IRRC No. 890

The Vukovar Hospital case from the perspective of a national investigative judge

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Among the increasingly frequent acts of non-compliance with, and grievous violations of, international humanitarian law around the world, especially in non-international armed conflicts, attacks on objects and persons enjoying special protection, and their abuse, as well as the misuse of the distinctive emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, come as no surprise. Although a repressive approach to the problem – through the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators – cannot completely prevent such occurrences, an effective and appropriate judicial stigmatisation can significantly contribute to making them as rare as possible. In this regard, the court proceedings held before the War Crimes Chamber in Belgrade and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague in connection with the events in and around the Vukovar Hospital and Ovcˇara farm have provided an appropriate judicial response. This is notwithstanding the fact that, at least for now, not all perpetrators have been prosecuted for their acts (or failure to act) at the time of the commission of these grave crimes. Keywords: Vukovar Hospital, Ovčara, domestic prosecution, wounded and sick, prisoners of war, War Crimes Chamber, Belgrade District Court, ICTY.

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