zoran milanović.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Denis CERIĆ / mm

Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic said after talks between a delegation of the SDP-led People's Coalition and Djuro Decak, leader of the national federation of Homeland War associations "Dr Franjo Tudjman", that in case Serbia failed to abolish its law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, Croatia would be forced to adopt a similar law.

Serbia will have to withdraw its law on universal jurisdiction which enables the prosecution of Croatian war veterans or Croatia will be forced to adopt a similar law to refer to the area of the former Yugoslavia in the period from 1991 onward and to prosecute, for example, war crimes in Kosovo, said Milanovic.

The reason for today's talks (between the SDP and war veterans) was the situation "with an unusual hybrid law" enabling Serbian authorities to prosecute Croatian veterans for crimes allegedly committed in the area of the entire former Yugoslavia, which is a serious problem that will have to be dealt with, said Milanovic.

The solution is not in entering unnecessary arguments with Serbia but we will confront our views and jurisdictions if need be, said the SDP chief.

"We do not want to do that, but if we are forced to do it, we will," said Milanovic after the talks, held at Decak's request.

Milanovic said the Serbian law was adopted in 2003, during the term of the Zoran Djindjic government "as a cushion, so they can say that they are prosecuting crimes committed in the entire former Yugoslavia."

If there was understanding for the law then, there is no reason whatsoever for understanding today and the law must be abolished; the way to do it is to sit down and agree bilaterally who has jurisdiction over what, otherwise, we will be forced to protect our national interests, said Milanovic.

"We helped as much as we could, we were involved in the transfer of some people from Serbian prisons (to Croatia), we recognised Serbian verdicts without going into their quality or grounds... but I do not want to do it any more," said Milanovic.

Decak said that he was satisfied with Milanovic's position presented at the meeting and hoped he would not change it.

The federation of Homeland War associations invited leading political parties to state their position on the matter of the Serbian law and Milanovic and his coalition partners were the first to respond.

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