Yugoslavia, Socialist Federal Republic of
Practice Relating to Rule 158. Prosecution of War Crimes
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Military Manual (1988) provides:
The parties to a conflict have a duty to prevent violations of the laws of war by all available means and to call to account and punish perpetrators, regardless of their nationality. States are obliged, in peace time, to provide in their legislation that serious violations of the laws of war are crimes.
The manual also states:
Parties to a conflict are authorized and obliged to determine the criminal responsibility of members of their own or enemy armed forces, that is, their own or enemy citizens who ordered the commission or committed war crimes or other serious violations of the laws of war.
The manual further states:
Persons who commit a war crime or other serious violations of the laws of war shall be brought to justice before their own national courts or, if they fall into enemy hands, before his courts. The perpetrators of such criminal acts may also be brought to justice before an international court if such court is established.
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Criminal Offences against the Nation and State Act (1945) provides for the punishment of “any person who commits a war crime, i.e
., who during the war or the enemy occupation acted as an instigator or organizer, or who … assisted or otherwise was the direct executor of [one of the acts listed thereunder]”.
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Penal Code (1976), as amended in 2001, in a chapter entitled “Criminal acts against humanity and international law”, provides for a list of punishable acts committed by “any person” and some of them “during war, armed conflict (or occupation)”, such as: “war crimes against civilians” (Article 142); “war crimes against the wounded and the ill” (Article 143); “war crimes against prisoners of war” (Article 144); “unlawful killing and wounding of the enemy” (Article 146); “unlawful seizure of belongings from the killed and wounded in a theatre of war” (Article 147); “use of prohibited means of combat” (Article 148); “harming a parlementaire” (Article 149); “cruel treatment of the wounded, the ill and prisoners of war” (Article 150); “unjustified delay in the repatriation of prisoners of war” (Article 150-a); “destruction of cultural and historic monuments” (Article 151); and “misuse of international emblems” (Article 153).
A commentary on these provisions emphasizes that these crimes can be committed in time of war, armed conflict or occupation.
The Report on the Practice of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia notes that the term “armed conflict” in this context should be interpreted as including internal conflicts.
In Order No. 985-1/91 issued in 1991, the Chief of General Staff of the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) stated:
1.YPA units have the duty to secure in the area of their operations full and unconditional implementation of rules of international humanitarian law of armed conflicts and suppress violations of those rules.
2.War crimes and other grave breaches of norms of law on warfare are serious criminal offences and call for criminal liability of all perpetrators. Appropriate measures should be carried out immediately against all perpetrators aimed at suppressing unnecessary and excessive suffering of [the] civilian population, wounded, prisoners and all other persons affected by military operations.
3.In order to prevent violations of international law of warfare, officers and all other members of [the] YPA are authorized to apply all measures, including use of force, against all perpetrators, regardless of their affiliation to different existing forces.