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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    FRI, 23 FEB 1996 21:38:52 GMT

    Law on Amnesty Drafted


    AIM Belgrade, February 21, 1996

    Nightmares of potential warriors who did not wish to be that during the four-year conflict in the former Yugoslav space could soon tome to an end. The Federal Government of Yugoslavia has, namely, decided to send Draft Law on Amnesty into procedure at the Federal Parliament, which will finally mark adoption of a "document of state wisdom".

    According to what has been announced, the pardon will refer to all those who have committed the so-called "military criminal acts" prior to December 14 last year, that is, those who have in various ways refused to consider the Yugoslav war their own. The Government has specifically listed what the new Law will include concerning these delicts. As it was stated, it would refer to persons who have committed crimes of refusing to respond to call-up, avoiding military service and arbitrary leaving and fleeing from military service.

    There will be no pardon, however, for professional officers and non-commissioned officers, that is, for active military personnel. The initial intention to grant amnesty only to those against whom court proceedings have already been instigated was changed, in other words, there will be no possibility to prosecute so-called deserters, and those who have already been convicted will be freed of serving the rest of their sentence three days after adoption of the Law on Amnesty at the latest. Noone actually knows the exact number of mostly young men who have fled from the FRY. Current assessments have a very wide range and depend, of course, on the "statisticians" and their attitudes towards everything that has happened. According to ones, this number is below a hundred thousand, and according to others, there are about 300 thousand possible recruits, mobilized men and members of the reserve forces.

    Until the drafted Law comes into force, their return to the country would be a risky step, considering the threat of criminal prosecution, that is, arrest however practically and technically unfeasible it would be to put them all in jail. Let us be reminded, according to plain statistics alone, just between January 1, 1991 and July 1, 1992, criminal proceedings were instigated against 3,748 persons for "desertion", out of which 3,096 were citizens of republics which formed the SFRY, but not the FRY. Despite intensive efforts of the government of Milan Panic, draft law made at the time ended up in someone's drawer, and thouands of young people were proclaimed "war traitors".

    After Dayton, the whole world is trying with all its might to alleviate, remedy or eliminate consequences of bloody conflicts in ex-Yu territories. Such patronage was essential, among other, to make states involved in the conflict begin "spring cleaning" of their own yards, especially now when they are trying to convince the whole world in their peace-making policies. Republic of Croatia has already adopted its own Law on Amnesty, although it is questionable whether, to what extent and how these norms are implemented. It is certain that such doubts are founded in the FRY, too, especially judging by the manner in which articles of other such laws were implemented.

    It is interesting to mention that in the beginning of 1992, although the war had not yet escalated, the number of desertions from the armed forces was the greatest, but that the number of those who avoided military service by deceit was the smallest. The greatest number of perpetrators was among soldiers completing their military service, but among active military personnel, too. In view of the fact that those were the times of "classification" according to ethnic membership, ranks of the Yugoslav people's Army (JNA) were mostly left by citizens of republics outside the present FRY. Nevertheless, there should be no doubt that this trend continued after 1992 as well, but not only for "ethnic" reasons.

    The Law on Amnesty, once it is adopted, will, however, probably leave a provision of another law intact, due to which "in the name of the people", many might be left without inheritance left to them by their closest relatives which should otherwise be theirs pursuant to all regulations. It is a norm noted in the Law on Inheritance prescribed obviously "for special circumstances". More precisely, this norm was intended for those who did not think that army uniforms fitted them.

    Therefore, Article 4 of the Law on Inheritance, titled "Unworthiness of Inheritance", prescribes among other that "a conscript who leaves the country in order to avoid the duty of defending it, and does not return to the country before the death of the testator" will be deprived of inheritance. "Duty of defending the country" formulated in this way could literally refer to all men capable for military service, regardless of whether they had gone abroad before they were even summoned to a drill or recruitment. The court is officially in charge of keeping account who is (in)apt for inheritance. If there is doubt (for example, if an interested party brings charges against someone) that an inheritor has left the country, the court is the one that determines whether this is true and whether he has returned before the testator died, and finally, whether he has left "with the intention to avoid the duty of defending the country".

    In order to prove this, a verdict reached by criminal proceedings for "desertion" is not necessary at all. What it is like, for instance, Nebojsa S. feels best, who was sent to a school in London by his parents a year before the war broke out. Recently, both his mother and father died, and this young man works in order to pay for his education. In time, he has acquired the possibility to get documents which could enable him to build his future in his new home country, if he wishes, but only if he does not leave Britain. On the other hand, his ninety-year old grandfather is living alone in his parents' house in Belgrade, and his only inheritor is his grandson Nebojsa. If the grandfather happens to die before this "deserter" comes back, family property will fall to the share of - the state! The result would be absolutely the same if the old man made a will leaving his private property to his grandson, or if it were to become his as the only inheritor.

    As amnesty is in fact a pardon of criminal responsibility, the only thing that would be of any help for the alleged inapt inheritors would be if the Law on Amnesty specified abolishment of the provision on "unworthiness" for inheritance. On the contrary, it would be obvious that the new state was applying the same "moral aptness" from the old times.

    (AIM) Bojana Oprijan-Ilic