment of a convicted war criminal to the Serbian Military Academy goes exactly against these principles.”

“Serbia, as a candidate country, cannot deviate from these principles, while the appointment of a convicted war criminal to the Serbian Military Academy goes exactly against these principles,” she added.

Lazarevic, who was given a hero’s welcome upon returning from prison in 2015, delivered his first lecture on Thursday, on the subject of the “heroism and humanity” of Serbian soldiers during the “counterterrorist operations” in Kosovo in 1998-99 and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who called Lazarevic a “role model” when announcing that he would be given the post on October 18, has also said that other commanders from the 1990s wars will be appointed as lecturers.

Vulin’s praise for convicted war criminals was criticised by the US ambassador in Belgrade, Kyle Scott, who was in turn attacked by Serbian media.

According to the verdict in Lazarevic’s trial, he aided and abetted the deportation of Albanians from Kosovo and committed other inhumane acts by providing practical assistance to members of the Yugoslav Army.

As a result, some 11,000, Kosovo Albanians were killed and some 700,000 expelled to neighbouring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia.

The court ruled that Lazarevic was aware of the fact that criminal acts were being committed against civilians and civilian property during Yugoslav Army and Serbian interior ministry operations in Kosovo.

The Serbian authorities have welcomed several freed war criminals and helped them become active participants in public and political life.

Former Yugoslav Army officer Veselin Sljivancanin, who served in prison for war crimes related to the fighting around Vukovar, Croatia, is a frequent guest at events held by President Aleksandar Vucic’s Progressive Party.

Another convicted war criminal, former deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, was given an official position in the Socialist Party, which is the Progressives’ main coalition partner.

League of Justice