Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Kosovo (YIHR Kosovo) and Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia (YIHR Serbia) strongly condemn the declaration of war criminal Vladimir Lazarević as an honorary citizen from the municipality of Pantelej in Niš, Serbia. The tribute was backed by the municipal assembly controlled by the ruling national Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of President Aleksandar Vučić. Lazarević was convicted of war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
On 26 February 2009, the Trial Chamber found Vladimir Lazarević guilty of deportation and other inhumane acts (forcible transfer), and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment. He was released in 2015 after serving two-thirds of his sentence. Lazarević’s crimes have been qualified as crimes against humanity.
Therefore, we call on the government of Serbia to cease honoring war criminals and to focus on the reconciliation process by working together with other countries in the region on dealing with the past process.
It is the responsibility of the authorities in Serbia to not glorify war criminals like Lazarević. On the contrary, the state of Serbia has an obligation to prosecute all those who have committed war crimes, but also to use the formal education system to promote a culture of remembrance of war victims in Kosovo.
As a generation of young people from Kosovo and Serbia, we will always be against honoring war criminals. We will continue to oppose one-sided narratives of history and work to educate young people in building peace between the two states.
We believe that no binding agreement to normalize relations between the two states will be able to bring peace and development for both societies until the competent institutions from both countries punish all war criminals and honor all victims indiscriminately.