Educating lawyers on International Humanitarian Law

December 19, 2023
UNDP Serbia

Belgrade, December 15, 2023 - With the support of the European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized a two-day seminar on the application of International Humanitarian Law (law of armed conflicts) in war crimes proceedings in Serbia for lawyers who act in defense and represent victims in these cases.

The lecturers at the seminar were Prof. Dr Marko Milanović, Professor of Public International Law at the University of Reading School of Law (United Kingdom) renowned for his numerous publications on the law of armed conflict, Ivan Jovanović, legal expert and Regional Project Manager of the project “EU Support to Confidence Building in the Western Balkans”, as well as lawyers Tomislav Višnjić and Aleksandar Lazarević.

- Knowledge of International Humanitarian Law is crucial for all lawyers handling war crimes cases - emphasized Milanović.

Participant of the seminar, lawyer Brankica Majkić, pointed out that this kind of education is important because of the increasing need for International Humanitarian Law to be applied in domestic justice and due to the importance of the issues it regulates.

- There is a need for practitioners who deal with this topic to familiarize themselves with all regulations and sources, both because of conflicts from the past and, unfortunately, also because of current cases. It is a significant opportunity for us to exchange experience, while examples from practice are always valuable for further work - said Majkić.

Participants had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of International Humanitarian Law, covering the qualification of armed conflicts, determining the onset and conclusion of conflicts, the status of protected persons as an element of war crimes, various acts constituting war crimes, and other pertinent issues. 

The seminar aimed to strengthen the capacities of judicial systems in the region to conduct war crimes trials in accordance with the principles of fair trial and respect for the rights of all participants in the proceedings, as part of the activities within the regional project "EU Support to Confidence Building in the Western Balkans". 

The project aims to support victims and accountability processes for war crimes committed in the Western Balkans during the 1990s, as well as strengthen public support for the prosecution of war crimes and encourage dialogue within societies and between ethnic groups. These activities aim to strengthen the rule of law further, support the process of accession to the European Union, and create a favorable environment for solidarity, reconciliation, and sustainable peace in the region. The project is financed by the European Union and implemented by UNDP.